If you're like me, you're not satisfied to simply know what's true; you want to understand why it's true.
So maybe you've heard it before: it's the effect of color on your skin that ultimately matters. Your eyes and hair are along for the ride.
Colors that seem to "go with" your hair aren't doing you any good if that hair is framing dirty-looking or shadowed skin. Colors that seem to make your eyes pop aren't helping if those eyes are popping out of a washed-out face.
But why is skin appearance the most important?
Because when we look at other people, we use skin appearance - not hair or eye appearance - as our primary way of evaluating health.
And health = beauty.
The human animal seeks to maintain life and avoid death. To the human animal, health reads as beautiful because health is life.
When you look at other people, you instantly and unconsciously evaluate their health, and you do it in large part using the appearance of their skin. If the skin looks right, the rest seems right too.
Healthy looking skin = life = beauty.
Baby skin is the ideal of skin beauty because babies are new life.
And when we judge the health of another's skin, the most salient feature to that judgment is its color.
Think about all the ways we use the language of color to describe the appearance of ill health in the skin.
We speak of
the yellow of jaundiced skin;
the green of nauseated skin;
the blue of frozen or oxygen-deprived skin;
the purple of bruised skin;
the red of burned or abraded skin;
the white of bloodless skin;
the grey of dead skin.
The fact that there are so many ways that skin can look wrongly colored shows that skin color is crucial to our estimations of others' health -- and, therefore, of their beauty.
But color is not objective.
Color is context.
For example, is "salmon" pink or orange?
Here, I'd call it pink.
Here, it looks closer to orange.
The color of your skin is subjective too.
Depending on what colors you place next to your own face, you can easily make the natural healthy color of your skin look too cool, too warm, too dark, too light, or too vivid - or disappear altogether.
This looks unlovely because it looks unhealthy.
When you know your the natural palette of your body, and put the colors of that palette next to your skin, your skin 's healthy color emerges. You look beautiful because you look healthy.
First published February 2013.
I realized a couple of years ago that I had arrived at the point in life one's life when one starts buying stuff a year in advance.
It was January, and I was in a drugstore buying wrapping paper because it was, like, 70% off. It just made sense! I knew I'd be using it again in no time.
I'm over 40 now, and I suppose this is about the age when a person starts to feel like 12 months pass "in no time."
I feel the same way now about bathing suits. Buying one at the end of summer just makes sense to me now, because I'll be wearing it again before I know it, and the prices are amazing.
I recently bought three new swimsuits. Three! They were 60% off at the department store in my area, so I didn't feel so guilty buying more than one. And another thing about being my age is the idea of owning more than one bathing suit starts to feel practical instead of extravagant. (I think? Maybe I'm totally alone in that. Let me know in the comments.)
It's funny; style principles that are perfectly logical to me in the abstract still surprise and delight me when I see them applied to myself. I know, logically, that low, gently rounded necklines and asymmetrical necklines are good for my style type, Ethereal Natural, but it still felt delightful to see how lovely those necklines are on me.
Same for delicate straps, tie accents, crisscross details, hipster bottoms, solid-color suits, and a shimmery finish: I would recommend all of that to a real-life Ethereal Natural, but there's still a sense of wonder in the realization, , after trying on 12 suits, that those are the features of my best suits. :-)))
Like most of you, I find it very difficult to be objective about myself! (I am so grateful for my brutally honest sister, who sees what I often can't see.)
I want to emphasize that these features of my most flattering suits derive completely from my Style ID, which in turn derives almost completely from my face. My body shape has nothing to do with it.
For example, I have a teeny bust (like, pre-adolescent teeny), yet ruffles on my bustline are awful for me, and many tops that flatten my bust are actually amazing for me.
Swimsuit recommendations that tell flat-chested women like me to put ruffles on their bustline are proceeding on the assumption that every woman looks better when she appears to have a fuller bust. But that's just not true.
When you think about it, you might come to the conclusion, as I have, that such recommendations only make sense if we reduce women to what's below the neck. But in fact, all of us -- including men! -- are mostly looking at women's faces, not at their bodies.
A woman's humanity is expressed in her face. The idea that a woman's beauty comes primarily from somewhere other than her face is a false idea that we mostly accept, I believe, because of sexism. Patriarchy encourages us women to obsess about everything below the neck, and, until we become conscious, we unfortunately just go along with that idea.
Anyway, getting back to my original point: it's a good time of year to buy a swimsuit or three for next year, because prices are crazy low right now. :-)))
If you're not convinced that your best suit matches your face, not your body, I encourage you to simply test the idea. Swimwear Guides are 12.99. That's about three Starbucks coffees, right? Spend the money, just as an experiment. Try digitally superimposing your face on the pictures of suits that you find in the guide. I think you'll be amazed by how right those suits are for you. Then go pick out some suits to try on, based on the guide's recommendations.
(And if you don't yet know your Style ID, of course try the Style Identity Calculator.)
* * * * * * * * * *
An interesting P.S.: I'm actually finding that using a Swimwear Guide is a useful way to determine someone's Style ID quickly. Maybe it's because swimwear is basically a condensed or distilled manifestation of style elements? When I'm doing a virtual analysis and I get stuck, trying out different swimsuits often gets me unstuck.
Do you struggle to find a suit that works? Have you tried the Swimwear Guide for your type? Were there any surprises? Please share in the comments.
The short answer is yes.
The more complicated answer is that not every single color in your palette will look good in every application.
For example, my Soft Autumn tan isn't great on me as a shirt, because that's the same color as my skin and it makes me look naked. (Generally, wearing tops or bottoms in the same color as your skin tone is a non-starter for daytime, because of the "nude" effect. Go a few shades lighter or darker.)
But my SA tan is great for me in makeup, and as an accent color.
My lightest pink isn't my best lippie, because it's lighter than my lips, but it's pretty as lingerie.
Consider, also, your style identity: certain hues make certain impressions, and you 'll want to make an impression that's consistent with your personal style.
For example, because I'm an Ethereal Natural, the majority of my wardrobe consists of Soft Autumn browns, blues, greens, gentle metallics, and dawn/dusk hues. I rarely wear my Soft Autumn pinks in large blocks because the impression they create is more girly than I am. (Though I love my pinks as lipsticks and blushes.) I almost never wear a large block of my Soft Autumn red, because the impression it makes is more aggressive than I am. (Though, again, I would wear it in makeup.)
A Soft Autumn with a lot of Ingenue would want to focus on those pinks. And a Soft Autumn with a lot of Dramatic would look great in big blocks of Soft Autumn red.
Check out your style type's Shopping Guide for more information about which colors from your seasonal palette to focus on.
And if you're not sure about your seasonal palette, consider trying the Home Draping Cards; a lot of women have found them helpful.
If you know your season, are there particular colors that you've found you can only wear in certain applications?
Or if you know your style type, are there particular colors that you've found best fit with your overall vibe?
Please share in the comments!
Originally published July 2017.
(Originally published August 2016.)
This is a revolutionary new way of thinking about style.
All of the advice you've received, all of your life, has been about how to dress your body. "If you're petite, avoid long pants. If you're curvy, emphasize your waist. "
As far as I can tell, every other style system advises you to dress primarily for your body.
But your body isn't what people are mainly looking at.
They spend the vast majority of their time looking at your face.
And dressing for your body at the expense of your face means you end up looking all wrong.
