That is, do Light Summers and Light Springs have pale eyes, pale hair and pale skin?
Often, but not always.
Do Soft Summers and Soft Autumns look "soft? Are they visually very low-contrast?
Often, but not always.
Let's think about Light Spring and Soft Autumn, which I discussed here.
The Light Spring palette is light, warm, and clear. The Soft Autumn palette is muted, warm, and medium-dark.
Ultimately, what determines your season is how your skin reacts to color, not what your skin, hair, and eyes look like. So it's not precisely true to say, for example, that a Light Spring is herself light, warm, and clear; instead, we say that her best colors are light, warm, and clear.
Both of my kids are Light Springs. It's true they're both fair-skinned, but they also both have hazely-brown eyes,, and my son has brown hair. The only way I know they're Light Springs is that their best colors are Light Spring colors. They are both gorgeous in light fuchsia, light lime green, light aqua, camel, light peach, and khaki.
I'm a Soft Autumn. One could argue that my overall contrast level is higher then either of my kids', because I have fair skin but darker hair than either of them. Yet I know I'm a Soft Autumn because my best colors are Soft Autumn colors. I look my most lovely in warm, dusty rose, gentle olive, gentle yellow, muted turquoise, and dusty periwinkle.
You can absolutely be a Soft season even if you don't think you look low-contrast. Many Soft Summers and Soft Autums have fair skin and dark hair.
The test is always which colors make your skin look the most healthy.
If you're not sure of your season, try the quiz!
I'm bummed that summer is over (for those of us in the northern hemisphere.) Here's something to cheer us up: a sale!
From now through September 3rd (Tuesday), take 25% off every document on my site!
If you're a mom, you've probably spent a lot of money on your kids this month. I know I did. I wanted a treat for myself as well, so I got my nails done. :-)
If you want a treat for yourself too, consider trying the Style ID Calculator (now $11.25!) and determining your style type. Once you know your type, you start saving money on clothes.
Or if you already know (or suspect) your type, complete your collection of documents by picking up the Shopping Guide (now $19.50), the Visual Style Guide (now $11.99), the What Not to Wear (now $11.99), the Infinite Outfit Generator (now $8.99), or the Fragrance Guide (now $8,99).
If you know or even suspect your color season, try your season's Makeup Guide (now $11.99), which lists hundreds of products that will harmonize perfectly with your skin.
Or buy your mom, sister, or BFFL a gift card, and send it to her in an email that says, "This is that thing I've been telling you about!"
Use promo code LABORDAYTREAT.
If your best colors are warm and earthy, you're an Autumn. But there are actually three Autumn palettes. Determining which Autumn you are can be tricky. At first glance, these palettes all look pretty similar.
Soft Autumn is the most faded Autumn palette, and it's the lightest as well. Soft Autumn colors are faded earth tones -- desert colors, or safari colors.
If you're a Soft Autumn, black is one of your worst colors, and you may feel that almost every color makes you look "blah." You may feel your natural coloring is rather mousy and boring. Any attempts you make to enliven your coloring with extreme makeup or hair dye will only make your actual skin look even more washed out and "blah." You'll only come to life in very subtle, very gentle colors. And they won't look subtle or gentle on you! When it comes to color, context is everything.
(If you know your coloring is warm and gentle, but you also look good in lime green, you're probably a Light Spring, not a Soft Autumn.)
I think of these colors as Halloween colors, or Byzantine colors. They're definitely warm, and definitely earthy, but they're intense too. Sort of charred and vivid at the same time. When I think of Dark Autumn, the combination of black and gold is one of the first things that comes to mind,
(If your best colors are warm, and you know you can wear black, but you also look good in a light, bright fuchsia, you're probably a Bright Spring, not a Dark Autumn.)
Are you an Autumn? How did you figure out your exact type? Share in the comments!
Once we turn the corner from July into August, I start to think about summer ending, and I feel a little bummed. Maybe you feel that way too.
To cheer us all up, I'm discounting makeup lists 20% this week. :-)
From now through August 19th, use the code SUMMERMAKEUP to get 20% off of your seasonal makeup list.
Remember -- use SUMMERMAKEUP to get 20% off, this week only!
I haven't found a more comprehensive gallery of real-life True Summers than this one, on Elea Blake Cosmetic Studio's Facebook page.
Personal color systems other than the 12-tone system usually rely on hair and eye color to determine your color palette. These systems tend to incorrectly type light-eyed, fair-haired women as Summers, even when they're not. And they tend to to ignore the possibility that women with darker hair and eyes can be Summers.
A quick glance through Elea Blake's True Summer album will give you a snapshot of what True Summers really look like. It's a varied picture!
You'll see loads of brunettes. You'll see women with red hair, brown eyes, freckles, and other features that you don't think of when you think of True Summer. You'll see women of color who would surely be mistyped as Dark Autumn or Dark Winter in most other color systems.
A version of this post ran in July of 2011.
But in a previous post about the actors on Mad Men, I typed Cardellini as a True Winter. I thought she was gorgeous on that show in very dark hair and Winter colors. I especially liked her in black and white, which is excellent on True Winters.
So I've been asking myself, was I wrong about Linda Cardellini?
She's beautiful on both shows. But at least one of these shows is successfully presenting her in colors that aren't her best.
(An actor can look lovely in the wrong colors if her costume, hair, makeup, and lighting work together to create the false impression; see Light Summer Cate Blanchett passing as an Autumn in The Aviator. Notice how orange the lighting is! That's necessary to make a cool-toned actor like Blanchett look warm.)
To figure out actor Linda Cardellini's actual color season, we need to focus on real-life pictures of her. I like using pictures from premieres, because those pics are generally taken outdoors, with a lot of light.
First, we find pictures where Cardellini looks healthy and alive, not tired and not overly made-up. Then we try to identify the color season of her clothes and makeup in the flattering pics.
