Friday, July 16, 2010

15 ways to wear a colour

I've been wondering about colours. They are one of the most important parts of our outfits, affecting the overall perception of our appearance. Colour theory is fascinating, at least in my opinion.

So, if we want to find some good matches for our colour, what do we need? Colour wheel is a good tool. For example, this one (from Wikimedia):

A good explanation of using a colour wheel can be found here and here.

OK, how to make it work?

I chose ink blue. It's basically a dark shade of blue with a little bit of violet (and BTW, violet and purple are entirely different colours). There are 15 combinations I used:

1. With white - it's a fail-safe option. Wearing white with dark blue looks very classic, formal and a little bit boring, if you ask me. Actually, I think that you can wear any colour with white (which is considered neutral).

2. With grey - another neutral. It's less contrasting than the first combination and therefore looks softer. Same as above - you can wear everything with grey (although I prefer that specific shade of blue with white).

3. With black - probably the most used colour combination. People wear lots of black, with me not being an exception. Wearing a saturated colour with black looks dramatic.

Those three are not really colours. OK, so which one should you use? It depends. For example, I'd wear rose with grey (because both are soft), salmon pink with white (because both are light and "happy") and fuchsia with black (because both are dramatic). I have a feeling that black works better with cool colours, while white works better with warm colours. Of course, you can substitute off-white for white, or charcoal for black. My ideas are suggestions, not rules.

4. Complementary colour of opposite value (C1) - being tan/warm beige/light orange. You don't need to choose an exact match. This combination is very eye-catching and doesn't really fit everyone (especially, if the colours are very saturated). For me, the best combination is probably strawberry red with emerald green - because it repeats my skin undertone and cool, grey-green eyes.

5. Complementary colour of similar value (C2) - that will be very dark orange, which is, in fact, brown. This is a safer combination and works very well, if your natural colouring is similar (in our case, this would be probably a perfect outfit for a blue-eyed brunette).

6. Triad of opposite value (T1)- just as the name says, there are three colours in a triad. Light, lemon yellow or lime. The overall feeling is quite cool (as it contains no red tones). You can find a warm example too (like warm pink and pumpkin).

7. Triad of similar value (T2) - olive. I've got mixed feelings about this combination. It would probably look better in a pattern and not as two solid blocks of colour.

8. Triad of opposite value (T3) - coral. As you probably noticed, our triad is similar to the primaries (red, yellow, blue), but subtly shifted clockwise. This means that our T3 colour is red, mixed with a little bit of orange and a good bit of white. This is a nice combination too, similar to C1, which makes it work if you don't like the C1 colour.

9. Triad of similar value (T4) - maroon. Another nice combination, if you ask me. Looks simple and classic, while not being as formal as the first combination (with white).

10. Analogous of opposite value (A1) - turqouise or mint. This combination makes me think of sunlit ocean water. A good idea if you want to add some life to your outfit, but you're afraid of contrast. This particular combination is cool, but there are some warm ones as well (like rust and cream).

11. Analogous of similar value (A2) - teal. The difference is subtle. You can add a complementary colour (ink blue and teal clothes plus light beige accessories).

12. Analogous of opposite value (A3) - cool pink. Despite the high contrast, it looks fresh and feminine.

13. Analogous of similar value (A4) - dark purple. If you mix analogous colours of similar value, keep in mind that both should be EITHER clear OR soft. So, mix royal blue and royal purple, but not ultramarine and plum. You can use both analogous colours and wear a blue dress, teal shoes and a purple cardigan.

14. Monochromatic (M1) - our shade is dark. This means that we can combine it with a light or a bright colour. This example is light.

15. Monochromatic (M2) - and now, a bright colour. If you have a monochromatic outfit, you can add accessories in every colour mentioned above.

Whew. This polyvore is an example of all 15 combinations (some of the choices are not that good style-wise; look only at the colours).

Which are your most and least favourite? And how do you combine colours?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Does colour analysis work?

My love for complex systems does affect my fashion, style and make-up choices. Not directly, but I tend to look for patterns and rules. Maybe this is a result of being an INTP (for further reference, look for MBTI), whose dominant brain function is Ti - introverted thinking, which is all about logic.

Let's change the topic. Are you familiar with a book called "Color Me Beautiful", published in the 80's? I must admit I haven't read it - but the most important thing is that it introduces a (kind of) famous four seasons analysis. The system is based on Munsell color system. I'm not an artist and I know way less about it than I'd like to. However, according to Munsell, a colour can be EITHER dark, cool and clear OR dark, warm and soft OR light, cool and soft OR light, warm and clear. If it doesn't make sense... daffodil yellow is light, warm and clear, yes? If we darken it, we'll get some kind of brownish olive, which is dark, but not clear. And if we lighten ultramarine, we'll get some kind of pastel blue, which is light and soft. I must give the credit for the original explanation to Lora Alexander. Visit her website, it's great.
I'm not 100% sure about it, but I guess that the reason for the system is that we perceive dark colours as cooler and light colours as warmer, or the other way around (check Purkinje effect and Abney effect).

Sorry for my digressions.

