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've thought for months about 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 Type 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 Type Analysis is to empower women in their own authentic beauty.
Yet talking about Romantic women's appearance is difficult for me because, traditionally, all 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, are probably tired of being valued for their sexiness.
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, large foreheads, and full hair. A Romantic woman looks mature and powerful, not inappropriate, with boob and butt emphasis and a super-cinched waist.
Dark hair reads 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. So 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.
Romantics look great with the impression of cleavage, even if they're small-busted. (While some large-busted women, such as Gamines and Dramatics, look best with de-emphasized chests.)
Red roses symbolize romance and sexuality, and a Romantic woman is like a red rose: beautiful, delicate, detailed, and composed entirely 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 dress in a way that doesn't create an impression of softness, curves, and delicacy, the result will be that you look less dignified.
Honor your Romantic beauty by creating looks as feminine and sexy as you are. That reads as dignified and self-aware.
If you know what looks good on you, but you don't know your style type, try the Style Identity Calculator.
A version of this post was published in May 2015.
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?
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.
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.
Game of Thrones!
I'm a huge fan of the George R.R. Martin book series and I can't stay away from the TV show either.
So, Emilia Clarke. You've been wondering too, right?
I love Daenerys. But that white-blonde Targaryen hair is so not her. Her coloring's not delicate like that. It makes her seem ghostly.
So probably no Light Spring or Light Summer here.
The natural brown's so much better, isn't it? Just look at this. So real. So beautiful.
The black blazer isn't quite the thing, though. Much darker than she is. Ixnay on any palette that contains black. (That's all three Winters, Dark Autumn and Bright Spring.)
Just to belabor the point: NOT a Winter.
My very first thought about her was Soft Summer. My first thought is often wrong, but in this case I think it may have been correct.
These Summery colors are not at all bad, but don't they need to be just a little deeper and warmer? Emilia's skin is a tad richer than these hues.
This is fantastic. Is that one of Soft Summer's teals? It looks like it could be.
True and beautiful. These look like Soft Summer colors to me.
Soft Summers, what do you think? Is Daenerys Targaryen one of you?
Try figuring out your own true colors at home.
[Happy July 4th holiday, American readers! I'm re-running one of my most popular posts from several years ago. I welcome your opinions and insights in the comments section!]
This Indian model and actress is both incredibly beautiful and (to me) incredibly difficult to type. There's no agreement on the 'net, that's for sure. But after much study, I think I've figured it out. Here, I'll walk you through the process I used and share my conclusion.
Aishwarya is Indian. If I believed that non-White women are always Autumns and Winters, I'd have it narrowed down to six seasons based on that alone. If I was a particularly rigid thinker, I might have already decided Deep Autumn or Deep Winter.
But ethnicity doesn't determine season; it's based on how the skin reacts to color. So I'll keep the Autumns and Winters in mind, but not limit myself to them.
Let's look more closely at her.
Aishwarya is probably most famous for her beautiful and unusual eyes. If you believe that eyes determine season - or at least point to it - you're probably thinking Summer. You might even have narrowed it down to Soft Summer based only on these amazing eyes.
I'm going to make a mental note that the eyes suggest Summer, but I know that any season can have any eye color. So I'm moving on to the next step: finding well-lit pics of Aishwarya in a variety of colors, and noticing what the colors that look most - and least - harmonious on her have in common.
I find it easiest to start with makeup. When does Aishwarya's face look natural and balanced, and when does it seem that color is just sitting on her face?
This face looks pretty natural. In the eye shadow, blush, and lip, I see warmth, and I see mutedness - as opposed to clarity.
Most seasons have warmth or softness or both in them. But I’m tentatively ruling out Bright Winter. Very tentatively ruling out Cool (True) Winter and Bright Spring.
And maybe penciling a star next to the Autumns (soft & warm) and Soft Summer (soft with a smidge of warmth).
Nothing’s certain yet; let’s keep looking:
A well-lit pic, though not a flattering one: this lip and cheek look a little too bright and too pink to me. The color seems to be sitting on her face in a way that it doesn’t in the previous pics.
(And those silvery, icy jewels seem to have nothing in common with her.)
The most obvious thing I'm noticing at this point is that coolness and Aishwarya don’t mix. So, again, several seasons could be indicated, but I’m leaning farther away from the Winters, and starting to lean away from the Summers as well. Despite those eyes.
Ouch. That lip is too, too purple. Further confirms my growing sense that coolness is not for Aishwarya.
I'm feeling pretty sure she's a warm season. So the scientist in me says I must try to prove the null hypothesis:
Can I find her in makeup that looks both cool and natural?
Here, I’ve certainly found coolness – at least around the eye - but it looks all wrong: too sparkly, too blue. The lip and cheek here aren’t bad. But they’re more warm than cool. This isn’t disproving my theory; it’s confirming it.
Let's try more pics.
My first thought: nice, natural face, and a pinkish lip. OK, maybe we're on to something.
I'm looking closer at the makeup. The eyes look quite harmonious to me, and, well, I see warmth in the colors there. I see warmth in that nice, natural cheek too.
I start to notice that something's bugging me about that lip. I ask my gut: what’s wrong? My gut tells me: warm it up and darken it a smidge.
Yeah - I step back and look at the whole face again, and that lip is just too light and too pink for the rest of the face.
(Warm it, darken it… could Aishwarya be an Autumn? Hmm... maybe. Maybe. Nothing's impossible, despite the eyes.)
Let’s look at some more pics.
Here's the pic from the top of the post.
Apart from the requisite but totally silly super-black liner, this face looks natural as well.
And again, I see warmth in every part of the makeup.
At this point I think I’m prepared to commit myself to the idea that Aishwarya is a season known for warmth: Autumn or Spring.
Because I’ve also been noticing softness, I’m going farther now, and asking: do I see Autumn warmth specifically?
Are the flattering makeup colors that I’ve seen so far Autumn’s, and not Spring’s? That is, are they relatively muted and deep, rather than bright and light?
I think so.
Now I’m looking back at every picture I’ve seen so far, and asking this question: does anything in any pic rule out Autumn? Have I seen her looking natural in a super-cool, super-light or super-bright color that no Autumn could possibly wear?
Well, I’m going to proceed with a tentative theory that she’s an Autumn, while staying open to evidence that might suggest any other season.