I think she looks really good here:
The first thing I notice as a color analyst is that she's not overwhelmed by this big block of black right under her face. Her skin looks healthy, not blurry or washed out. We're seeing her, not her dress. So I feel confident she's one of the five seasons that can handle black -- the three Winters, Bright Spring, and Dark Autumn. All three Winter seasons are cool-toned, while Dark Autumn and Bright Spring are warm-toned. (You can see this more easily if you just look at the reds and pinks.)
I really like her here in a cool-toned pink lippie and a black, white, and grey dress. That makes me think Winter.
Here she is again in black, but with warmer makeup and warmer hair. Are these pictures as good?
I do think she's a Winter. Perhaps she's a Dark Winter instead of a True Winter; sometimes Dark Winters can look almost right in the colors of neighboring Dark Autumn.
Here are more pics of Cardellini that I think are color harmonious. What do you think? Is she a Winter? If so, which one? If not, what do you think is her correct season?
I've worked hard to develop tools that help women identify their own style types. But some of you may still want more specific, personal help. That's why I also offer virtual style analysis.
What I provide with each virtual style analysis has evolved and expanded in the years since I first started offering personal analysis. Here's an example of the report you'll receive from me when I complete your virtual analysis.
This particular sample report is 20 pages long; they're generally 15 to 20 pages.
First, you'll learn which of the 63 style IDs is yours, as well as your exact percentages of each core essence. The woman in this sample report, for example, is an Ethereal-Classic-Gamine, with 50% Gamine, 30% Classic, and 20% Ethereal.
Then I'll give you a narrative describing how I arrived at your answer. Usually I'll explain which essences were your least flattering, and why, and which style types were runners-up for you.
Next you'll see a graph showing your exact essence percentages, along with words I've personally chosen to describe your unique beauty.
After that, you'll see detailed descriptions of each of your individual essences, and then a handy chart summarizing key style elements from each of your essences.
At this point, you'll start to see pictures of outfits that I've hand-picked because they are perfect for you, personally. These pictures continue to appear throughout your report.
Now I'll talk about your personal style ID in minute detail.
You'll get exact percentage recommendations for:
* your best line lengths
* your best line shapes (straight or curving)
* your best shape sizes
* your best amount of tailoring
* your best amount of detail
* your best use of separates
* the overall maturity of your best look
* your best feminine/masculine balance
You'll also get tips for how to balance any aspect of your look if you lean too strongly in one direction. (For example, how to pull off a high-detail look if your essences are mostly low-detail.)
With your personal style analysis, you'll also receive the Visual Style Guide and the What Not to Wear for your style type, as well as a 10% off coupon that works site-wide and never expires. :-))
In-person style analysis costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars. If you've struggled to find your style ID, virtual style analysis may be a good investment for you.
It's been a while since I talked here about my Seasonal Color Analysis Quiz. But I used it myself just the other day. I was trying to determine the color season of a male friend of mine, but I didn't have my drapes with me, and I was stuck between a couple of seasons. On my phone, I went to my own quiz and took it on his behalf; lo and behold, the answer I came up with turned out to be correct.
I think my quiz is the most accurate quiz available online. Unlike most color analysis quizzes, this quiz doesn't depend on a person's hair, eye, or skin tone - since none of those factors can tell a person's season.
Instead, you'll be asked about colors that flatter or don't flatter the person in question.
The quiz is best used by you on a celebrity or a friend, but you can use it to determine your own season if you ask a friend to take it for you.
Two notes on the quiz:
1. I do not include color images in this quiz, and here's why: If I include a picture, the person taking the quiz will naturally answer Yes or No based on the picture, not on the color name. And I can't control how pictures appear on other people's monitors.
Someone taking the quiz for a True Spring might choose No for a picture of bright yellow-green if it doesn't appear as a True Spring bright yellow-green on her monitor. So a picture, I fear, might define the color too narrowly.
By contrast, any Springs, and many Winters, will probably get a Yes for the term "bright yellow-green," even though each quiz taker may have a slightly different mental image of that color, because the quiz-taker can picture some bright yellow-greens that flatter them.
2. Don't take my Yes/No paths as endorsements of particular colors for particular seasons. I have built the quiz based on how I think people may answer, not on what I think actually looks good on them.
For example, I wouldn't recommend any color called "hot pink" for a True Autumn, but a person can answer Yes for hot pink and still reach TA - because I'm guessing that some people will think their TA friend looks good in hot pink. (Because that TA friend probably looks good in some colors that are pretty similar to hot pink, because some of the TA colors are kind of similar to hot pink.)
A version of this post was first published in February of 2014.
A reader writes,
I loved your style calculator and found out that I am a Romantic-Classic-Ingenue. It fits me perfectly! But I am a stay at home mom with three small children and need to dress casually a lot of the time. I'm having a hard time finding casual looks that fit my current stage of life. Any ideas?
Gamine and Natural style identities and blends lend themselves easily to casual clothes; the others, not so much. But with a little creativity, you can dress comfortably while still projecting your style identity. Let's do this for Romantic-Classic-Ingenue:
I see bottoms as the biggest hurdle in adapting RCI to a casual look.
Romantic and Ingenue both call for dresses and skirts... but "casual" probably means dresses and skirts are out.
Let's assume we'll be wearing pants, then. That would probably be manifesting the Classic element, since Classics are better in pants than Rs and Is.
But, for a SAHM, slacks aren't practical either. S
o the key is choosing casual pants that are as Classic as possible: they should fit well, they should have straight legs, they shouldn't be particularly detailed, and they should be medium-weight.
If they're somewhat stiff and tailored, like khakis, that would be ideal . But if you absolutely must wear yoga pants, make sure they're heavier and as elegant-looking as you can find.
Alternately, tight pants that show the ankle would be R/I and could be quite comfortable. They should look cute and sexy, not boring; you could manifest the cuteness and sexiness with pattern and color.
If you are implementing C from the waist down, focus on R and I from the waist up. Try R shirts: emphasize your waist and show your cleavage, but in more in comfortable fabric.
Cs and Is both get simple flats, so go with those. Choose feminine colors and patterns.
Consider I earrings, since bigger R earrings might be impractical with kids. Accessorize as much as you practically can, to bring the feminine impact from the waist up.