Let me offer you several examples to demonstrate this phenomenon.
Here's Ellie Kemper:
You might know her from "The Office" or "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." She's adorbs, right?
If you're guessing that she has a lot of Gamine and a lot of Ingenue (and maybe some Classic?), I'd agree with you. Those stripes are cute on her. (The palette is a separate issue, but never mind.)
Another pic of her looking fantastic:
The headband! The bangs! The cardigan! The tiny earrings! The Nancy Drew hair! So, so right for her. So much Gamine and Ingenue. (And maybe some Classic.)
Here, tiny ruffles, tiny necklace, yoke emphasis -- so Ingenue, and so good:
And here: adorable, face-framing curls, small geometric print, simple, round neckline, high waist -- again, lots of Gamine and Ingenue, very good:
Just a few more images of her looking awesome with lots of Gamine and Ingenue (and some Classic):
But let's imagine that Ellie Kemper's going to get style advice that considers her body as a significant factor.
I don't know if you noticed, but Kemper actually has a super-curvy, very Romantic body.:
Most style systems will assign Ellie Kemper a style type that dresses her for her curvy body.
But that would be all wrong.
See how uncomfortable, how not-herself, this Gamine Ingenue (or Classic-Gamine-Ingenue) looks in Romantic styles:
Thank goodness Kemper (or her stylist) usually understand that she needs to dress for her face, not her body.
Here, Kemper's waist is obscured and her bust is unemphasized. And it's sooo much better!
(Jenna Fischer, also from "The Office," is another example of a woman with a Romantic body but a very youthful face. Like Kemper, Fischer looks all wrong in overtly sexy clothes.
By contrast, Mindy Kaling of "The Office" has quite a bit of Gamine, like Kemper and Fischer do -- but she also has enough sexy Romantic in her face to totally pull off figure-emphasizing clothes. )
"If you got it, flaunt it" is not a thing. Let it go.
Only emphasize your curvy body if it also harmonizes with your face.
Dress for your face.
Other celebrity examples of dressing primarily for one's face, not one's body:
A rather Ingenue face (tiny chin, high forehead, big eyes.)
Is she better in Ingenue or Natural?
Ingenue bows, ruffles, puff sleeves, cap sleeves, high waist, feminine hair, midi length skirt: so good.
Natural t-shirts, layers, separates, shaggy hair, undefined neckline, geometric shapes -- not great.
Jane Krakowski is lovelier when she dresses her face, not her body.
I'm not saying to totally disregard your body. There are individual tweaks your body may call for that are consistent with a style your face doesn't manifest.
For example, Jane Krakowski is flattered by open necklines; they elongate her rather short neck.
That's consistent with Natural, not with Ingenue.
But her open necklines are best when they're adorned with ruffles or bows. True Natural necklines are wrong for her.
extremely tall, mostly Dramatic body.
Christie is so tall -- 6'3" -- and relatively narrow, most style systems would require her to dress as a Dramatic, or a Dramatic/Natural blend.
But that's really wrong for her.
Mostly Dramatic, and so not great:
Much more feminine, and so much better for her:
Even more celebrity examples:
To sum up:
1. Identify your style identity based primarily on your face.
2. Make a few tweaks in the direction of a different style identity if you know your body calls for it.
Dress for your face!
[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…
I recently decided to try to answer this question.
My interest in the question was sparked when I noticed that some men who appear to have a lot of Romantic or Ethereal -- which are feminine essences -- -- are more attractive with full beards than they are clean-shaven.
This was initially a puzzle to me, because beards, I was thinking, are iconically masculine, and these men are otherwise flattered by feminine details such as soft fabrics and draping. (Kit Harington is gorgeous in a draped scarf.)
But a couple of possible explanations have occurred to me.
Romantic and Ethereal essences require soft edges and a lack of structure. Hair is inherently soft-edged and unstructured, right? A person has to go to a lot of effort to make hair look stiff or sharp.
So perhaps a full beard on a very Romantic man (a man with sexy, voluptuous features) or a very Ethereal man (a man with angelic, otherworldly features) is flattering because the beard adds soft edges and a lack of structure to the face.
I think Benedict Cumberbatch has a lot of Ethereal, and I love him with facial hair.
(Though the right is too scraggly! It's tough to find a pic of him with a full but neat beard.)
Same with Keanu Reeves and Tyson Beckford.
In all of these men, I think the beard, in addition to adding softness, brings out the "wise" quality Ethereals have.
(Keanu has some Dramatic too, I think. More on those guys below.)
But how do we explain men with a lot of Ingenue (a youthful, pretty, girlish beauty) who are flattered by beards? Because that's totally a thing.
Ingenue is a feminine essence, but unlike Romantic and Ethereal it calls for clean edges and a bit of stiffness. So you wouldn't necessarily think a beard would flatter an Ingenue man's face.
Yet I notice a lot of men who seem to be quite Ingenue are improved by beards.
Rainn Wilson (Dwight from from The Office) has a high forehead, a tiny nose, a small mouth, and a tiny chin -- all features that read as girlish. I'm guessing he has a lot of Ingenue. And he's much improved by a beard.
I suspect Eddie Redmayne has a lot of Ingenue as well. (He's so pretty, and see how well he passes for a girl.) And again, look how much better he is with a beard.
Jeffrey Wright is another actor I'd call "pretty" without a beard, and who looks much more handsome bearded:
I think beards do flatter Ingenue men. The question "why?" is one I'm still mulling over.
To my eye, beards on these men bring out quite a bit of manliness that wasn't previously there. They seem to bring these men into balance as men. Without the beards, these men are too Ingenue, IMO.
Is it the case that a beard, despite being iconically masculine, is actually feminizing in its visual effect? ... because it's soft and round-edged? And that adding the feminine element to an Ingenue man emphasizes his masculine qualities by contrast? -- just as adding the masculine elements to Dramatic, Natural, and Gamine women actually make them appear more feminine? (Great example: short hair s. long hair on Winona Ryder.)
I think I'm on to something here.
* * *
Who else is flattered by a beard? Well, our craggy, rough-hewn, approachable Naturals, of course. That shouldn't surprise anyone. They're like the poster guys for beards.
See Jeff Bridges, The Rock, and Will Ferrell, three guys I think have a lot of Natural:
(Though the Rock has perhaps Classic and Dramatic too?)
In the case of Naturals, I think the explanation is obvious: Naturals are good with shagginess. Beards have a shaggy quality. Easy peasy.
(This is analogous to Natural being the only masculine essence that is flattered by round edges instead of sharp corners, and by flow instead of structure.)
So, who isn't great with a full beard?
Well, Gamines, for one -- men whose handsomeness is boyish.
Leonardo DiCaprio has a ton of Gamine (which is why he can wear bow ties even though he's over six feet), and he is definitely more handsome without a beard.
This makes sense -- Gamines need straight lines and sharp corners.
The only facial hair I've seen look appropriate on Gamine-influenced men is controlled and mischievous-looking:
But for a very Gamine man, even a groomed, devilish goatee is too much:
Meh. Baby-faced Leo is just better clean-shaven.
Classics, too, are not at their best with beards. I suspect Jon Hamm has Classic with some Dramatic, and I don't think a beard is an improvement on him.
(He may have some Natural too, but not enough to pull off that beard.)
It makes sense that men with a lot of Classic wouldn't be flattered by beards; Classic beauty derives almost totally from regular, symmetrical features, and a beard would just obscure those perfect features.