So here's another picture with natural-looking makeup.
Are these colors consistent with Autumn? Yes - they're warm, soft, and deeper rather than lighter.
Are they completely inconsistent with another season?
Hard to say… I can imagine a Soft Summer or a Deep Winter possibly photographing this way, if the light was right.
I think I've exhausted the usefulness of makeup analysis. I have some ideas. Now I'm moving on to clothing colors, and noticing what doesn't look right.
Oh, certainly not.
My brain tells me she looks pale and harsh. My gut doesn’t tell me anything – it just cringes. Beautiful Aishwarya, where are you?
So this is a deep, cool color, and it’s not doing her any favors. Duly noted. Moving on…
Hmm… This just seems so, well, weird. As in strange, foreign. Unconnected to her.
I see Aishwarya. And I see the light, cool colors. But I don’t see anything joining them together.
Still thinking Autumn is likely. More colors:
My gut has a mixed reaction to this very un-Autumny pink. Something’s working, something’s not.
I pick apart my reaction:
If yes, I can probably rule out Soft Autumn.
But Deep Autumn and Warm (True) Autumn are still in the running. Their colors are muted in the context of the full 12-season spectrum, but considered in themselves, they can read as rather bright.
Now that I think I'm closing in on an answer, I'm ready to look at this problem from another angle:
What are Aishwarya's best colors?
What pics show her in glorious, fantastically harmonious colors?
And, oh my gosh, yes, this one, absolutely. I can’t stop staring. Incredible. Glorious golden goddess.
So... whose colors are these?
Warm (True) Autumn’s.
But she has those Summery eyes…
Yeah, I know.
But she’s Indian…
Yes, I know I'm late to this party! But I don't have network TV, and I have two kids. I'm just now catching up with the rest of the world TV-wise.
Anyway, here are the color seasons of several of the actors on Mad Men, as best I can tell.
Elisabeth Moss: True Summer
Her best colors aren't particularly dark, but they're very cool. Soft Summer is also a possibility for her, but what really convinced me of True Summer was seeing how pink her lipstick can get. The pinker it is, the prettier she looks. Most seasons can't wear those super-pink lippies.
Jon Hamm: Dark Winter
His best colors are certainly cool, and quite dark. They're not vivid enough to be Bright Winter colors, and they have the "sooty" quality (as Christine Scaman puts it) that characterizes Dark Winter colors.
January Jones: Light Spring
Her best colors are warm, clear, and rather light and delicate. I don't think True Spring is impossible for her, but I think it's unlikely; it's telling to me that her very worst colors are dark (remember when Betty dyed her hair black?) I also find some colors to be too clear and warm for her; pure orange and bright red are not great.
Jessica Pare: Bright Spring
This woman was obviously a Bright from her first moment on screen. I decided on Bright Spring rather than Bright Winter because so many warm, clear colors are glorious on her, and because too-cool colors can make her look a bit goth.
I love how often she's costumed in her best colors. It's a joy to behold.
Linda Cardellini: True Winter
What a gorgeous example of a True Winter. The way black, white and grey make this skin look amazing -- it's just beautiful.
Although I know it will disappoint some people, I have to say that I can't accurately type Christina Hendricks. :-(
You might be thinking, "She's obviously a Bright, or a True Spring!" But don't let yourself get distracted by the colors she's costumed in as Joan -- they're generally very bright colors, but they're also brighter than she is.
Your best colors should let us see you; Joan's colors force us to just see lips, hair, and curves.
Which is probably the point.: the colors make her into a cartoon.
I suspect that, IRL, Christina Hendricks is probably a Soft Autumn, or just maybe a True Autumn; warmth seems to be good for her, but she needs less saturation than she's given on Mad Men.
What do you think? Any ideas about Christina Hendricks' color season? Do you think I've missed the mark on any of the other characters? Let me know!
I think I know, but I'm not positive. Let me lay out my logic for you.
First off, when analyzing celebs' colors, I recommend using red carpet pics. They're taken under very bright lights and generally not Photoshopped or otherwise color-altered. So I'll look at a lot of those.
(Magazine editorial shoots are particularly unhelpful for color analysis; those are generally highly edited to create an artistic effect.)
The makeup above looks Soft Summery. Its not bad, though that eyeliner is darker than she is. (That's true of almost every pic of almost every celeb, unfortunately.)
This makeup looks a bit pinker (cooler) than she is, to my eye. And, again, the eyeliner and mascara are darker than she is. I'm going to rule out the very coolest seasons, True Summer and True Winter.
This block of black color is unconnected to her relatively makeup-free face here. I'm ruling out seasons that can wear black, so we additionally lose Dark Autumn, Dark Winter, Bright Winter, and Bright Spring.
I do find this hair color flattering for her, though it's obviously not her natural color. (Look at the roots.) Few people can wear lightened hair convincingly, but True Springs, Light Springs and Light Summers tend to be able to pull it off pretty well. I'm going to put a star next to those seasons.
Do I love her in a cool, light pink lippie, though? I don't know. I would expect this to be great on a Light Summer, such as Gwyneth Paltrow:
But I don't see it harmonizing with Lawrence's skin. It looks a little too cool. That makes me think Light Summer is unlikely.
I'd expect a True Spring to look pretty darn good in this vivid red. Do I love this for her? Not sure. Any sense of harmony I'm getting may simply be because the red dress matches the red lips, not because either of them matches her skin.
That saturated red, which could very well be a True Spring red, is so much more powerful than JLaw's skin is.
If that's hard for you to see, try squinting, or unfocusing your eyes:
The red is dominating her. Not good.
This appears to be complete Soft Summer look, including the hair, and I just don't love this for her skin. This palette looks a little muddy on her, like there's a film over her. It looks like it's concealing her authentic self instead of revealing it.
Wow. I like this lippie for her, and this blush. And the eye's not bad, either. (Though maybe too warm? Again, there's a faint impression of a film having been laid over her, though a warm one this time... )
It can be tough to tell a lippie's true color when it's on someone's skin, because the underlying skin color affects the appearance of the lippie's color. But my best guess about this lippie is that it's Soft Autumn or True Autumn. It looks warm, somewhat muted, a little orange-y but not a lot.
This makeup looks warm and muted; I think it's Soft Autumn or True Autumn (second choice.) I like it for her.