Consider a headband (I) to keep your hair back, if it's straight. If you have curls, consider wearing them layered around your face. If you've managed to work in a lot of R or I in other parts of your ensemble, perhaps go with a simple chignon or low bun (C).
Patterns and prints would be an easy way to bring in C, R and I without sacrificing any comfort.
First published Feb. 2016.
Here are hairstyle ideas for the two-identity blends.
For each blend, the suggestions are jumping-off points. Use them as inspirations.
If you're a blend of three identities, try combining suggestions from the different two-ID blends that apply to you. For example, if you're a Romantic-Ethereal-Natural, take a look at suggestions for Romantic Ethereal, Romantic Natural, and Ethereal Natural.
Don't know your style identity? Try the Style ID Calculator!
Romantic Ethereal: Aphrodite
Soft & flowing.
Fullness and height at the crown.
Long, luscious and full.
Low side pull-backs.
Touchable curls or waves.
Soft, sexy updos with lots of free curls.
Ethereal Gamine: The Sprite.
Spunky, diaphanous, floaty, boyish, tousled.
Short and wispy.
Cute or witty "period" looks.
Playful, unexpected braids.
This post first appeared in January of 2016.
First published May 2016.
Elements of the Ethereal style identity haven't been clearly and fully articulated before.
Here, I'll identify several of them, and -- more importantly -- explain the logic behind them.
My hope is that you’ll be able to extrapolate from this this logic to predict other Ethereal elements .
Braid detail is, of course, also Ethereal then. This includes braided metal in jewelry.
Spaced beads -- like those you see on a rosary -- are Ethereal, again because of the S curves created.
A reader in a previous post asked about handkerchief hemlines. They are Ethereal (when they are gradual, not excited) because of the diagonal lines.
Diagonal lines, as long as they're not sharp or geometric appearing, are Ethereal.
This is because, as lines, they're elongated, but they're also in motion, and movement is Ethereal.
(Diagonality suggests movement; the diagonality is a way of a line traveling from one point to another.)
Handkerchief hems are also Ethereal because they flutter, and fluttery movement is Ethereal in part because it suggests birds and flight.
For that same reason, flutter sleeves are Ethereal, winged shapes are Ethereal, feathers are Ethereal, and birds and winged motifs in prints are Ethereal -- as long as they're abstracted or stylized, not realistic. If they're realistic, they can be Ethereal plus a more literal style ID, such as Gamine, Ingenue or Classic.
Shimmer, shine and sparkle are Ethereal, in part because light itself is Ethereal, and in part because a shiny or sparkly finish reads as feminine.
Abstract prints and motifs that suggest the heavens or the cosmos, or that you'd describe as celestial, are Ethereal. Prints that suggest the sea are also Ethereal. (Think of the sea and the heavens as other worlds, and this will make sense.)
If the prints are realistic, they're Ethereal plus another, more literal style ID, such as Gamine.
Godet skirts are Ethereal because they create sinuous lines and because they evoke mermaids, which are Ethereal. For the same reason, flares are Ethereal. (If they're flared jeans, that's Ethereal Natural.)
Speaking of which, waterfall effects, cascading effects and tiers are Ethereal, partly because they create the impression of gently diagonal downward movement, and partly because they evoke waterfalls, which we associate with infinity, beauty, and the ephemeral and intangible.
Art Nouveau designs, if rather abstract, are often Ethereal, because they consist of narrow, elongated lines, they're very detailed, and the edges are generally rounded.
(I know David Kibbe assigns Art Nouveau jewelry to Soft Natural.
But realize that Kibbe groups all feminine identities -- Romantic, Ethereal, and Ingenue -- into one descriptor: Soft.
As a result, his recs for Soft types are sometimes more accurately assigned to Ethereal types and Ingenue types.
For example, Art Nouveau jewelry is really better for Ethereal Natural than it is for Romantic Natural. Romantic Natural needs more sexiness in her accessories; Art Nouveau design is generally rather chaste.)
This isn't an exhaustive list of Ethereal elements, but I hope it helps you think more clearly about the Ethereal style identity.
If you think you might be Ethereal, please check out my tools for identifying your own style identity!
And if you know you're Ethereal, please check out my Visual Style Guides and What Not To Wear guides.
If you've been thinking about trying the Style ID Calculator, but you've felt unsure whether to go for it, now is the time.
Your promo code is JUNECALC.
It's good for a week; it expires June 16th.
What do people say after using the Style ID Calculator?
Wow! That was incredibly helpful. I have been struggling with finding the right shapes and styles to wear. I was quite surprised to get Ethereal Natural - but it fits, perfectly! Thank you for creating and sharing this wonderful tool.
And Lilac says:
Your style calculator is no less than genius!!! And I am not easily impressed. I was kind of skeptical about it. I'm often told that I look like a completely different person, when I change my hair. So I tried the test with 3 different hairstyles. I had to choose completely different boards each time. So there I thought - I've confused the system.
Imagine my surprise, when I got the same results each and every time! 😮
Well, almost the same. The percentage for the identities was different, but the identities where the same...
It really works 😁
Thank you SO MUCH. You are incredible 💖
If you're as nerdy as I am and you'd to read one customer describe, in detail, her work validating the Style ID Calculator as an instrument, click here.
Romantic is the style type that's most flattered by traditionally "sexy" clothes and details, such as cleavage emphasis, skirt slits, cinched waists, red lips, et cetera.
On a woman without a lot of Romantic, these elements will read as awkward or unharmonious, not sexy.
But many of us want to appear "sexy" at some point.
How does a woman who's strongly Natural -- a woman like me, whose beauty has a rough-hewn, masculine quality -- create a sexy impression?
Not like a Romantic would, with pouty lips, smoky eyes, an abundance of jewelry, and butt & bust emphasis. Those tend to make us Natural women look mannish.
Instead, Naturals do sexy with bare arms and legs, mussy hair, very open necklines, little makeup, tank tops, oversized sweaters, and cowboy hats.
You might be thinking, "Those are elements Naturals always look great in."
If a Natural simply turns up the intensity on an already Natural element, it tends to look sexy.