Is George Clooney better with a beard? I don't think so, and I suspect the explanation lies in how much Classic he has.
(He has a little Natural, but, again, not enough to work that beard, IMO. And he also has some Gamine, which is contraindicating the beard as well.)
Michael C. Hall is also too regular-featured for facial hair:
Last but not least, let's look at highly Dramatic men -- men with masculine features that are sharp, narrow, and intimidating.
I don't love them with full, uncontrolled beards, but they can be flattered by very controlled and/or imposing facial hair. A beard that's groomed to be very full only around the mouth (like a very full Van Dyke beard) is good for Dramatics. And I keep coming back to highly Dramatic men as the only men who seem able to pull off a full (not thin or fine) solo mustache -- especially when it's turned down at the corners.
What do you notice about the men in your life?
And how do we explain beards for Ingenue men?
Let me know what you think.
A reader recently asked me this question. It's a fun question for me, data nerd that I am. :-)
To answer it, I took a quick look at my last 26 virtual style analyses. I counted the number of occurrences of each of the seven individual essences.
A couple of clients have come out as pure types -- for example, I have had a pure Natural and a pure Dramatic -- but most women turn out to be a blend of two or three essences.
It turns out that all seven main essences were more or less equally represented in my last 26 style analyses.
At the high and low ends, I had seven appearances of Ethereal and ten appearances of Gamine.
Each of the other five basic essences -- Natural, Dramatic, Classic, Romantic, and Ingenue -- appeared eight or nine times.
So perhaps Gamine is slightly more common, and Ethereal is slightly less common?
Or the difference could just be due to chance -- though I didn't test it, I doubt these differences are statistically significant.
And there's also the possibility that women who contact me are not a representative sample of all of the types.
Which style combination types are the most common? I tried to answer this by looking at which of my personal style products are ordered the most frequently.
The style types most frequently requested are:
Natural-Classic-Gamine - The Posh Tomboy
Natural-Classic-Ingenue - The Polished Farmgirl
Romantic Natural - The Babe Next Door
Romantic-Natural-Classic - The Sexy Prep
As for the question which combinations are the rarest, there are a couple of combinations that stand out as being very underrepresented in products ordered from my store. They are:
Dramatic-Gamine-Ingenue - The Childlike Czarina Dramatic-Natural-Gamine - The Casual Punk
Ethereal-Classic-Gamine - The Polished Sprite
Ethereal-Gamine-Ingenue - The Spunky Fairy
Dramatic-Natural-Ingenue - The Dark Mori Girl
Dramatic-Gamine-Ingenue, the Childlike Czarina, is far and away the least ordered type. So perhaps it's the rarest type?
Or it could be that DGI woman are less likely to type themselves as such, or to visit my site, or to order from my site. Hard to know. :-)
The trend I notice above is that each apparently uncommon type combines a supernatural-ish essence (Dramatic or Ethereal) with a childlike essence (Gamine or Ingenue.) I do think it's rare to see people with those combinations.
Here's a narrative from a recent client that I analyzed as an Ethereal-Natural Gamine (one of my favorite types!) Also, I answer a question from a reader about whether Ethereal Naturals get to wear pants.
- - - - - - - -
First there was David Kibbe. His style system opened up a new world for me and my sister. Before him there had only been four or five archetypes. Kibbe introduced different style blends and we were fascinated. We tried to figure out our own style-IDs according to his style system, but we didn't succed. That doesn't surprise me because this was all new to us. But more importantly, his system was incomplete. We discovered that later.
Then there was Rachel. Another world opened up for us. Rachel's system was complete. There were even blends of three essences and blends of four essences. There was also two new essences: the Ingenue and the Ethereal. After reading the pages of Truth is Beauty I was pretty sure that I had Natural and Gamine. My sister was convinced I had Romantic, but I wasn't sure. I read Rachel's pages so many times I became quite an expert on typing celebrities and others. But I felt that I couldn't be fully objective about myself. That's why I sent Rachel some photos of myself and asked her about her first impressions. I didn't think she would respond, but she did. She believed I was a Romantic-Natural-Gamine.
I had to believe the expert, right? Well,I tried the RNG style-ID for quite some time, but somehow it didn't really feel right for me. I couldn't put my finger on what felt wrong, but something was not right and I believed it was the Romanic element. Wearing romantic clothes made me feel uncomfortable. I knew I must have a feminine essence apart from Natural and Gamine, but I was not convinced Romantic was the one. So I compared my photos to the style boards again and then something happened. Suddenly I discovered how good the Ethereal lines looked on me. I read some more about the Ethereal style type and I compared myself to Ethereal celebrities. And then everything fell into place. I had found the missing piece! I realized that the Ethereal element had been a part of me all the time, I just hadn't noticed it before. Or at least I thought so. But I didn't really trust my own instinct so I contacted Rachel again for a style analysis. I didn't want to guess anymore. I wanted to know! And I was still confused about the Romantic element. Should I include that or not?
I couldn't wait for Rachel to give me the answer! And at last it came. I am an Ethereal-Natural-Gamine with a dash of Classic. I really like my new style-ID and this time it felt right from the beginning. Now dressing is easy and fun. I know what suits me and what doesn't.
I recommend women to have a style analysis. Even if you are an expert it is difficult to be objective about yourself. I recommend style analysis for those who don't have a clue about these things but I also recommend it for those who think they have figured it out on their own to get confirmation from Rachel. Style analysis will save you time and money.
To those women that don't want to have a style analysis I would like to say: You can do it on your own. I almost did. I also want to encourage women in general to trust their instincts. We are often instinctly drawn to the "right" things, like I was.
Finally, thank you so much Rachel, for your expertise! Thank you for helping women find their beauty. I've learned so much from you. You are a true source of inspiration. I love it that your pages are so informative and educational. That makes it easier for women to analyze themselves. And I really like your blog where women can ask each other for advice or share their opinions. To all of you that are participating by commenting: thank you! Your contributions are making this blog even better.
- - - - - - -
A reader asks, "Can Ethereal Naturals wear pants?"
I'm an Ethereal Natural, actually, so this is a personal question for me.
Pants are awesome for any Natural-influenced type, and one of the reasons I love being EN. I'm all about pants.
Cargo pants, straight slacks, loose capris, and jeans are all great for Naturals.
To manifest Ethereal Natural, a woman can feel free to go fully Natural from the waist down, and then bring in Ethereal in accessories and shirts.
In other words, not every garment has to combine both essences; fully N garments + fully E garments will read as EN.
This reader mentioned Indiana Jones as a touchstone for her own style. Indiana Jones is actually a good starting point for an Ethereal Natural look.
Keep the basic concept, but perhaps make the colors more gentle and feminine. Consider adding Ethereal accessories like elongated earrings or a floaty scarf. Consider changing the fabric on the top to something more light and floaty. Insert some Ethereal details like bishop sleeves or sheeny metallic finishes, or change the pants to a narrow, flowy skirt.
To create an Ethereal-Natural-Gamine look, like Daniela's best look, tweak one of the looks above by adding Gamine elements such as a playful print, a short skirt, a short top, a short necklace, a silhouette with several horizontal lines, very narrow pants, pants rolled to the ankle, a short vest, or ankle boots.
If you've used the Style Identity Calculator, you may have seen that your percent totals don't necessarily sum to 100. Sometimes they sum to 90 or 95.