Try to ignore the super-light hair here, and just notice the effect of the pumpkin-y orange. Is it making her glow? Is it resonating with her natural skin tone? Especially look at the effect of the orange on her chest, where she's probably wearing less makeup than on her face.
I don't see the color making her skin look more alive. I'm willing to rule out True Autumn.
I think I've got it narrowed down to Soft Autumn and Light Spring. (Which are both warm and gentle, though in different ways; Light Spring is lighter and more vivid, while Soft Autumn is darker and more hushed. Easter colors vs. desert colors.)
I was feeling pretty sure about Soft Autumn, but look at this light warmish pink lippie and blush. (Ignore the inharmonious black liner.)
Could a Soft Autumn look authentic in this? I don't think so. Yet, I don't hate it here. And I don't hate the big block of light yellow next to her face (i.e., the dyed blonde hair.)
Is it possible Jennifer Lawrence is a Light Spring? Or is Soft Autumn correct? Or another season?
What do you think?
Ingenue beauty is often what you're seeing if someone is clearly "pretty," but you'd feel uncomfortable styling her in overtly sexy clothes because she just looks too darn sweet.
The curving line is the defining line of all the feminine types, but Ingenue's circles are small and restrained, rather than large and lush.
Ingenues look appropriate, not ridiculous, in girlish details such as small bows, tiny flowers, headbands, simple lockets, and puffed sleeves.
The Ingenue frame is petite. The Ingenue figure is identifiably feminine, but more trim than lush. Ingenue hands and feet are small and delicate. The Ingenue face is quite round, with a tiny, tapered chin, a small, pert nose, round, wide-set eyes, a large forehead, round cheeks, and plump lips. Ingenues often have naturally curly hair; if they don't they are still flattered by curls. Overall, an Ingenue reads as girlish.
By contrast, they look silly -- like a kid playing dress-up -- in anything "sexy" or womanly, such as elaborate jewelry or a plunging neckline..
And of course, Ingenues are no less sexual than any other people. It's just that visually, they read as girlish rather than womanly.
Eyes that appear very light relative to the overall coloring read as youthful, and therefore Ingenue (or Gamine).
Note that this signifier should be interpreted relative to the overall coloring. On a pink-skinned, yellow-haired person, deep blue eyes probably won't read as Ingenue. On a brown-skinned person with black hair, caramel or light brown eyes will read as youthful.
Ingenues appear authentic and relaxed with sincere, joyful smiles.
Ingenues often hear "pretty," "cute," "sweet," and "adorable." They're not perceived by strangers as intimidating, mysterious, tough, or intense.
This can be frustrating to an Ingenue with a more assertive, competitive, or no-nonsense personality.
If that's you, my advice is to take advantage of the element of surprise that your innocent appearance grants you. They won't see you coming. :-)
Before discussing Romantic, Ingenue, and Ethereal types in detail, I want to generally discuss what feminine means in the Style Identity system.
Let me start by being clear that feminine beauty is not the only type of beauty. Dramatics, Naturals, and Gamines all embody beauty that isn't traditionally feminine, but is powerful nonetheless. And Classics are beautiful with a femininity that is subtle and restrained.
Before continuing, I should also let you know that right after this paragraph is a picture of a sculpture of a naked woman. Art, as far as I'm concerned, but probably NSFW for some people.
Pause, pause, pause...
OK, let's dive in. :-)
Feminine Visual Beauty
When we look at another human, we perceive their physical characteristics and make a judgment about their gender almost instantaneously.
This is usually an unconscious process. When it's not unconscious and not immediate, it surprises us -- hence our fascination with androgynous people.
Humans are not as sexually dimorphic as many primates. Average visual differences between women and men are objectively small. A visitor from another planet might not notice the differences.
But we humans are exquisitely sensitive to them.
Which makes sense from an evolutionary perspective: if an animal can't easily tell who's a potential mate, that animal might not pass on her genes.
Here are many of the ways in which men and women, on average, visually differ.
Descriptors of the masculine and feminine style identities derive from these differences.
For example, because narrow-seeming eyes are more characteristic of men than of women, they characterize the masculine (or "yang") style identities.
Because narrow chins are more characteristic of women than of men, they characterize the feminine (or "yin") style identities.
And so on.
The curving line.
Perhaps the defining element of visual femininity -- what immediately and strongly reads as feminine -- is the curving line.
Curved lines read as feminine because, from head to toe, the average human female has more obvious curving lines than the average human male -- in the curved hip, in the breast, in the apparently rounder eye, in the apparently rounder face, in the fuller lip, and so on.
All of the feminine style identities are defined by curving lines.
But the type of curving line depends on the style identity. More on that soon.
Categorizing the visual feminine: Romantic is not the only type of feminine beauty.
The Romantic type, which is present in all style systems that I know of, is defined by lush, round curves and mature, womanly femininity.
In many systems, Romantic --also called Alluring, Sensuous, Soft, or Sexy -- is the only type of feminine beauty.
Systems who conceptualize Romantic as the only type of feminine beauty are flawed, though, because people can read as beautiful and distinctly feminine without reading as va-va-voom.
Romantic does seem to be the variety of feminine beauty that men mainly notice -- which might explain why it's the only kind of visual feminine in some systems created by men.
But I agree with John Kitchener and others who believe that visual femininity can be fairly divided into three subcategories.
Romantic, Ingenue, and Ethereal.
All people who are discernibly female have some amount of Romantic, Ethereal, or Ingenue. These are the the three feminine style identities.
A woman without any amount of any of these would appear as a man, or completely androgynous.
If someone visually reads as distinctly feminine, you're seeing a rather large portion of Ingenue, Romantic, or Ethereal.
But which is it?
My next posts will be more detailed individual explorations of Romantics, Ingenues, and Ethereals, in that order.
I know many of you are like
The good news is, they're already partially drafted. :-))
A fun way to gauge your relative amounts of masculine beauty (Dramatic, Natural, and Gamine) and feminine beauty (Romantic, Ingenue, Ethereal) is to determine whether you'd be convincing in drag.
If you're a woman, could you pass as a man? If you're a man, could you pass as a woman?
Here, Glenn Close is pulling it off pretty well. There's no question she has a lot of Natural or Dramatic.
Hillary Swank -- Another beautiful woman with a lot of Natural or Dramatic.
Not even a Photoshopped beard can make Salma Hayek look masculine, though. She has too much Romantic.