Go with even barer arms and legs. Make that hair even more messy. Go with an even bigger sweater, perhaps falling off one shoulder.
Below, see Sheryl Crow, Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Oh, and Elisabeth Shue. These are strongly Natural women who look sexier and more confident when they don't try so hard. In looks with bust emphasis, jewels, shiny finishes, careful curls, and lots of makeup, they appear awkward.
If you're a strongly Natural woman, one of your gifts is the ability to look your best with almost no effort. (Typically, the more effort you put in, the less good you look!)
This is why Natural beauty is often described as "confident"; the viewer assumes you must have a lot of courage to present yourself so casually.
When you know your Style Identity, you save time and money because you only buy the clothes that are right for you, and you don't spend unnecessary time agonizing about whether something looks good on you. You also feel more confident, because you leave the house knowing you look your best.
This is beauty for women who want beauty to be quick and easy. :-)
There are seven core style essences, and most people are a blend of two or three of them. For example, I'm an Ethereal Natural, and my sister is a Romantic-Dramatic-Classic.
Figuring out your Style ID can be a little tricky. The Style Identity Calculator has helped many women, but there is an element of art to identifying beauty, and that art eludes some of us.
Also, it can be hard to see ourselves objectively! (Pictures help a lot with this -- I always use pictures instead of a mirror when I'm judging myself in a particular outfit.)
Fortunately, you can often close in on, or rule out, a few essences without too much difficulty, and this can bring you closer to your Style ID.
Having at least a rough idea of your Style ID can significantly increase your confidence, because even if you haven't IDed yourself with 100% accuracy, once you've ruled out the essences that are no good, you know you still look a lot more authentic than you used to.
Here are some tips for ruling out certain essences, or narrowing your Style ID down a bit.
1. Positioning yourself on the masculine-feminine spectrum can help rule out or zero in on certain essences.
If you could pass as a boy in the right clothes, you might have a lot of Gamine.
If you could do drag convincingly, like Glenn Close or Julie Andrews, you might have a lot of Natural or Dramatic.
If you could never do either in a million years, you probably don't have much of those three essences, and that leaves Romantic, Ingenue, Ethereal, and Classic.
2. How childlike or mature do you look? Have you always looked older than your age, or younger than your age?
If your overall look is rather childlike, and if you're often mistaken for much younger than you are, or called "cute" or "adorable," that can signal that you have a lot of Gamine or Ingenue, the two youthful essences.
If, even as a child, you looked like a little adult, that can signal that you have a lot of Dramatic or Ethereal. (Or, occasionally, a lot of Natural. )
3. If your face is impossible to caricature, that's a hint that you have a lot of Classic.
Caricature relies on the existence of a feature that sticks out and can therefore be exaggerated. If you're a Classic, no one feature sticks out. In your less confident moments, you may have called yourself plain or boring -- but you're not. You require a very, very simple fashion context in order for the beauty of your perfect average-ness to be revealed.
You can't easily caricature a perfectly average face. A caricature should look a little grotesque or bizarre, but that just can't be done with a strongly Classic woman such as Zhang Ziyi. There's nothing to exaggerate.
4. What hairstyles can you never pull off?
If you can't do shaggy or tousled hair, you can probably rule out Natural -- both male and female Naturals look awesome in shaggy layers.
If you can't do big, luscious curls, you can probably rule out Romantic. An extravagant circle is the defining shape of Romantic, and Romantics look great with these circles near their face. (Ingenues get smaller, neater circles, so if curly hair of any kind is really bad on you, you can probably rule out both Romantic and Ingenue.)
If you can't do super-long hair, you may be able to rule out Ethereal, Natural, and Dramatic. All three of these essences are defined in part by elongated lines, so people high in one or more of these three essences are usually flattered by long hair.
If you can't do super-short hair, you can probably rule out Gamine and Dramatic. Gamines, our boyish beauties, are easily identified by how good they look in very short cuts. Dramatics, in addition to being flattered by long and narrow hair, are also flattered by hair that's completely off the face -- whether it's extremely short or slicked back.
As a woman with a lot of Dramatic, Kim Kardashian can pull off both long, straight hair and slicked-back hair.
The Style Identity Calculator, as I mentioned above, has helped a lot of women, and it's pretty affordable. For best results, use it with the input of a brutally honest friend or relative, and use pics or yourself, not a mirror. (A still, frozen image is much easier to analyze.)
If you're absolutely lost, consider investing in a virtual style analysis.
Are any of these tips helpful to you? Please share in the comments!
This post first appeared in July of 2018.
A reader asks, "There are a lot of nuances between Soft Summer and True Summer. How do you know that Kristen Stewart is Soft Summer and Emily Blunt is a True Summer?"
This is a really good question.
I often find Summer celebs difficult to narrow down into subseasons - perhaps because the differences in the muted colors of Summer are harder to discern on a computer screen than the differences in the vivid colors of Spring or Winter.
But after a lot of thought, I eventually came to the conclusion that Kristen's a Soft Summer and Emily's a True Summer.
I'll describe my thought process:
To my eye, both look obviously coolish, but not particularly saturated. Cool and muted is Summer.
But my first impression might be wrong. To determine season, we can't rely on what a person looks like; we have to examine how a person looks in certain colors. So I'll check the other seasons.
Could either woman be a Winter?
Well, both are clearly overwhelmed by black. That rules out all three Winters.
I do make note of the fact that Emily is less overwhelmed by black than Kristen. So I think perhaps Emily has a higher natural saturation.
How about Autumn?
Hmm. I think both are meh in Autumn colors.
Notice, though, that Kristen is almost pulling off Autumn color, while Emily isn't at all. So I'm thinking Kristen has more Autumn-like warmth than Emily.
Spring: Testing Spring will be tough, because it's very difficult to find either woman in sure-fire Spring colors like peach, lime, or sunny yellow. So I need to test Spring for them in another way.
I've already seen that both women are overwhelmed by black, so Bright Spring's unlikely for either one. (Black alone is not a great look for Bright Spring, but it's not so much overwhelming as it is boring.)