A reader wrote me about this recently. What's going on here? Where's that missing ten percent?
Well, you may have noticed that the essences for which you weren't given a value say "negligible" instead of "0."
I created the calculator like this because it's possible that you may have a teeny tiny amount of one or more of those negligible essences, but anything less than 10% really isn't worth bothering with; it has no discernible impact on your look. I din't want to provide that information, because I felt like it might inaccurately imply to women that the 10% is meaningful.
But maybe, like the reader who recently wrote me, you're curious about that missing 10%. I might be, if I were you! :-)
If you have a missing 10%, and you want to know what it is -- just for the sake of satisfying your curiosity -- here's what I recommend:
Use the key at the end of the calculator to list out the Style IDs of every board you gave yourself points for.
Manually count how many times each of the seven essences appears in the name of a board you chose.
Whichever essence appears the most frequently after the essences identified in your total is likely responsible for any missing 10%.
You can of course ignore it altogether, and perhaps you should.
But you can also use the missing essence as a "filler" to complete any small part of an ensemble that's missing.
For example, I have 10% Classic, and I almost always ignore it. But I can also use it to justify, for example, a little Classic pin, or a bit of Classic trim, if that element can't be avoided in an ensemble that otherwise works for me.
You can also use a missing 10% as an enhancer to one of your existing essences. So, for example, if you find out you have a teeny weeny smidge of Gamine, you can add Gamine's youthfulness to a 30% Ingenue to make it "extra childlike," or add Gamine's tailoring to a 40% Classic to make it "extra tailored."
Spend some time checking out books and websites on color analysis, and you'll see that most sources don't allow for the possibility that Black women can be Springs. Certainly not Light Springs.
Well, we who make the websites and books have learned most of what we know from white authors.
And those authors didn't show women of color in their Spring examples. They told us Spring skin is fair or peachy.
But why should that be so?
Think about it.
The Spring palettes contain medium and dark browns. Why can't one of those colors be the tone of the skin?
Interestingly, Black color analysts have offered examples of Black Spring women for decades.
Jean Patton's 1991 book, Color to Color, has examples of Black women in every palette. The Light Spring woman featured in the book (not the woman on the cover) is undeniably Light Spring. It's worth buying the book for her picture alone - to permanently rid yourself of the mistaken belief that women of color are never Light Springs.
(The seasonal palettes included in the book are of good color quality and are easily matched to the 12 season system, though they don't use the same names.)
In her 1999 book, "Women of Color", Darlene Mathis also has great, full-color examples of Black Spring women.
I believe Alicia Keys is an example of a Black woman who is a Light Spring.
I mean, look at her in this picture, above. To my eye, she looks so much like herself in these delicate and warm colors.
I could rule out almost half of the seasons (Bright Spring, Dark Autumn, and all three Winters) if I could determine that Keys can't wear black.
And, in fact, it really looks wrong for her. The only part of her face I see it connecting to is her eyeliner, and of course that doesn't count. In my opinion, she's unpleasantly pale here.
The lippie, though, is great. And notice it's very light, very pink, and warmish.
This Dark Winter - looking lip is all wrong. Too dark, too intense.
This could be an Autumn yellow-orange, above. It, and the brown-orange lippie, look dull, not vibrant.
In the picture above, I think her lip is too cool (pinkish) for her face, but I like the overall lightness for her.
This warm brown eye, above, is very, very wrong.
The makeup above is great for her, I think. And it's light and peachy. (Except for the black mascara - it's slightly disconcerting. But pretty much everyone wears black mascara, even when they should be wearing grey or brown instead...)
Below, I like her cheek and lip. I find the Autumn-y brownish-orange in the coat too much for her skin, though.
The picture above is not the most reliable, because it's an editorial photo, but gosh, doesn't that look Light Spring to you?
What do you think? Are there other pics of Keys that you think reflect her coloring more accurately? Do you think these photos show a season other than Light Spring?
We women are frequently told that, once we are past a certain age, there are childlike things (like miniskirts and polka dots and bows) that we just can't pull off anymore.
But the truth is, some of us could never pull off these items. And some of us continue to look fabulous in them well into old age.
That's because childlike elements suit women with a lot of Gamine essence (youthful, masculine beauty) or a lot of Ingenue essence (youthful, feminine beauty). And there are plenty of older women who are strongly Ingenue, or Gamine, or both.
Betty White and Jane Goodall are two examples I use a lot, but also see Audrey Hepburn in her old age, Whoopi Goldberg, Debbie Allen, and Roseanne Barr. Some people never stop looking adorable.
One of my favorite things is seeing older women killing it in Gamine and Ingenue styles. It comes across as incredibly confident because it's obvious that these women really see themselves. They look in the mirror and know what they look like, and embrace it by coordinating their style choices with their natural geometry.
Don't let the fashion industry tell you what to think on this issue. Be guided by what you actually look like.
If you're strongly Ethereal, Natural, Dramatic, Romantic, and/or Classic, you'll probably want to avoid traditionally childlike fashions -- even if you're still a teen. (I'm an Ethereal Natural, and even as a child I wasn't flattered by polka dots or bows or cutesy patterns.)
But if you're strongly Gamine, you can feel confident in booties, funky eyeglass frames, tights, miniskirts, bright colors, playful jewelry, and everything else whimsical and funky. And if you're strongly Ingenue, don't hesitate to sport ringlets, tiny floral prints, peplums, ruffles, Mary Janes, babydoll silhouettes, and everything else girlish and sweet.
Not sure what your Style ID is? Figure it out yourself with the Style Identity Calculator, or invest in a Virtual Analysis.
In my part of the world, pools open Memorial Day weekend. I hope that gives many of you enough time to take advantage of the Swimwear Guides I am so psyched to offer now.
I hope to revolutionize the way women think about swimwear.
If you're familiar with my blog and my style system, you know that I propose that women look best when their dress for their faces, not for their bodies. As far as I know, no one else has made this realization, and I think it's really important to spread the word about this.
As women wanting to look our best, we are encouraged to obsess about the tiny details of our bodies. Are my shoulders the same width as my hips, or slightly wider? Am I an apple or a pear? Are my fingers delicate or just bony?
A lot of us have spent dozens or even hundreds of hours asking ourselves these questions.
When it comes to swimwear, the pressure to scrutinize our bodies so minutely is particularly intense.
I want you to know and believe that it is all utter bull.
If you have a Dramatic face, you'll look your best in a Dramatic suit -- even if the style websites are telling you to disguise your flat bust with ruffles, or choose a suit with a skirt to hide your thighs.
If you have a Romantic face, you'll look your best in a Romantic suit -- even if the style websites are telling you to avoid string bikinis, high-cut swimsuits, and side ties.
Here, see two beautifully busty women, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Kim Kardashian. One strikes a dissonant chord in a bust-emphasizing bikini, because her face is too childlike and sweet.
The other is amazing in a similar top, because of the mature, sexy elements in her face.
Here, see two women in a simple maillot -- Selena Gomez and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Both women have curvy bodies.
But on one woman, the minimalism and geometry of the suit is incongruous with her sexy, impish face. On the other woman, the suit is great -- the clean, stark lines echo the clean stark lines of her face.
I have a ton of Natural in my face, and simple, sporty bikini tank tops are great for me -- even though conventional fashion wisdom tells me I am supposed to inflate my nonexistent bust with ruffles or embellishment.