Here's a man, Cillian Murphy, who makes a gorgeous woman. He's got a ton of Romantic or Ethereal.
Lee Pace has a lot of Ingenue, I'm thinking? Very believable.
Liev Schreiber, not so much. I'm thinking he's mostly Natural with some Classic and Gamine.
I want to introduce the seven pure style identities by starting with Dramatics.
People whose style identity is purely Dramatic create an overall visual impression of dignity, intensity, and theatricality.
They may remind us of big cats, or birds of prey.
The physical features in a woman that tend to create this impression include:
But don't get wrapped up in trying to figure out the style essence of each discrete body part.
In other words, it's not about whether or not your nose is Dramatic.
It's about whether your overall impression - the gestalt of your parts and manner - is unusual, intense, and even intimidating.
Dramatic energy is generally called "yang" energy. Belle Northrup originated this use in the 1930s, I suspect because she sensed women wouldn't want to identify with an energy described as "masculine."
But can we get real here and cut the euphemisms for a moment?
Dramatic women look masculine.
And they are stunning.
Dramatics look good in sharp-edged, man-tailored clothes because those clothes repeat the stunning masculine beauty of the physical appearance.
Now, Dramatic woman, this doesn't mean that your personality is masculine or theatrical or intense. The idea that appearance = personality is bull***.
Inside, you might be a wallflower, or a fairy princess, or a clown.
When there's a contrast between the truth of your exterior and the truth of your interior, the contradiction just makes getting to know you even more delightful.
* * * *
If you're a Dramatic, you probably look great with your hair pulled back severely from your incredible face.
If you're a Dramatic, you probably look great when you're not smiling.
If you're a Dramatic, we can probably see your cheekbones even when you're not smiling.
Pure Dramatics don't look innocent.
Pure Dramatics don't look traditionally sexy, though they are gorgeous. Their eyes don't say "Come hither;" they say "Watch out."
Pure Dramatics don't come across as approachable. (Though they might be the sweetest people you'll ever meet.)
Pure Dramatics are, by all accounts, rare. Please let me know if you can think of some.
Classics are so interesting to me.
If you're like me, you are accustomed to thinking about beautification as a process of adding things.
Add accessories, add makeup, add costume, add scenery, add hairstyle.
But Classics become more beautiful the more you remove.
Diane Kruger. The less detail she has near her face, the more beauty we see.
Classic beauty exists in the seemingly perfect balance and symmetry of the form and features. In a Classic face, no one feature jumps out. The nose, eyes, mouth, chin, and forehead aren't remarkably large, or remarkably small, or noticeably close together, or noticeably far apart.
Imagine you're a schoolyard bully: what nickname could you make up for that face? If you can't think of anything, you're likely looking at a Classic.
That impression of perfection can only be created when the form and features are all we see.
Add details to the image, and the perfection becomes harder to discern. The Classic fades into the background. She becomes merely pretty, or even boring-looking.
Classics can become visually forgettable if the chiseled perfection of their features is not highlighted by simple, carefully sculpted hair and the removal of all extraneous details.
Classic clothes are boring on everyone but a Classic. And attire that would be interesting on someone else overwhelms a Classic.
When people ask "Am I pulling this off?", they may be asking, "Are my features as complicated as this item I'm wearing?"
The answer to a Classic is usually "No."
If you're a Classic, you may have grown up hearing you were "pretty" - as opposed to cute, adorable, stunning, gorgeous or handsome.
In your self-critical moments, you may have seen yourself as plain or boring.
But would you call this ring boring?
A solitaire diamond engagement ring is a good metaphor for a Classic. The jewel's perfection is front and center when the setting is simple.
As a Classic, your seeming perfection will blow people away, if you allow it to be seen by keeping all of your lines simple and controlled.
All of the strategy of dressing faithfully to your Style Identity boils down to one idea: creating context for yourself.
The clothes and hair that you put on are your portable context.
When you choose clothing and hair that are congruent with your physical self, your physical self makes visual sense.
That's our goal here: to present ourselves in a way that says "I am real. My existence makes sense."
When we surround our physical selves with incompatible context, our physical selves don't make sense.
And we're signaling to anyone who looks, "I deny the reality of me."
If you compress soft, bountiful flesh into hard, unyielding fabric forms, you deny the reality of that soft flesh. (So, Romantics, no tailored suits in stiff fabrics.)
If you bind wide, muscular frames with constricting styles, you deny the reality of those big muscles and bones. (So, Naturals, no pencil skirts.)
If you surround a face and form that's perfect in its balance and simplicity with extravagant and outsize detail, you deny the reality of the simple perfection. (So, Classics, don't gild the lily.)
An adult who seems always to have a youthful or childlike quality, regardless of age, likely has a strong dose of Ingenue or Gamine.
Big eyes, a large forehead, a round face, and a short, straight body all help to create an impression of youthfulness.
One way to think about the seven style identities is to think about the words we use to describe the type of attractiveness each identity embodies.
Which isn't to say Gamines aren't incredibly attractive. They are incredibly attractive. Women who have a "yang" or masculine quality to their beauty are no less attractive than their more "yin" counterparts. They only appear unlovely when they're placed in a clothing context that's more traditionally feminine than they are.
You can see the boyish quality of a Gamine in the following ways:
Which isn't to say that Gamines need little detail. They look great with a lot of detail in the clothing -- pockets, buttons, cuffs, etc. But the jewelry is best when it's minimal. A lot of jewelry = girlish, and girlish context around a Gamine will make her look masculine.
The effect of clothing context on our apparent masculinity or femininity is analogous to the effect of color on our skin.
The apparent color of your skin changes, for better or worse, depending on what color is next to it. That's because of simultaneous contrast.
And the apparent qualities of your face and figure, including the apparent masculinity or femininity, change depending on the context that surrounds it.
If almost everything in the frame reads as boyish, then the viewer mainly notices what's not boyish - and so the Gamine's feminine qualities actually stand out more.
The more boyish the context, the more beautiful Gamines look.
Surround them with traditionally female decoration like long locks, ruffles, and lavish jewelry, and they become less lovely.
Both Classics and Gamines need well-tailored clothes. Classics look their best with very little detail, and Gamines look their best without a lot of feminine frill. How do we tell them apart?
For one, Classics literally need every hair in place, while Gamine hair looks better with some tousle.