How can I test Light Spring and True Spring? Hmm... Well, neither woman is a convincing blonde, to my eye. Most "blonde" True and Light Spring celebs are actually brunettes, but they do typically make convincing blondes. Yellow is Spring's soul color, so it makes sense that yellow hair would work on Springs.
Yellow hair is clearly not right for these two women, though.
So I think my initial idea was correct: both women are Summers.
But what kind of Summer - Light, Soft, or True?
I'm thinking Light Summer is unlikely for Emily, for the same reason I think Spring is unlikely: I don't find her a convincing blonde. Light Summers can often pull off blonde pretty well. Their palette contains many lovely light yellows, so this makes sense.
You can tell from their roots that these Light Summers are brunettes, but blonde looks appropriate on them.
Again, Emily Blunt with blonde hair: not her best.
On Light Summers, yellow hair can emphasize the delicacy of their coloring; Emily's skin seems to be calling for more depth.
So, Soft or True for Emily perhaps?
In weighing these two seasons, I think about how Emily often wears super-bright colors that look a little but not a lot overwhelming. Here she is in some high-sat choices:
I notice that she can tolerate some brightness of color. In these two pics, she's certainly farther away than the color - but not miles farther away.
So, of Soft and True Summer, I think True Summer - the more saturated of the two seasons - is right for Emily Blunt.
Yes. I like her in these purely cool, somewhat muted colors. They certainly don't look muted next to Emily Blunt - they're exactly the right saturation for her.
With Kristen Stewart, one of the things I notice is that neutral-warm colors aren't awful on her.
On the left, the eyeshadow is warmish, and in this pic it's not glaringly disharmonious. (The skin might appear more even with a cooler shade, but as-is, it's not so bad.) On the right, I could almost believe her as an Autumn.
So I suspect True Summer, which is purely cool, is unlikely for her.
I already decided that a big block of yellow next to Kristen's face was not her best, so that makes Light Summer seem unlikely as well.
That leaves Soft Summer.
Does Soft Summer make sense for her?
Well, Soft Summer's TMIT is softness or mutedness of color. Is Kristen awesome in very muted tones?
Yes, I think. The more subtly colored her makeup and clothes are, the better she looks. She seems so natural in very, very soft shades.
Is she overwhelmed by very saturated colors?
So, I say Soft Summer for Kristen Stewart.
Let's see her against a Soft Summer palette.
Oh, yes. I love this.
This post originally appeared in January of 2014.
A version of this post was published in September 2012.
I have an adorable memory of watching a video of Adele performing "Rolling in the Deep" seated next to my then-three-year-old son. He listened very carefully. When it was done, he turned to me and said, quite solemn, "Mommy, that lady has a fire in her heart."
A reader, C.T., asked me what season I believe Adele is. She pointed out that Adele's often in black but it's clearly not her best color. I have to agree.
Certainly this look is not right for her. The woman is invisible; we only see the too-bright color.
Yet she often gets her makeup right, don't you find? With the exception of the too-black eyeliner and mascara that are sadly de rigeur in show business, her lip and cheek are often natural and not overdone.
Those lip and cheek colors lean warm, to my eye, and are definitely subtle and blended rather than bright or contrasting. Her coloring is so very delicate. The black of the dress and the eye does not belong.
Here, again, eye and top are darker than she is, but not as painfully so. The rest is lovely. I see Autumn - don't you? Warm, blended, rich.
Could she be a True Autunm? Hmm. These very warm colors look, to me, a tad stronger than she is.
I find this warm, deep green, which could be True or Dark Autumn's green, just a tad too much for her.
She really is very neutral. The pink in those lips is actually pink, not salmon.
I think Soft Autumn. Here she is in more SA colors and I think they balance her wonderfully. Gentle, soft, blended, not overdone. We really see her.
I'm calling Adele a beautiful, soulful, Soft Autumn.
ere's hoping that one day she chooses to exchange the black eyeliner for, say, taupe or putty.
What color season do you see here?
One way to think about the seven style types is to think about the words we use to describe the type of attractiveness each identity embodies.
These are probably the women who hear "gorgeous" and "hot" the most often. When they look their best, their friends might call them "glamorous," "alluring," or "sexy."
Ethereal woman are often described by admirers as "unusual-looking." Other adjectives they might hear are "otherworldly," "exotic," "fascinating," or "magical."
These are women who hear things like, "You have a really strong look," or "only you could pull that off." Dramatic women get called "majestic," "stunning," and "magnificent." Like Ethereals, Dramatics also often hear "exotic" and "unusual-looking."
Classic women might hear "lovely," "elegant," and "attractive" a lot. They'll receive a lot of positive but restrained comments like, "You have a timeless look" or "You always look classy." "Graceful" is another word Classics may have heard. This is a beauty that doesn't stand out at all, but is undeniable once it's examined.
Many Ingenue women received compliments on their appearance throughout their childhoods, and they will have heard "pretty," "precious," "darling," "cute," and "adorable" a lot, even as adults.
Gamine women, like Ingenue women, will have heard "cute" and "adorable" in adulthood. They'll also get adjectives like "feisty," "spunky," or "sassy," and "loveable" seems to pop up a lot.
I'd love to hear in the comments what your style type is, if you know it, and which compliments you've received in your life.
I'd also love to learn which compliments you've rarely or never received! I'm an Ethereal Natural, and I've rarely, if ever, been described as "classy," "adorable," "feisty," "darling," "majestic," or "glamorous."
Not sure of your style type? Try the Style ID Calculator!
Romantic beauty is feminine beauty in its mature, womanly form.
It may be the easiest type of visual feminine to spot, because it's the kind of feminine beauty hetero men are most interested in -- so it's a beauty we often see portrayed in popular culture.
Other systems call this type Sensuous, Soft, or Alluring. They're beating around the bush.
The straight truth is this: Romantic beauty is sexy beauty.
I initially searched for a better way to word this, because I have been afraid of coming across as objectifying Romantic women.
Of course, it could be argued that Style Identity Analysis is inherently objectifying, because it analyzes women based purely on their physical qualities.