There's no point in creating for myself the illusion of a sexy bust, when a sexy bust is at odds with my face!
We're taught to zoom in on our bodies and focus on every tiny little detail of them.
But when you zoom out, our bodies are not that different.
And that's how other people look at your body: zoomed out. When you're in a bathing suit, NO ONE is noticing whether your shoulders are square or tapered.
What they are looking at -- what they are zooming in on and examining minutely -- is your face. That's how all of us look at faces, because the human brain is wired to do that.
And if your suit coordinates with your face, that's all people will notice.
I know this is a difficult idea to take in.
When we feel unsafe, we default to what we've always done -- and, for many of us, appearing in a swimsuit feels incredibly vulnerable.
Let me just suggest this:
Try on a suit that I am recommending for you.
Take a pic of yourself in the dressing room, and share it with the friend you know will give you honest feedback. (That's not all of your friends, bless them. Be judicious here. You want real honesty.)
Or just keep it on your phone, and come back to a week later, when you have fresh eyes.
I believe you'll see yourself looking more flattered by a bathing suit that you have been in a long time. Or you'll have a moment in which you realize why you always loved that one particular suit, despite it supposedly being wrong for your "body type."
Here's the first page of the guide for Natural-Classic-Ingenue.
Each guide comes with the following:
The are $11.99.
Try your Swimwear Guide here. Be sure to indicate in a comment to your order which Style Identity you'd like me to send you.
(And if you're not sure of your Style Identity, consider trying the affordable Style Identity Calculator, or investing in a Virtual Analysis.)
A woman for whom I recently did a virtual analysis offered to write a customer testimonial for me. Now that I'm in my 40s, one of my personal goals is to become more comfortable tooting my own horn. So here it is. :-)
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Why get a Style Analysis from Rachel? After all, can’t you just figure out this stuff yourself? I mean, it costs money, and all that. I can give you one great reason: Rachel’s gift is magical. Her style analysis is spot-on, objective, and exact. She nailed it.
Like most of us, I have been rather haphazard about my style choices. While I like to think of myself as a smart woman, I have a hard time filtering out the style and fashion noise that bombards us daily. Many of us find the process too difficult to navigate, so we opt out. Many just wear sweats and flip flops, unless heading to work. Others, like me, try and try again, spending countless dollars testing out theories and never quite getting it right. Both extremes can justify these choices with the idea that we are not going to be victims of consumerism, or that we can reinvent ourselves as the occasion demands. And many are satisfied with that.
I am not. Like most, I have a lot of demands on my time and money, so I want to make sure I maximize both. These days, at least, image is important, so making the most of that image without breaking the bank is, to my mind, a worthy goal.
I have educated myself about image matters, at least minimally. According to many media sources, I should, at my age, “know what works for me.” I’ve spent more than 50 years as a female marketing target in the United States, though. And I know I am not alone in being more confused about what works for me than ever. Let’s face it: we are constantly being told that we can control or create our image. We can even live virtually behind an avatar, if we choose. This image thing is NOT easy.
Meaningful style analysis was (and is) an elusive target. When I first started spending my own money on clothes, style analysis was limited to the passing reference to types in the back of the Color Me Beautiful books: Dramatic, Classic, Romantic, Natural, and for a small number of people, Ingenue. I never felt drawn to any of those pure types. Based on the offhand comments of family and friends about how small I am (5’4” on a good day, and very short waisted), or how I should look for my various life roles (work, wife, mom) I always distorted the self-test results away from the Dramatic looks that appealed to me. I am too short to pull those off, I would think. High fashion is not for women like me.
I persevered, though. I did not resort to sweats. I watched makeover shows. I bought fashion books. I pinned all the pins about face shape and how to put on makeup for my eye shape. I wore the Lilly Pulitzer dress that matched the pink dress my daughter loved. I wore the Land’s End quilted jacket all the moms were wearing. I developed a utilitarian basic work wardrobe that required no effort on hectic mornings. My image functioned, but it wasn’t great. And it wasn’t cheap.
Trying the latest fad, or buying clothes just for the right color, gets expensive. So does purging your wardrobe of clothes you love because they supposedly don’t work with your angular shoulders. Because, you see, I would focus on individual features of my image without having a vision for the whole.
But Rachel has hit on something the shows, books, blogs, and advice columns won’t tell you: there are parts of your image you can’t change. As she says, your combination of facial features and body parts, the curves and lines they create, give off an impression. Whether you like or accept them, it is good to know what they are.
When I started reading Rachel’s blog a few months ago, I tried to self analyze. I had never heard of the Kibbe types, so I read and looked on Pinterest. I read Rachel’s research on facial typing, and I realized that I probably did not have the discipline to apply this information to myself accurately.
I had never heard of Ethereal as a style type. Flowy clothes were always either Romantic or Natural, but the supernatural Ethereal look is distinct from the others. Gamine is similarly distinct from Ingenue as a youthful look and from the other masculine types. And it makes so much sense to have this symmetrical division from Dramatic on the masculine end to Ethereal on the feminine, with Classic in the middle.
My self analysis wasn’t trustworthy. Years of fashion industry static has made me doubt my eye and my instinct. What’s more, I sometime confuse my mischievous side with a visual style: in short, I saw myself in all of the types. I am small, so I could argue the Ingenue or Gamine essences, but I don’t like the fussiness they need. I am not symmetrical enough to be a Classic, but I do like proportion. I have some rounded features, so maybe there is some Romantic in there. I have some rather average features, and earth tones work for me, so maybe a Natural. Dramatic and Ethereal really appealed to me, but I could not see whether I was coming forward (Dramatic) or receding (Ethereal). And those can’t be right because I am short. I needed help. Enter Rachel.
For me, Rachel’s style analysis, like all truths, has set me free. I am a Dramatic Ethereal Classic (50% Dramatic!). I felt drawn to this type, but had talked myself out of it! Again, I had failed to see that my whole was greater than the sum of my parts. This type makes sense of all of my conflicting signals. I am no longer afraid of my dark coloring: it fits. I am no longer trying to soften the things about my appearance others find intimidating: the Ethereal elements in my style can do that for me without being cutesy, overly casual, or overly ornate (all things I have tried). The Classic part gives proportion to my shortness.
On Rachel’s recommendation, I am trying hairstyles some of the online experts would disapprove of, like no bangs on my long face. I am trying styles that are supposed to be wrong for me, like boatnecks for my broad shoulders. AND THEY ARE WORKING. I have gotten compliments from random co-workers for each of these small experiments. The people who have seen Rachel’s recommendations for me have unanimously approved.
Here is the best part: I am not afraid of growing into this image. I can look back and see that these elements have always been part of me, and knowing that, the future looks so much brighter! Is Style Analysis worth it? With Rachel it is. Thank you, Rachel, for helping me find myself!
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This customer's words made me so happy. More than anything, I want to help women feel authentically beautiful. If you're interested in a virtual analysis for yourself, book it today! :-) And keep in mind that many women do find success using the very affordable Style Identity Calculator on their own. :-)
Despite the fact that we women are taught almost from birth to obsess about the appearance our bodies, what looks good on us is determined almost completely by our faces. (Read more about this here.)
Style systems that rely much more on body shape are probably going to put a disproportionate number of heavier women into the Romantic category.