(Tousle suggests motion in the hair. Details that makes us think of movement -- such as zigzag lines, nautical themes, running shoes -- are generally good on Gamines. That comes from the boyish quality. When think of boys, we think of bodies in motion.)
Classic or Gamine?
Both Classics and Gamines look good in fitted, tailored pieces. But the overall Classic vibe is elegant and ladylike, while the overall Gamine vibe is spunky and playful. A Classic isn't her best in sneakers, rolled-up jeans and a striped sweater. A Gamine isn't great in a sweater set, pearls and high heels.
And Classics are particularly lovely in their palette's neutrals and understated colors, while Gamines are particularly lovely in highly contrasting color combinations from their palette. (Again, it's about an impression of movement. Neutrals feel still; contrasting colors feel energetic.)
Gamines (and Ingenues) are tiny, right?
I haven't talked a lot about height as a prerequisite for Gamine identity. Gamines and Ingenues are characterized mainly by their small stature -- right?
What I've come to believe is that the Gamine and Ingenue quality of petiteness is more about impression than reality.
Isn't it surprising to learn that Audrey Hepburn, practically the definition of Gamine, was 5' 7"? She looks little.
Big eyes, high foreheads, round heads, slender necks, and heads that look large relative to the size of the body are characteristics of children. So these features read as youthful.
Dress a person with these features in similarly youthful clothes, and it will look right.
Leonardo DiCaprio is 5'11". (Some sources say 6'.) But that baby face looks better in a bowtie, the Gamine man's iconic dress accessory, than in a standard necktie.
So if you're petite, certainly consider Gamine and Ingenue first. For some reason that I don't understand, petite people seem often to have the features I described above.
But don't assume Gamine (or Ingenue) based solely on small stature, and don't rule it out just because you're not petite.
Of the seven pure style identities, I believe Natural is the most common type - but perhaps the hardest to define.
The other types are exceptional by definition:
Dramatic are exceptionally imposing.
Romantics are exceptionally sexy.
Ethereals are exceptionally otherworldly.
Gamines and Ingenues stand out because of their seemingly eternal youthfulness and their small stature.
And Classics are unusually symmetrical and balanced.
Naturals, by contrast, are mostly defined by what they are not.
They are not visually extreme in any regard. Not extremely imposing, not extremely small, not extremely sexy, not extremely alien.
Naturals are just that - humans in their typical, average, natural state.
If Naturals get a superlative, it has to be "most friendly-looking." Even Natural supermodels look nice!
Naturals create an overall visual impression of being friendly, sturdy, and ordinary.
The attributes in a woman that tend to create this impression include:
Wait - go back a minute. Did she just call Naturals ordinary-looking?
Well, I did.
The ordinariness, the average-ness, is what makes them so appealing.
They feel familiar. We relate to them. We expect them to welcome us as fellow ordinary people.
Of course, since appearance =/= personality, a friendly-looking Natural may secretly be a right royal b****.
But that's part of the fun, isn't it?
If you're a Natural whose guileless exterior belies a devilish interior, you're twice as fascinating.
Regardless of whether or not you're the girl-next-door that you appear to be, your Natural form will be most flattered by Natural clothes: simple lines, comfortable fits, textured fabrics, functional accessories, and an overall informal vibe.
Natural or Dramatic?
Naturals can be confused with Dramatics. Both types can appear somewhat masculine. ("Yang," other writers say, but I'm trying to eschew those euphemisms.)
To distinguish between a Dramatic and a Natural, you might ask, "Does this face look friendly or threatening?"
Natural or Classic?
A Natural's ordinariness may cause her to be confused with a Classic.
An important difference between a Natural and a Classic is that Classics present an idealized version of the human average: moderate and balanced in every single dimension, without any asymmetry.
Naturals present the actual human average, which comes with asymmetries and lumps and bumps.
A test: Look at a person and imagine a cartoonist's caricature. If that's hard to do, you might be looking at a Classic. It's hard to caricature a Classic because nothing sticks out. But Naturals have plenty that sticks out.
This is why Naturals feel accessible and Classics feel aloof: Classics are so balanced that it feels almost inhuman. Naturals' "imbalances" are entirely human.
- Her best colors are bright, and not too dark.
- Her best makeup is not too heavy and not too dark.
- I think her best colors are warmer rather than cooler. But not all the way warm.
I am pretty sure she's a Bright. I'm going with Bright Spring over Bright Winter.
Here, a warm, light lip is lovely. The peachy cheeks are pretty darn good, perhaps a hair too warm. The melon color on the side is connecting to her skin. The eyeliner is the only jarring note; it's too cool. Look at those gorgeous eyes! Don't you want to set them free from that eyeliner?
You should see Christine Scaman's excellent article on Spring skin finishes.
I've often thought about this brave and beautiful woman's coloring. I had her up on my "Soft Summer Celebrities" page for a while, but later took her down because I started to doubt that diagnosis. I'm undertaking a closer study of her coloring.
As I often do, I use makeup to narrow down Ashley's season. When it comes to celebs, using clothing colors is often unhelpful, because the effects of the colors on the face are obscured by the makeup.
This light, muted, neutral lip seems nice on her. Her best natural lip is going to be lighter rather than darker, I think.
The cheek seems neutral and muted as well. Perhaps my initial conclusion of Soft Summer was correct?
Let's try to prove the null hypothesis: Do we see her looking harmonious in some other seasons' colors?
This light purple eyeshadow seems too light and bright for her face. Tentative no to Springs and Winters. (Perhaps Dark Winter's still on the table though?)
I think I'd like this lip very much if it were a little lighter. It's hard to know for sure, but that looks like it could be an Autumn lip, or perhaps Soft Summer.
Yikes! Talk about a color dragging down the viewer's eye.
So we can perhaps rule out Dark Winter? This color might be too saturated even for them -- but it wouldn't have the Joker-like effect that it does on Ashley.
Ouch. Far too bright and far too warm for the rest of the face. I don't think Bright or True (Warm) Spring is likely; this might not be a perfect lip for either of those seasons, but it wouldn't look so completely wrong.
Here's a lighter pink with more shine. The whole face is pretty shiny, actually. I'd imagine this possibly looking nice on a Light season, perhaps someone with a more delicate complexion. Here, it feels a little off... as if the real Ashley is hidden behind the light, shiny stuff. Tentative no to Light Summer.