I don't believe this is true, though. We're not ranking women, or judging their inherent worth, based on their appearance; we're analyzing appearance for the purpose of helping all women have tools to feel simultaneously authentic and beautiful -- if that's something they want. The point of Style Identity Analysis is to empower women in their own authentic beauty.
Yet talking about Romantic women's appearance is difficult for me because, traditionally, women have been judged by how well we conform to the standard of Romantic beauty. And we're all pretty sick of it, aren't we?
Even the Romantic women, who "win" in that system of judgment, may be tired of being valued for their feminine beauty.
Is it possible for us to celebrate Romantic beauty without implying that Romantic women's worth lies in that beauty?
I believe it is. I hope it is.
Because there's no way around it: Romantic women embody sex appeal.
It goes without saying that Romantic women are no more or less sexual than any other women. But visually, they read as pure womanly sexuality. Romantic women tend to have sensuous mouths, smoldering eyes, narrow jaws, and large foreheads.
Think about what happens to the female body at puberty. Push those changes to the extremes, and you're picturing a Romantic's best look. Romantics are flattered by clothes that create the impression of an extreme hourglass figure. They benefit from cinched waists, hip emphasis, cleavage emphasis, and butt emphasis.
Let's put aside that this may be the embodiment of the hetero male fantasy. What's important is that it's the Romantic woman's particular form of beauty. For that reason, and no other, we celebrate it.
Dark hair tends to read as Romantic because human hair naturally darkens with sexual maturity. (Just as light hair reads as youthful because prepubescent children tend to have lighter hair than adults.)
A flush in human skin is an indicator of sexual arousal. Palette-appropriate reds, which echo that flush, look perfect on Romantics.
Romantics look like themselves with half-closed eyes, a cocked eyebrow, and a knowing smile -- or no smile at all. This "come-hither" face is silly on pretty much everyone else, but on Romantics it's perfect. It looks wise and confident.
Feminine beauty is defined by the curving line. Perhaps because a curved line is more visually complicated than a straight line, Ethereals and Romantics look great surrounded by a lot of detail. (While Naturals and Dramatics are unattractive in highly detailed contexts.) A Romantic looks gorgeous in ruffles, gathers, ruching, elaborate hair, and ornate jewelry.
Red roses symbolize romance and sexuality, and a Romantic woman's beauty is like a red rose: beautiful, delicate, detailed, and composed of curving lines.
So you're a Romantic, but you don't want to be defined by your sexy appearance. As a woman, I completely get that.
But if you instead choose shapeless, roomy clothes, you risk looking dumpy and unprepared. (Though a Natural could pull this off.)
When you honor your Romantic beauty by choosing feminine, figure-hugging clothes, it reads as dignified and self-aware.
But you can also perfect your Romantic beauty with an over-the-top use of jewelry or profuse detail near your face. This is a great choice for Romantic women who don't want to wear figure-hugging clothes.
The more jewelry you put on a Romantic, the better she looks. The rest of us start to look silly or mannish very quickly.
If you know what looks good on you, but you don't know your style identity, try the Style Identity Calculator.
A version of this post was published in May of 2015.
The Ethereal type embodies a variety of beauty that exists, but that most systems don't allow for: feminine beauty that's neither youthful nor sexual.
Some systems describe the Ethereal type as the most "yin" -- a synonym often used for "feminine." But I don't think that's accurate.
Physically, the Romantic type -- not the Ethereal -- most closely embodies a physical form with exaggeratedly estrogenized features. So Romantic, I think, comes closest to being the most feminine type. Romantic is certainly the most womanly type.
Ethereal beauty, like Ingenue beauty, reads as distinctly feminine but not overtly sexy. Ingenues are girlish and perpetually youthful, while Ethereals are at the other end of the spectrum: even at a young age, they have an air of great maturity and wisdom. You might use the word "ancient" to describe them, but in the sense that they seem to be old souls. It's easy to imagine that they've traveled here from a far-distant time.
Physically, Ethereals are defined first by the curving line, as all feminine types are. But their curving line is an elongated S or oval. Their faces tend to be long and gently sculpted.
Ethereals look very much like themselves when they're looking into the distance, with a knowing half-smile or an air of distraction. One gets the impression they're actually looking inward, or seeing something others can't see.
Faded-looking, subtly colored hair and skin read as Ethereal, for a few reasons:
- Subdued colors suggest age, since human coloring naturally fades with age. So muted coloring helps create the ancient or timeless quality that Ethereals have.
- As objects move farther away in our vision, they appear less saturated. So people of low saturation often have the Ethereal quality of seeming to retreat or fade into the distance.
- Misty coloring on an Ethereal contributes to the impression that she is a misty entity, only partially present on this plane.
Look at actors who have played magical beings or figures from myth or legend, and you'll likely see people with Ethereal qualities. Casting directors know how important appearance is in communicating a character's nature.
Ethereal beauty is aesthetically appealing but not erotically appealing. It's passionless. For this reason, Ethereal women are often the women that other women find beautiful but that some straight men find weird-looking. If a rude guy has ever looked over your shoulder at a fashion magazine and asked, "Is she supposed to be pretty?" you were probably looking at an Ethereal.
Ethereal beauty is often confused with Dramatic beauty, because it's unusual-looking, and rare, and because both types tend to have long faces and frames.
But Dramatic edges seem pointy, while Ethereal edges are gently rounded. And Dramatic energy is aggressive, even threatening, while Ethereal energy is peaceful. Dramatics look ready to attack; Ethereals look as if they can maintain Buddha-like calm even if they're punched in the nose. Dramatics feel like they're moving toward you and Ethereals feel like they're drifting away.
Ethereals are flattered by light-as-air fabrics, translucency, ornate detail, and anything suggesting flight, such as winged shapes or feathers. Ethereals look like themselves when they look as if they're clothed in clouds, mist, starlight, or moonbeams.
When you read about personal color analysis, you'll often come across the term dominant trait.
We know - hopefully we know! - that color has three dimensions, and any given color can be described as being high or low in each of the three dimensions. So a color can be
- warm or cool in hue
- light or dark in value
- high or low in chroma (bright or soft)
The palettes of each of the 12 seasons are harmonious within themselves. Any given palette can be said to show a dominant trait in its colors.