That's often going to be a mistake, though. There are plenty of really big ladies who just aren't flattered by velvet and draping and ruching.
Chrissy Metz is an example of one. Romantic is much too mature for her, despite what some people would call her "womanly" figure.
She looks best when she dresses for her super-cute face, not her curvy body.
What about as a person gains or loses weight -- if one's face becomes more or less rounded, does this add or remove Romantic Style ID?
Women with a lot of Romantic essence tend to have very rounded and characteristically feminine features -- full lips, full cheeks, narrow chins, high foreheads.
I do think additional weight can sometimes add Romantic to a face.
But OTOH, it can add Gamine or Ingenue instead, by making the face appear rounder and cuter. There's overlap on those points between Romantic, Gamine, and Ingenue.
I think it takes a lot of weight change to make a significant change in one's Style ID.
And features that tend to read as R -- luscious lips, delicate chins, high foreheads, sexy eyes -- are often pretty stable, regardless of weight.
Star Jones famously had a big weight change. I think she had a good bit of Romantic before -- I liked her in blingy jewelry, lace, and a smoky eye.
Did she lose some Romantic when she lost a ton of weight? Perhaps. I can identify a few changes. Younger Star's nose reads as tiny and delicate in the context of her fleshier face; when her face is leaner, her nose reads as more strong and angular. Her overall face, though still somewhat rounded, appears a bit narrower. Maybe there's a bit more Natural or Dramatic?
But she's still pretty good in curls and cleavage emphasis. I think she retains a lot of her Romantic from before.
Star Jones' weight loss was reportedly over 100 pounds. If that really big change in a person's body results in only minor changes to the face, it's reasonable to expect that a person's style identity won't change much from less drastic changes in weight.
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!
Here's an interesting paper documenting some scientists' efforts to develop a computer program that can identify the relative masculinity/femininity of human faces as accurately as humans can. It's a great article to read or skim for a quick exposure to the world of "subjective gender scoring" in scientific research.
Overall, human raters tend to agree about how masculine or feminine any given face is.
Human raters are also pretty good at determining whether someone is a man or a woman based just on the face, although a large minority of faces are ambiguous enough for raters to disagree about their sex.
(There is actually some evidence that people perceive these androgynous faces as more beautiful, but that's another post.)
All of which is to say, "masculine-looking" and "feminine-looking" are things. They are qualities humans perceive, and they're fairly objective, inasmuch as people (even across cultures) mostly agree with each other about them.
Although human biological sex is binary, masculine and feminine appearance is a dimension, not a binary.
In other words, it's not the case that the most feminine-looking male face is still perceived as more masculine than the most masculine-looking female face.
Instead, both men and women vary in how masculine or feminine their faces appear to others, and there is a lot of overlap.
You have probably noticed that I use the words "masculine" and "feminine" quite a bit in my system, to describe what faces look like.
This sets me apart from some other theorists who use euphemisms like "yang and yin," or "sharp and soft," to describe exactly the same differences. (There are plenty of other euphemisms in use as well.)
I could use words like "sharp" and "soft" where I mean "masculine" and "feminine," and it wouldn't necessarily be inaccurate. I know that some women just don't like having the word "masculine" applied to them in any way.
But I prefer to use the words "masculine" and "feminine," even so, for four main reasons.
1. The first reason I use the terms "masculine" and "feminine" as descriptors is accuracy.
In my system, the terms "masculine" and "feminine" are literally accurate. I use them to describe traits that characterize members of one sex more than the other, and that therefore signal biological sex to human raters.
It's just a fact, for example, that a short nose bridge is more common in women than in men, and that human raters perceive a short nose bridge as feminine.
I care about facts, and about reality, and I assume you do too. I don't care to pretend things aren't true when they are. I prefer to accept the truth, and proceed from that acceptance.
2. The second reason I use "masculine" and "feminine" as visual descriptors is that the seven style archetypes largely depend on gender for their meanings. They derive in large part from our culture's pre-existing ideas about certain archetypal men and certain archetypal women.
For example, features that read as both youthful and feminine tend to communicate sweetness and innocence, and that's because, as a culture, we have a pre-existing idea that "girlhood" is synonymous with innocence and sweetness. The Ingenue archetype is the physical embodiment of this assumption.
(Of course, little girls are neither more innocent nor more sweet than little boys, and to proceed as if they are is to proceed on a stereotype. But we can acknowledge the existence of these obviously sexist archetypes, and use those archetypes to communicate meaning in fashion, without mentally swallowing the stereotypes. I am aware that girls aren't more innocent than boys, but I also know that other people interpret girlish visual cues as signaling innocence, so I am going to use that knowledge.)
3. The third reason that I think it's important to say "masculine" and "feminine" is that understanding your balance of masculine and feminine elements is key to looking your most beautiful.
Almost all of us women have a mix of masculine and feminine elements in our visual appearance. Yet we are choosing clothes and accessories made for women, so they tend to be feminine choices. This can result in us looking less beautiful, because when our clothes or accessories are more feminine-looking than we are, we go from looking "chiseled" or "striking" to looking actually mannish -- which is quite different, and unlovely, because it's jarring.
Consider Jamie Lee Curtis, one of my favorite examples of a woman with a lot of masculinity in her features. Is she her most gorgeous with longer, feminine, hair, or with shorter, more masculine hair?
In the picture on the left, her hair is more feminine than she is, and the result is that her face looks mannish, rather than striking or majestic, by comparison. She's more obviously a woman in the picture on the right; the relative masculinity of her hair is directly proportional to the relative masculinity of her features, and she's a striking, powerful-looking woman -- her best look.
I talked about this phenomenon -- that an appropriately masculine context actually makes a woman with masculine elements look more lovely -- with regard to Winona Ryder, in my blog post about Gamines. Google pictures of this objectively pretty woman: the more feminine her clothing and hair are, the less lovely she becomes. The same is true for Cher, for Hilary Swank, for Jennifer Aniston, for Sandra Oh, for Whoopi, for Frances McDormand, for Elisabeth Shue, and for tons of other women celebs with a lot of Natural or Dramatic or Gamine: when their context becomes too lacy and ruffly -- too feminine -- they are less lovely, not more lovely. The same is true with me! I have a huge helping of Natural, and too-feminine looks are unpretty for me. Messy hair, some gloss, and an unconstructed top, on the other hand -- gorgeous. If I do say so myself. :-)
IMO, we have to talk about "masculine" and "feminine" in order to achieve the proper masculine-feminine balance in our clothing context, to allow us to look our most beautiful.
4. The final reason I prefer using "masculine" and "feminine" to using euphemisms is this:
To change my language would be to say that I think it's right or appropriate for the word "masculine" to be insulting as a descriptor of women's features.
To change my language would be to say that I agree that masculine features are somehow inherently unlovely in women.
I won't agree that it's an insult to describe women's features as masculine, because I simply don't believe that's true. Women with more masculine features are beautiful. Women with more feminine features are also beautiful.
To say otherwise is like saying a circle is somehow inherently more attractive than a square. It's all about context. A woman with more masculine features is gorgeous when her context is more masculine; a woman with more feminine features is gorgeous when her context is feminine. (I mean, just compare the makeup in the two pics above: matte finish, neutral colors, high contrast, and straight lines suit the woman on the left; shimmer, gloss, curving lines, and pinks and reds suit the woman on the right. Each would be less lovely in the other's makeup. In their proper context, each is gorgeous.)