That's a really purply lip. And very cool pink cheeks.
Seeing her in too-cool color, I'm skeptical about True Summer and True Winter.
I was confused about my own reaction to this pic at first. I knew it didn't feel right, but I couldn't put my finger on why. On the one hand, the colors all seem to be working together. Then I realized: her whole face looks , well, kind of brownish-orange.
It's as if the MUA painted the entire face with the same too-warm color. So the effect is harmonious at first glance, but the harmony is within the makeup - not between the makeup and the skin.
On a True (Warm) Autumn, these colors would seem to emanate from the face instead of sitting on top of it.
I think I'm back to Soft Summer or Soft Autumn.
I'll try to find pics of her in colors exclusive to each of the Softs: perhaps dusty purple or soft fuchsia for Soft Summer. Maybe muted mustard or a warm brown for Soft Autumn.
That's awful darn good, isn't it? I think it's Soft Summer. It's not Soft Autumn.
This, I don't love so much.
It's hard to find pics of Ashley in Soft Autumn colors. This could be True Autumn and not Soft, but the blended effect of the fabric makes me think a Soft Autumn could pull it off. It matches Ashley's lipgloss, but I think it gives her skin a faint greenish cast.
I'm back to my original thought: I think Ashley Judd is a Soft Summer.
What do you think?
While searching the interwebs for other stuff in the last few days, I stumbled across photos of a beautiful woman I hadn't heard of before. She's a model named Selita Ebanks. Her season stumped me. So I started looking through pics of her, trying to solve the mystery.
As I look at pics of her, or any celeb, I'm thinking "No... no... yes... no..." and trying to figure out what the yeses have in common.
No. The black seems blah, not balancing. It's not bringing her to life. And that lippy is too dark. It's jumping out of the pic at me. Would a Winter look this obviously wrong in these colors? Tentative no to Winter.
No. This whole summery getup is too cool. The eye shadow is just sitting on her eyes. OK, I'm thinking she's not a Summer.
No to this lip - too dark and muddy. She's perhaps not an Autumn.
No and yes. I love the peach colors on her face. But, again, the all-black seems blah on her. It's connecting to her eyes, but I feel that she could be much more special than this. Hmm, that sounds like something I've said about the Brights. Could she be a Bright Spring?
Can she do Bright Spring's melons and peaches?
Here, I think certainly yes. Mentally erase the too-cool earring and I believe we have glorious harmony.
How about Bright Spring's lime greens?
I think she's gorgeous in these colors. (Minus the necklace.) So I say yes.
What about Bright Spring's bright pinks?
I think this pink is fantastic for her skin. The contrast of the black background adds to the effect.
How about Bright Spring's beautiful aqua?
I find this a very telling photo because the makeup here is comparably minimal, yet I don't see the bright color overwhelming her. (I'm mentally erasing the very light pink lip.)
I'm pretty convinced. I'm calling model Selita Ebanks a Bright Spring. :-)
Because I have two young children and a job, I have very little time to watch TV. But my husband has gotten me into watching 30 Rock on Netflix. I catch it a couple of times a week, after the kids are asleep. I have mixed feelings about the show (very good points made here and here), but I enjoy trying to figure out these characters' seasons and noticing whether, and when, the characters are in their best colors.
Kenneth is obviously a Spring. His beloved NBC page jacket is totally not his color - too cool, too faded, too dark - but here's a shot of him with a great Springy purple on underneath it.
Isolate the two colors and the purple's far superior. Fresh skin that's golden,
not shadowed and haggard.
In my very first blog post, I observed that TV costumers use correct color to show characters as good/strong/dignified and incorrect color to show characters as evil/weak/silly.
Perhaps the page jacket is that awful-for Kennth navy because that's actually what NBC pages wear?
Kenneth is a sympathetic character who's often presented as the moral center of the show. So it makes sense that his customary rainbow-colored tie features many great Spring colors. It brings some life and health to his face.
This was a tough one for me, but I'm going to go with True Spring over Light Spring for Kenneth. In this post, I identify some of the factors that distinguish Light Spring from True Spring. In Kenneth's (or rather, actor Jack McBrayer's) case, I notice that pale, delicate colors can seem a bit underwhelming on him, while stronger, deeper shades seem more balanced.
I find this light green not enough for him. His skin is more intensely colored than this shirt. (True Springs can seem to have "high color" that's tamed by their proper palette.) Next to this very light color, the skin looks much darker, but in an unnaturally uniform way that's unflattering - almost as if he's made of clay.
This much deeper, saturated blue is more balancing to him. The skin looks lighter and brighter but in an alive way, not in a washed-out way. We see some natural variation in the skin tone that signifies health.
True Spring's colors are the closest of any season to the Crayola 8-pack. They are the stereotypical rainbow. Perhaps the NBC bikini Kenneth knitted is better for him than for his Nana.
My three-year-old son and I watched a video of Adele performing "Rolling in the Deep." 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., asks me what season I believe Adele is. She points out that Adele's always in black but it's clearly not her best color. I have to agree.
Certainly this recent look is not right for her. The woman is invisible; we only see the too-bright color.
Yet she usually 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 usually 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.
And 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. Here's hoping that one day she chooses to exchange the black for, say, taupe or putty.
Can you color analyze Lisa
Bonet, Zoe Kravitz and Rashida Jones?
To do each of these women to my satisfaction would take hours, but I can give my quick impressions.
I think Rashida Jones is overwhelmed by black (so she's probably not a Winter), and seems orangey in rich, warm colors (so she's probably not an Autumn). But I like her in pure white and in many blues. I'm going with Summer of some sort for her.
Zoe Kravitz is tough. In some pics, she seems to handle black; in others she looks goth. Many colors seem too wimpy for her. I honestly haven't found a common theme to her best looks. What do you think?
Lisa Bonet: I like darker, richer tones on her. See the teal and maroon at the top. Black's not bad. Bottom left, no way. I vote Dark Autumn or Dark Winter.
What do you notice?
I don't have a lot of time lately to compose proper blog posts. But I came across this gorgeous pic of True Autumn Debra Messing while nursing my little girl, and couldn't resist banging out some quick commentary one-handed. :-)
I think Debra Messing's a True Autumn. Could be wrong, but just take a look at this glorious color harmony, here:
So beautiful! Looking at it is like taking a deep, relaxing breath. Every color here is connecting to the others. Nothing doesn't fit.