The Dark Winter and Dark Autumn palettes, for example, are predominantly dark, or low in value. The Bright Spring and Bright Winter palettes are predominantly bright, or high in chroma.
Now, some writers will suggest that you can identify a person's season by identifying the dominant (and secondary) traits of that person's coloring. You see this a lot online. I call it the "dominant trait" method of color analysis.
The thinking goes like this: you can look at a person's skin, hair and eyes, and judge whether her personal coloring is mainly dark, light, soft, bright, cool or warm. Once you figure this out, you immediately have her narrowed down to two seasons.
Unfortunately, personal color analysis doesn't work this way. If only it did!
Departure from this idea is part of what separates the followers of Kathryn Kalisz's teachings from other thinkers in the world of color analysis.
Season can't reliably be determined by identifying the "dominant trait" in someone's appearance. It can only be determined by identifying the traits that characterize the best colors for that person.
A Bright is not always obviously bright in personal coloring. A Dark is not always obviously dark. A Soft is not always obviously Soft. And so on.
A great example: Lupita Nyong'o.
If you're using the "dominant trait" method to determine Ms. Nyong'o's season, you will likely think something like this:
"Her skin tone is quite dark. Her eyes are very dark. Her hair is very dark. 'Dark' must be her dominant trait; she must be a Dark Autumn or Dark Winter."
But that's not right!
Her best colors are not dark and rich. Instead, she's most fantastic in super-bright hues.
The dominant trait of Ms. Nyong'o's best colors is brightness.
Would you have looked at her face, hair, and eyes and called "brightness" the dominant trait of her personal coloring? Probably not easily.
(This is one big problem with the "dominant trait" method of determining season: it often results in women of color getting automatically, inaccurately slotted into Dark Autumn and Dark Winter.)
Avoid the "dominant trait" method of determining your own season. It may well lead you astray. Instead, focus on figuring out your best colors. You can do it. :-)
First published in March 2014.
Dramatic is a style type I am always delighted to encounter in a virtual analysis.
Women with a lot of Dramatic tend to have strong jaws, strong brows, strong cheekbones, intense, narrow eyes, and an overall powerful energy.
These women can pull off avant-garde clothes that most of us can't; in fact, they require extreme minimalism, sharp corners, and straight lines in their ensembles in order to appear as the gorgeous women they are. Clothes that are unstructured, very detailed, or noticeably feminine tend to exaggerate the masculine aspects of Dramatic features in an unlovely way.
To wrap my head around style types, I find it helpful to use visual thesauri and word association tools.
"Striking" is already a word I use when I think about Dramatic types, but "spectacular' is new. I love "spectacular" for Dramatics in its literal sense -- having the quality of a spectacle. Dramatic clothes beg to be looked at. (What's ironic is that when a Dramatic wears them, we're more likely to notice her and not her face, because her face is exactly as spectacular as the clothes are.)
"Large" and "big" are definitely important for Dramatics. In a Dramatic look, everything gets turned up to 11.
Dramatic clothes are thrilling on the runway or on the hanger. And, of course, they are merely correct on a Dramatic woman. (This is an interesting corollary to Classic clothes, which can be boring on a hanger but sensational on a Classic woman. There's a version of this for every style type: On a Natural, sloppy clothes aren't sloppy; on a Gamine, weird clothes aren't weird; etc.)
"Striking" leads us to "strike," which is fitting, because Dramatic energy feels like it's hitting you. Dramatics and Ethereals can be easily confused, because they both have sculpted, unusual-looking features, but one way to distinguish them is that Dramatic energy "strikes" you with its forward-moving, aggressive energy, whereas Ethereal energy feels like it's floating away.
Here are some more fun words associated with "dramatic":
Of course, there are many associated with the theater; Dramatic clothes, by themselves, are performances. I like here also "decisive" (nothing about Dramatics is wishy-washy!) and "sharp."
Here are some additional adjectives I commonly use for Dramatic looks:
You might be a Dramatic blend with a gentle, peaceful nature. Rest assured that your sharp, intense, attention-getting clothes will look at home on you, and you'll stand out less than if you wear the clothes that are all wrong for you.
The lines on the right are much more extreme than the traditionally feminine lines on the left, but in which picture does model Hailey Baldwin look most like herself? For me, it's the one on the right. I'm not thinking about that edgy red top; I'm just looking at her face. :-) Whereas on the left, I keep getting distracted by that ostrich trim and those hair. She doesn't have enough Ethereal to look normal in those delicate feathers, and her beauty is not feminine enough to be really flattered by those waves. She has a lot of Dramatic, and looks her best in strong, straight lines and little detail.
(I've said before, but should probably mention again, that masculine beauty and feminine beauty are both wonderful, and it's no slight to a woman to notice that her beauty is masculine rather than feminine. Most supermodels have strongly masculine beauty.)
Not sure of your style type? Try the Style Identity Calculator, or consider investing in a Virtual Analysis.
Your palette seems inherently gentle and graceful. Yet your Dramatic or Gamine Style Identity calls for a bold use of color. Can you do that?
Sure you can!
Definitely wear your Light Spring colors.
But wear them in solid blocks, rather than in watercolor or ombre effects.
This would not be so good for a Dramatic or Gamine:
This use of Light Spring blue is excellent for an Ethereal blend, but not so fitting for a style type with a more aggressive energy.
A use of Light Spring color more like this , below, would be more appropriate for a Dramatic or Gamine:
The color is in solid blocks, not gently blended. It's still the Light Spring palette, but on a person with Light Spring skin, the effect will be bold.
Even better, consider doing head-to-toe charcoal, vanilla, or raspberry (Light Spring's versions of black, white, and red) to create a Dramatic effect. Or try unusual combinations of your palette's "primaries" and "secondaries": ocean blue with popsicle orange, butter yellow with grape purple, and so on.
Your seasonal coloring does play a small role in your style identity -- people with highly contrasting coloring tend to make a more intense visual impression, and people with very low-contrast coloring tend to make a more gentle physical impression.