Some people won't be comfortable having the words "masculine" and "feminine" applied freely to both men's and women's physical appearance. For those people, another style system may be a better fit.
I intend Truth is Beauty to be a value-free zone, where we can objectively discuss physical features without applying any positive or negative judgment to the fact that they appear masculine or feminine.
My long-term vision is of a world where neither of those words has a positive or negative connotation associated with it.
Knowing your Style Identity can save you time and money. If you're not sure of your Style Identity, try the Style Identity Calculator, or consider booking a virtual analysis.
We interpret scents in the same way we interpret colors and lines. Some scents smell masculine, and some smell feminine; some are mysterious, some are delicate, some are earthy, some are cheerful, some are intimidating, some are sexy.
If you want to, it's possible for you to apply these principles toward the goal of smelling like you look.
As an Ethereal Natural, I love the delicate, earthy scents that harmonize with the delicate and earthy aspects of my beauty. I'm currently lusting for After the Flood by Apoteker: "The scent of soil, water, and the delicate stirrings of undergrowth in spring..." Doean't that sound gorgeous? Notes of soil, mushroom, and water lily -- delicate and earthy, for sure!
But what if I want to smell playful? Or girlish? Or sexy? None of those words really describe my beauty; am I committing some sort of "style crime" if the way I smell doesn't harmonize with my visual presentation?
I think the question of how closely to match a fragrance to a style ID is a pretty personal one.
If you're absolutely in love with your style ID, you might naturally want to recreate that impression in your fragrance.
But if you dream of being someone else, perfume might be a way for you to play with that fantasy.
Even though I'm an Ethereal Natural, I'm also drawn to pure Ethereal fragrances, and Ethereal Ingenue fragrances too.
I'd love to own Kenzoki White Lotus and Jardin des Nymphes, both of which I know are more delicate than I am -- aquatic and green floral notes without any weighty, earthy notes to balance them out.
But why shouldn't I play dress-up with my scents? If I want to pretend to be a pure spirit of the air, I'm going to do it, gol darn it. :-)
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Classique by Jean Paul Gaultier is one of my favorite fragrances of all time.
It has a ton of sweetness , which is Ingenue, and a ton of sexiness, which is Romantic: orange blossom, plum, ylang,-ylang, tuberose. It also has quite a bit of Classic, because of the orchid and sandalwood (and vanilla too), and Dramatic as a fourth-place essence, via the sharp qualities brought in by star anise, ginger, and cinnamon. So, a great fragrance for a Romantic Ingenue or a Romantic-Classic-Ingenue, especially one with a tiny dash of Dramatic.
RC, the Sexy Sophisticate, and RCI, the Prim Princess, are pretty far from me. I'm Ethereal Natural; I'm the Dryad.
Yet I love love love this sexy, sweet, sophisticated fragrance.
I mean, why shouldn't I experiment with other personae through my fragrance, if I feel like it?
A special night alone with the man I'm crazy about could a good time to bring out my inner Sexy Sophisticate, right? It seems like a good excuse to wear this fragrance that I've loved since college.
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People are often influenced by scent at an unconscious level. Maybe a person can use this fact to say more about oneself than mere physical appearance might reveal.
Maybe I have an unpleasant confrontation coming up, and I need to be intimidating. A pure Dramatic fragrance, while conflicting with my physical appearance, might send the message that I am not to be trifled with.
Formula 1 Steel by Walter Wolf would be a good choice for this. Strong metallic notes; that's a threatening message if ever there was one.
Or perhaps I could choose a scent that's me, but with an intimidating edge that's missing from my appearance: so, Ethereal-Dramatic-Natural. Intimidating Earth Goddess, I could say.
La Curie by Larrea would be perfect: ozone, leather, and vetiver mean it's abstract and earthy, but with some sharpness and aggression too.
If I'm meeting my boss's boss for the first time, I'm going to want to dress like the most professional version of Dryad that I can present, because looking like myself signals confidence.
At the same time, I could choose a fragrance that's pure Classic, to send the subliminal message, "I am reliable. I have it under control. You can count on me."
Madam President by Clash would be great for this purpose: you don't get more traditional than iris, cedar, and patchouli. (And the name is perfect, isn't it?)
You might consider playing with fragrances as a way to manifest elements of your personality that aren't obvious from your appearance. Have you done this already? Do you prefer to smell like you look? I'm curious to hear your experiences with this.
I'm coming back to an idea I had a few years ago: an outfit-generating tool for each of the different Style Identities.
Here's the tool I've created for Dramatic Classic:
Hopefully you can access that ^.
When you refresh the page, new ideas for tops, bottoms, and dresses are randomly generated. There are thousands upon thousands of unique outfit ideas.
I'd love for all of you to play around with it. I think such a tool might help "word people" visualize what to shop for and what to put on in the morning.
What do you think? If there's interest, I'll create these for all of the types, and sell them at a reasonable price.
Not sure what type you are? Try the Style ID Calculator, or consider a virtual analysis.
When it comes to Style IDs, the same rules that apply to women -- what works and what doesn't -- mostly apply to men as well.
Based on what clothes flatter them, I've made some inferences about the Style IDs of a few male celebs who have caught my eye.
He looks great in very Classic clothes, right? But notice how he looks even better when you relax, or Natural-ize, the styling just a bit. Remove the tie, unbutton the top button, roll up the sleeves... he's more Natural, and more sexy. So, I say Classic with some Natural for him.
When he goes too far into Natural, though, it all falls apart:
Ouch. Yeah., no.
Lest you say, "But can anyone actually wear head-to-toe denim?", check out Jeff Bridges. Very much a Natural. Looks great in all denim, looks great in shaggy hair.
Jeff Bridges might be pure Natural. It doesn't get more masculine and rough-edged than this, does it?
A lot of gorgeous men are strongly feminine in their style types. (Just as a lot of gorgeous women -- including most runway models-- are strongly masculine in their style types.) Russell Brand looks great with long, luscious curls, lots of detail and circles near his face, and a drapy scarf. He has Romantic and possibly Ethereal, I think.
Draping or curls are feminine details, and men who can pull off one or both near the face likely have lot of Ethereal, Romantic, and/or Ingenue.
The drapy neckline is a good test for whether a man has a lot of feminine style essence. In the same way that many men but only some women can beautifully wear very short, slicked-back (i.e., Dramatic) hair, many women but only some men can wear draping near the face.
So-pretty Kit Harington, looking amazing with both draping and curls. I think he has a lot of Romantic.
Very neat, slick hair looks unattractive, and so does the turtleneck; that suggests Classic and Dramatic are both unlikely.
I would have expected him to have quite a bit of Dramatic, because he's such a good vampire, and because he's quite chiseled. But I believe now that those sculpted features are probably Ethereal rather than Dramatic, and his ability to convincingly embody a vampire is probably enhanced by good makeup. I think he has some Natural as well; an open neckline is so much better for him than a closed one.
Here's a gorgeous, strongly Classic man. He's much too masculine and mature in his features to pull off a scarf near his face or a boyish flat cap. At the same time, he's not rough-hewn enough to look awesome in denim. He's dreamy in Classic's tailored suit and tie, though.
And now it's time for one of my main celeb crushes:
See how good he is with a lot of busy-ness? Three-piece suit, stripes, separates -- this profusion of lines is great on him. Lots of detail is most characteristic of the feminine essences, but in this case it's Gamine. (Gamine is mostly a masculine essence, but because it's youthfully masculine, it has a touch of androgyny, and that androgyny shows up in Gamine's need for lots of detail.)