This is what the right colors should do to you: they pick up the healthy flush, the color of life that's in your skin already, and make the other colors (undereye circles, shadows, blemishes, etc.) recede.
Being a celeb, she's probably wearing a pound of makeup, but she almost looks like she just came in from a jog. Her, only better.
Apparently the red hair is not her natural color. I suspect seeing her like this but with the natural brown would be even better - - more complex and positively enchanting. But she pulls this color off, IMHO.
The idea for this post came from a message I wrote to a woman trying to locate herself within Spring. Thanks, T. :-)
When considering the sub-seasons, it can often be difficult to identify colors that clearly distinguish between them.
In the case of Light Spring vs. True (Warm) Spring, though, there are a few differences between the palettes that are relatively easy to articulate.
If you've narrowed yourself down to these two seasons, you might use the following examples to help determine where you fit. Which colors can you (or can't you) wear?
True Spring has no pinks to speak of. The closest it comes to pink is bright, fairly deep coral.
Light Spring, on the other hand, has several lovely, warmish, light-to-medium pinks and pinky-corals.
If you're a Light Spring, you may be able to wear a similar coral. But if you're a True Spring, you won't look well in that pink.
Light Spring's lightest yellows are bright, but light and delicate.
True Spring's yellows, even the lightest ones, are much more rich and buttery.
A Light Spring may be able to wear both yellows. But the lightest, most delicate yellow will only flatter a Light Spring.
True Spring's greens go surprisingly deep. Deeper even than this. Have I mentioned that this season can take a lot of color?
Light Spring, meanwhile, is ever delicate. Their greens don't go much deeper than this:
A True Spring can wear a similar light green, but a Light Spring won't tolerate the deep, saturated green.
As you consider these two seasons for yourself, keep these two ideas in mind:
And don't forget: your hair and eye color do not rule you out of either of these seasons. To my knowledge (and I research this stuff), only one woman mentioned in this post is a natural blonde. And it's dark blonde. :-)
These women have two things in common.
1. They're all famous Springs.
2. They're all brunettes.
Their Springiness may help these particular women be convincing blondes. But like most adult American women with blonde hair, their natural hair color is actually brown.
I bring this up because we deceive ourselves about blondeness, and in doing so we deceive ourselves about seasonal color.
We want to believe in blondeness. So we smile and nod when celebs claim they're "natural blondes" and we ignore the evidence in front of our eyes.
(I think celebs have all agreed to privately define "naturally blonde" as "blonde at birth" or "blonde during some period of my childhood." One's childhood hair color is not one's natural color if one is no longer a child.)
Articles like this one perpetuate this peculiar, false faith in the supposed natural blondeness of brown-haired celebs. It doesn't take a lot of research to determine that Angelina, Brittany, Gwyneth, etc. have been natural brunettes at least since adolescence, if not longer.
OK, so what? Why do I care?
Well, partly because belief in the myth of widespread natural blondeness perpetuates an idealization of light coloring that's hurtful to darker women, especially because the context is a society that already privileges Whiteness in so many ways.
Partly because of my nature: I'm an Enneagram 4. I want to reveal the truth.
And partly - and most pertinently, for this blog - because seeing all these supposedly blonde Spring and Summer celebs leads us to incorrectly believe that Springs and Summers - especially Light Springs and Summers, and Warm Springs - are typically blonde.
I personally know many brunettes whose path to discovering their true colors was made longer and more difficult because of a shared, mistaken belief that certain Spring and Summer seasons are blonde seasons.
There is no blonde season. Every season's average or typical representative is a natural brunette.
Statistically, it's inevitable that this be the case; with the vast majority of all human beings having naturally brown or black hair, a majority of even the most delicately-colored people will be brunette as well.
It's true that natural blondeness is not found infrequently in the seasons with lighter palettes, in particular Light Summer and Light Spring.
Might a quarter, or even a third, of adult Light Summers or Light Springs have blonde hair growing naturally from their heads? Perhaps. You can think of dozens of Light-season people as easily as I can. What proportion of them are blonde at age 30?
Surely not the majority of them. Probably not even half of them.
Let's revise our mental image of what these seasons look like. The caricatures just get in the way of seeing what's real. We know it's not about hair color anyway, so let's picture what it's really about. Look at the Light and Warm Springs and Light Summers that you know: what do you really see?
P.S. Blonde sisters, I hope it doesn't sound like I'm hating on you. You're beautiful and I love you. I just like to keep it real.
P.P.S. Scandinavians, I realize what I've written here might not reflect your reality. I know there is an unusual proportion of natural blondes in your little corner of the world. :-)
Here is a hair color scale I originally intended to use in the post above, to help make clear how I'm personally defining "blonde" and "brown."
In the end, it felt pedantic to include it - but now I think the failure to attempt to define terms just added to the general chaos. So for the record, this graphic reflects how I was conceptualizing these hair colors when I wrote the post. For me, it was essentially a question of hue: more yellow than brown = blonde, more brown than yellow = brunette.
(Doesn't that sound romantic?)
From talking and listening to Winter women, particularly on the 12 Blueprints Facebook page, I've learned that deep, vivid Winter colors can take some getting used to.
It can be difficult for a newly identified Winter to see past the intensity of the color in a swatchbook and imagine how normal it will look on a Winter face. Even seeing the color on the lip, it can be hard for a Winter woman to take in how the color is balancing the rest of the face.
Let's start with True (Cool) Winters.
The beauty industry has trained us to believe that a natural lip will necessarily be a medium peachy-beige color. Hence all the tubes of this shade that are called Nude Something.
A True Winter might believe such a color is the only hue that can create a natural look. Nude = natural, right?
Not in your case, True Winters. On a woman who needs both coolness and depth, this color looks anything but natural.
What will read as natural on you is a color you might not expect:
You know those cool, fairly bright, medium pinks in your swatchbook? The ones that look like Barbie cars? They look absolutely normal on a True Winter face.
Match the swatch; don't be afraid. In the tube it may seem very, very pink, but on your lip it will be natural.
Doesn't this look loads more normal?
True Winter, when you see a shade that's supposedly "nude" or "flesh-toned," stay away from it. That's not your natural look.