But your coloring isn't determinative of your Style ID. Light and Soft seasons are definitely represented among Dramatic and Gamine style types.
Hope this helps!
First published November 2017
It's the time of year when those of us in the Northern Hemisphere start thinking about buying swimsuits, so I want to give all of you a chance to pick up your style type's Swimwear Guide, if you don't have it yet. Scroll down for the promo code!
The Swimwear Guides expand on the information given for swimsuits in the Shopping Guide. They have sections for suit types, top types/necklines, bottom types/leg cuts, patterns, color schemes, and details.
My experience with swimsuits is some of the best evidence from my own life of the importance of knowing one's style type and dressing for one's face.
I talked about this not long ago. I have the flattest of flat busts, so supposedly I should wear ruffles or other details on my bust to make my top half look curvier. But that stuff is ridiculous on me. I'm an Ethereal Natural, and simple tops are so much better for me. In my best EN suit, I don't look busty, but I do look really good.
(Some of you out there with a ton of Ingenue will look amazing in the top on the left!)
If you spend a lot of time picking out a swimsuit, consider getting your type's Swimwear Guide. It will narrow your search and help you find your best suit more quickly.
And if you spend a lot of money on swimsuits, spend a little on a Swimwear Guide to save yourself money in the long run. These days, I wear a swimsuit until it gets holes in the tush! I don't need to keep trying new styles because I know what looks good on me.
Your promo code is 2019SWIM20. The promotion expires this Sunday. :-) Enjoy!
Not sure of your style type? Try the Style Identity Calculator.
...says reader D.C.
She seeks help determining her season, and also wonders whether she should make her hair darker or lighter.
When a woman tells me she hates her natural color, I immediately suspect she's a muted season - i.e., a Summer or an Autumn. Those are the seasons whose colors are in-between, hard to describe, often nameless. We think with language; I believe we dislike in-between colors in ourselves because we don't have the language to conceptualize them.
Here's the thing: If you think your hair is "blah," chances are the rest of your coloring is similarly subtle and blended. Putting Crayola-colored hair next to your blended skin will only make you disappear.
Keep your hair as muted as your skin, and surround the whole vision with similarly quiet colors, and watch everything suddenly come into focus.
Your natural hair color flatters you more than any other color can, and its subtle beauty is always revealed when it's placed in the context of your best colors.
Compare Lady Gaga in unnatural hair colors, on the left, to Lady Gaga in something more like her natural hair color on the right.
Which of these ^ women looks the most healthy? Which looks the most comfortable in her skin? Which looks the most confident? Which woman isn't afraid to be real with you?
Unnatural hair color is a look, for sure. It makes a statement. But it may not be the statement you want to make.
Natural hair color says, "See ME. This is who I am. I know myself and I like myself. I am not afraid and I don't want to hide from you."
That kind of power and presence isn't blah; it's beautiful.
Original version published September 2015.
The vast, vast majority of style advice is about your body. Have you noticed this?
How to make your bust look bigger if you're flat-chested, or smaller if you're busty. How to make your tush look rounder or how to disguise a really big tush. How to make your legs look longer if they're short, or shorter if they're long. Et cetera.
I have a tiny bust and narrow hips. And fashion gurus have been telling me all my life that this makes me a "rectangle, " and that I should dress in a way that makes me appear to have a narrow waist and a full bust. For example, I'm supposed to wear padded bikini tops with ruffles. This site tells me I need "Dresses that add definition to your bottom and necklines that add meat to the upper body. " This site says "always add belts to your tops and dresses. " This site says "You need to create the illusion of a waist."
When you stop and think about it, you realize that style advice like this is based on two assumptions:
1. Other people are mainly looking at your body, not your face.
2. Every woman looks most beautiful when her body appears as a perfectly proportioned hourglass.
Neither of these things is true.
Number 1 is obviously false. You'd be hard-pressed to correctly identify anyone but your closest family members if you could only see them from the neck down. By contrast, you'll recognize a face you haven't seen in 20 years, even if it's been changed by age. Our brains are wired to notice and remember faces. When we look at other people, that's mainly what we're looking at.
Number 2 is also demonstrably false. Some women with ample curves look most lovely when their curves are exaggerated, and some full-figured women look most lovely when their curves are downplayed. Some women with flat busts and hips look best in clothes that emphasize the flatness, and some look their best in clothes that create a suggestion of curves.
A curvy woman who's more lovely in clothes that de-emphasize her curves: Jamie Lee Curtis:
A less-curvy woman who looks her best when her curves are played down, not emphasized: Emma Watson.
A curvy woman who looks much better when her curves are emphasized than when her curves are obscured: Christina Hendricks.
A woman with a straight silhouette who looks lovelier when the illusion of curves is created: Olivia Wilde.
In each of these cases, "body type" has nothing to do with what clothes are flattering. There are women of every body type who look fantastic with a cinched waist and a sweetheart neckline. There are women of every body type who look amazing in rectangular or squarish silhouettes with no waist or bust emphasis.
What's the controlling factor, then? The face.
Jamie Lee Curtis has a primarily Dramatic face that's flattered by long, straight lines and minimalism.
Emma Watson has a primarily Gamine face that's flattered by shorter straight lines and small shapes.
Christina Hendricks and Olivia Wilde both have faces with a lot of Romantic, so they both look great in clothes that create the impression of a sexy, womanly figure. (I suspect Wilde has Dramatic and
perhaps Classic as well.)
As an Ethereal Natural, neither of my dominant identities is flattered by a sexy, full bustline or a cinched waist. What's the point of me appearing to have an hourglass figure if that figure clashes with my face, which is what people are actually looking at?
I look my best in a sort of abstract, feminine minimalism that feels casual. My bust is unemphasized and my waist is uncinched, and it looks great.
"Body type" advice is bogus.
Despite what you've been led to believe, we are all focusing on your face, not your body.
To achieve visual harmony, dress for your face.
Not sure of your style type? Try the Style Identity Calculator, or invest in a virtual analysis.