To really rule out the feminine essences, check Stanley with the drapy neckine a scarf creates, or with curls:
No, Stanley, no.
Lots of detail; small, sharp, shapes; crisp lines... that's Gamine.
I think he has Natural, too, because he's hot AF in open necklines and in Henleys. I suspect Classic as well, because he looks his best, IMO, with a lot of polish and tailoring -- even more than Gamine would normally provide.
Natural-Classic-Gamine for my dear Stanley Tucci.
Neat hair is better than messy (or too much) hair, right? The less detail he has, and the crisper his lines, the more striking he looks. So I ask, is that Classic or Dramatic?
I suspect it's Dramatic; Dramatics are good with "neck emphasis" (which usually means a high collar), and I think he's pulling that off in the center picture, above. I believe he has some Ethereal as well, because he makes a rather spacey and gentle impression. He doesn't have enough Ethereal, though, to make wisps better for him than straight, sharp lines.
I've been making word clouds from the color names on my seasonal makeup lists, to see what color words occur most frequently in the makeup for each season.
This week, I've done Bright Winter.
The Bright Winter Makeup List gives the names of several hundred products that have been matched to color swatches from the Bright Winter palette.
If you're a Bright Winter, your perfect makeup colors come from the colors in the Bright Winter palette.
Let's see those makeup color names!
Wow -- a lot of pink! And red, and cherry, and fuchsia. Pink is a light, cool red; cherry is a dark, cool red; fuchsia is a red so cool it's almost purple. Cool red tones dominate here.
Compare this word cloud to Dark Winter's:
In Dark Winter's cloud, on the right, the combination of plum + purple + wine is, to me, quintessentially Dark Winter, and really distinguishes DW's makeup color's from Bright Winter's.
Overall, Bright Winter colors feel lighter and brighter, as they should: both Winter seasons are rather dark, vivid, and cool, but Dark Winter is particularly dark, and BRight Winter is particularly vivid.
Let's compare Bright Winter makeup to Bright Spring:
Both seasons prominently feature pink. But coral is essential for Bright Spring makeup, on the right, while it plays a relatively minor role for Bright Winter. That makes sense: coral is a warm, light red or orange. Bright Winter does have some warmer colors, and coral-y tones are among them, but they don't predominate.
Notice also how relatively important black is for Bright Winter as opposed to Bright Spring. The Bright Spring palette has a black, but black usually won't feature prominently on a beautifully made-up Bright Spring face -- it's just not a defining color of that warm, bright, joyful palette.
Bright Winter, on the other hand, can be gorgeous with black mascara, black liner, and even (for certain women) blackish brows and eyeshadow. The overall palette is deeper and more dramatic.
If you suspect you're a Bright Winter, the makeup list is a great resource. If you're not sure of your personal color season, try affordable at-home draping.
I wasn't a regular perfume wearer until I got really excited about fragrances for different style types and spent several months researching them.
Now, I'm crazy about the fragrances for my Ethereal Natural style identity.
My current obsession is Hinlay by Lorelyane. Even the bottle is Ethereal Natural. Just look at this gorgeous thing! Blunt-edged, geometric minimalism on the bottom; gently curving, intricate, abstract detail on top.
The scent is perfect for me, too: it's delicate and airy, but also earthy. Lotus, water , and floral notes emphasize my Ethereal quality, while musk and woody notes emphasize my Natural element. I feel so happy every time I spray this on myself.
Anyway, if you're already in love with fragrance, you may be wondering whether your favorite fragrance fits your style identity. Here, I'll analyze a couple of the best-selling fragrances.
Happy by Clinique for Women
This aptly-named perfume is very Gamine Ingenue. Apple, citrus, and mimosa make it bright, sweet, innocent, and cheerful.
Ed Hardy Women's EDT
This is a very feminine, "Disney Princess" fragrance -- Romantic and Ingenue. Mango, vanilla and tonka bean make it sexy and sweet.
Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker
This is great fragrance for a Dramatic-Natural-Classic. Patchouli and orchid make it rather traditional, and spicy and woody qualities. bring in D and N.
Be Delicious by Donna Karan
Like Ed Hardy, this is a very feminine fragrance. It adds a light, airy Ethereal quality with cucumber and grapefruit, so it's great for a Romantic-Ethereal-Ingenue.
Heat by Beyonce
This is a good fragrance for a Romantic-Natural-Ingenue: peach, magnolia, and neroli give it mouthwatering sex appeal, while musk, amber and sequoia bring in the Natural quality, and a strong use of almond gives it a bitter Dramatic edge.
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?
A couple of nights ago, I took my shirt off and threw on a headband so I could wash my face before bed.
This particular headband is from Free People, and I adore it because it's an abstract pattern in my Soft Autumn colors. I wish I could find a picture of it online. It's a little like this, but with warmer hues:
Anyway, when I saw myself in the mirror, I was struck by how perfect the headband looked with my stretchy periwinkle bralette. The combination was gorgeous.
I actually spent about ten seconds trying to imagine an excuse to wear the headband and the bralette together somewhere. Just the bralette, mind you. No shirt. A music festival, maybe?
I discarded that idea pretty quickly, LOL.
But the feeling of happiness that I got from looking in the mirror and thinking, "That really looks beautiful!" stayed with me.
One of the reasons that I love knowing my perfect colors is that I get those moments often. I look in the mirror and see perfect color harmony, and my day is a little brighter.
Visual beauty brings us joy. Being able to look in the mirror and identify beauty there brings us joy. We all deserve to have more of that feeling.
Last week, I explained that Romantic, Natural, Ingenue, and Gamine characteristics come from physical traits that actually distinguish women from men and adults from children.
I didn't address Ethereal and Dramatic, though. That's because those beauty archetypes don't arise wholly from what's true about actual human women and men.
I believe that the archetypes of Ethereal and Dramatic arise instead from our fantasies of supernatural or inhuman women and men.
More specifically, I propose the following:
Ethereal: The Feminized Supernatural
I believe our idea of the Ethereal quality derives from the feminine physical qualities that we project onto onto imaginary, superhuman beings we see as peaceful or helpful.
The most obvious example is our idea of an angel. But this archetype also shows up in saints, aliens, and deities; whether they're male or female, we tend to give them feminized physical traits.
Our fantasies of such creatures generally depict them physically as having narrow and smoothly ovoid faces; high foreheads; large, widely spaced, oval eyes; high, rounded eyebrows; long noses; unearthly but low-contrast coloring; narrow jaws; and small, tapering chins.
The overall physical impression of these beings is rather feminine, but some traits that characterize average human women, such as a relatively round face and relatively small nose, are missing.
These are feminine faces, but it's an imagined femininity, not a mortal, "estrogenized" femininity.
From this imagining, I believe, emerges the archetype of Ethereal beauty.
See the similarities between the faces above and the Ethereal faces below. Faces are elongated and oval-shaped, gently sculpted but without harsh angles. Eyes are penetrating, wise, and peaceful, more almond-shaped than round, and often heavy-lidded. Noses are long and narrow. Lips are a bit fleshy and feminine, but not voluptuous. Eyebrows are narrow, long, and gently arched. Foreheads are high. The hairline is rounded.