(Probably it's True (Warm) Autumn's. Seems like all their best lippies are called Creamy Nude, Rosy Nude, Nude in the Afternoon, Nude at Breakfast, etc. A very sexy season, apparently.)
Now, Dark (Deep) Winter... you are a Winter of another sort altogether. A light lip won't cut it for you.
Consider this particular light, cool pink.
It might look natural on a Light Summer:
Since I blogged only about Autumns and Winters at the Golden Globes (working and mothering cut into my computer time, alas), I think it's fair to focus on the Summers and Springs at this year's Academy Awards.
I'll start with the adorable Reese Witherspoon.
Despite how cute she is, it's hard to find pics of Reese in flattering colors; I get the feeling she's a Light Summer who's not comfortable with the perceived girliness and insubstantiality of the Light Summer palette.
Here's one of the only pics I could find showing her in a color that's Light Summery:
So sweet. I'd love to see her looking like this more often.
The gown she wore to the 2006 Oscars was also a natural color:
In both of the pics above, our eyes go to Reese's face. The colors look as if they're lifted right from her skin. Her naturally low level of contrast is not overwhelmed.
For most big events, unfortunately, Reese chooses colors more appropriate for a Winter. This year's Oscars was no exception.
(I won't nitpick right now about her artificially blonde hair. Though I oppose it on principle, she is, as a Light Summer, one of the few seasons who can convincingly fake blondisme.)
Things from the neck up are pretty harmonious, I think.
Apart from the silly but inevitable black liner, the overall look is Reese, only better. She has a beautifully light and neutral-cool cheek, and a beautifully light and neutral-cool lip. The hair is a natural-looking combination of golden, neutral and ash tones. Reese presents a beautiful Light Summer visage.
It's when we zoom out that things become less sweet.
To her credit, she's showing a lot of bare skin next to her face, which will always neutralize the effects of a bad color somewhat. (Your skin acts as a harmonious color.) Also, the band of white at the top of the dress isn't bad for her.
But the huge block of black, and the contrast between the black and the white, keep dragging the eyes down to the dress and away from her face.
And when you look back up at her face, what you see first is black eyeliner and white teeth. Your brain is connecting them to the black and white of the dress.
The result is that the black-circled eyes and the grinning mouth seem to leap out at us, detached from the rest of her face. Weird. Not lovely.
Gwyneth Paltrow, another Light Summer, came very close to completely embodying her season's beauty. I believe she missed the mark by just a hair - or maybe I should say by an eye. Let's look first at those eyes:
There is something peculiar and not Light Summery happening around Gwyneth's eye here. The liner and mascara are too dark, and the shadow reads as muddy.
(The hair is also too one-dimensionally yellow for Light Summer, IMHO... but it's not a deal-killer. )
I think it's the eyes alone that prevent Gwyneth from achieving full Light Summer radiance. See her in the gown, which should flatter a Light Summer. You want to like it, but something's a tiny bit off.
Now look at the picture again, and mentally fill in a more natural-looking eye:
Way better, don't you think? The eye makeup was creating the interference.
On to yet another Light Summer: Cate Blanchett.
I almost always find that Cate Blanchett beautifully presents her true colors. Her Oscars look this year, though, was widely criticized. What was right and what wasn't?
The face was perfect, I thought.
Very light, very natural, more cool than warm as befits a Light Summer, and in the earring a tiny touch of golden glow. Just lovely.
(And she declined the too-dark liner that's de rigeur on red carpets. Strong woman!)
So why all the criticism? I believe it was nothing more than the peculiar design of the dress.
The big circle is just weird. And those crusty bits look uncomfortable.
The colors in the gown are actually darn good for her. The white is cool and a touch greyish; the darker areas of the crusty bits read as greyish-pink and greyish-purple; and the tiny bit of bright yellow is a nice Light Summer accent.
Wouldn't it have been wonderful to see her in a gown of these colors but with a more pleasing design? Oh well.
Now for a few Springs.
I suppose I'd better address Scarlett Johansson first and get it over with.
When I look at this all I can think is, "Oh, Lord."
She's so very, very beautiful. Yet most of us looked better at our high school prom than Scarlett does here. Why, Scarlett? Why the weirdly orange eye? Why the violet lace? (And P.S. - Why the messy hair?)
Well, Scarlett J. frequently picks colors that don't flatter her. (Google images of her and you'll see.) She's young and gorgeous, so we forgive her. She has time yet to discover the truth of her beauty. Here are a few examples of occasions when she has done better:
Let's look at Scarlett again in that violet, alongside a lovely Deep Autumn who deserves the color:
Like night and day. Or like Autumn and Spring. ;-)
Another dress everyone was talking about was Amy Adam's deep blue gown. I saved a picture of the gown in a file called "OK, not great."
Before we look at it, though, let's see Warm Spring Amy in a really good color, at the 2008 Oscars:
Oh, wow. Fantastic.
Notice that she can handle a fair bit of depth. Some Warm Spring colors do go that deep. Notice also that she needs vivid (highly saturated) color.
Now, to the dress in question. This blue is very close to one of Warm Spring's deep blues. And it's nice and vivid. So why isn't the effect here as magical? Why do we see the dress before we see Amy?
I think it's mainly an issue of balance.
This is a very deep blue - as deep as Warm Spring's colors go. It's in the palette because it's the complement to one of Warm Springs beautiful oranges, but blue is a cool color. Coming right up to Amy's neck, it creates an effect of too much cool and deep. Yes, Warm Springs are flattered by contrast, but in this case the deep blue is more dominating than contrasting.
See how much more flattering a similar blue is when Amy balances it with a larger expanse of very light skin:
Here, the blue and the orange balance each other. The warmer lip helps as well.
Let's look at a Spring who, in spite of artificially lightened hair and a too-dark eye, reads as very natural: Jennifer Lawrence.
The right color can make up for a lot.
Honestly, I'm not sure what Jennifer's exact season is. I never noticed her before the Oscars. I only know she's a Spring because she looks so perfectly balanced in this very warm, highly saturated color, and because the blonde hair doesn't look totally wrong on her. (Again, I won't nitpick, though I'm sure her true color would be more glorious.)
Is she Bright, maybe? I think not... Imagine this outrageous color going all the way up to her chin, like Amy Adams' gown. I don't think it would work. I think there's a limit to how much color this girl can take.
What other Springs and Summers got it right - or wrong?