As you may know, the original colour analysis works in two dimensions. First, you determine if your colouring is warm or cool. Then, you determine if it's dark or light - and voila, that's it. There are some hardcoded rules, though - for example, the two Winters. Winters are cool and dark, but there are two types: a Snow White with porcelain complexion and dark hair, and a southern Winter with dark complexion (which is, in my opinion, not really helpful, since it assumes that all non-Caucasian people are Winters). The major drawback for me, and for many other people, was that I can't realate to any of the four seasons. My skin is neither pink nor yellow. In fact, it looks neutral - very pale, but neutral nonetheless. I have freckles, which are supposedly an Autumn attribute. My hair is dark brown and cool, but my eyes are not really cool. Dark blue outer edges of my irises, grey background with bright green spots, flecks and lines. Sometimes they look grey, sometimes blue and sometimes green. Confusing. I was once told that my eyes are typical for an Autumn.

...or are they?

And there is a neat little theory about different eye patterns. The idea is not mine, I found it HERE.

Spring - round sunburst:

Summer - cracked glass:

Autumn - Aztec sun with flecks:

Winter - spokes of a wheel:

I don't know about you, but I have a feeling that it's not as reliable as it may look. My eye pattern looks quite similar to the Autumn Aztec sun, with some traces of Winter spokes. However, I'm definitely not an Autumn (I'll explain it later). And honestly, I don't agree with many statements from the site and some of them are even contradictory.

Nevertheless, I found another picture that resembled my iris pattern (BTW, Christine Scaman is another person whom I'd love to recommend. Visit her blog). This is a photo from her fb account
- A Winter Eye.

Why is this a Winter eye? Because the lines begin right at the pupil, and there are petal-shaped geometric formations. But there's Autumn here, because of the brown smudges.

Hmm... petal shapes? Check. Lines beginning right at the pupil? Check. I don't have any brown in my eyes, though.

Lora has a section about eyes as well. This is a bit confusing, because I don't know if my eyes are more "clear & bright" or "soft & muddy". The picture of a soft eye is blurry and the picture of a clear eye has boosted contrast, which doesn't help.

You have probably noticed that both Christine and Lora don't use the 4 seasons system. They both have 12 seasons, although they work with different guidelines. When I discovered it, it was a relief.

Keep in mind that I haven't been analyzed by a professional. Everything written here is a piece of my own thoughts (unless stated otherwise). Besides, I think that a self-discovery process is fun!

Before I started analyzing my natural colours, I'd known one thing: I'd believed that I'd been an Autumn. Now I know that I'm not. Why? Because warm, earthy Autumn tones were definitely my worst. That much was obvious and gave me a clue. I have tried many hair colours (and wigs); from what I've discovered, the worst colours were golden blonde and orange - while burgundy and black looked better. The two former are warm, while the two latter are cool. Last but not least, I don't really like gold. I think that silver and platinum jewellery looks better on me.

What did it tell me? I have cool undetones. It is very visible when I have something yellow and something blue near my face. EVERYONE I asked agreed that cool colours worked better.

That left me with two (or actually six) options: Summers and Winters. I prefer saturated colours, but I tried hard to be unbiased.

Sorry for my constant linking to other websites and quoting various sources, but I'm apparently not arrogant enough to pretend that these thoughts are my own. I can recognize if someone has more knowledge that I have. According to Lora:

Deep...Dark and rich. Think Cher or Kim Kardashian

Light...Light and delicate. Think Gwenyth Paltrow or Heather Locklear

Soft...Soft & muted. Think Sarah Jessica Parker or Jennifer Aniston

Clear...Clear & bright. Think Courteney Cox or a young Liz Taylor

Warm...No cool undertones. Think Reba McIntyre or Sarah Ferguson

Cool...No warm undertones. Think Christy Brinkley or Liz Hurley

I knew that I'm definitely not warm. Not Deep and not Light as well. I thought that I might be cool, but was it my dominant characteristic? Not really. After all, I could find some warmth in my eyes. If I'd been completely cool, I wouldn't have been mistakenly typed as an Autumn.

So what? Soft Summer? Clear Winter? It was surprisingly hard to tell. At that moment, I knew that I was a Cool Season mixed with a warmer one. The question was, was I Soft or Clear? I wasn't as Soft as Sarah Jessica Parker, but not as Clear as Elijah Wood.

This was partially helpful. Partially, because I wasn't 100% sure. I could relate more to Winters, though. And this left me confused: I have a lot of contrast between my dark hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and my fair skin, but I don't really have any saturated colour in my natural tones.

Then I found the 12 Blueprints website. In Sci/ART system, the hair and eye colour is not relevant. It's all about one's perfect colours, which are not really obvious, as far as I can tell. I must admit that I love Christine's way of writing. What's interesting, she writes much about how different Seasons FEEL (and not LOOK). For example, she uses words like "fun", "movement" or "excitement" when writing about Springs.

I stopped looking at my eyes and being kind of desperate. It was completely obvious that my best colours were clear. Really clear. I got many compliments when I wore bright red and dark sapphire, which are probably the most Wintery colours. Being a Winter with a wee bit of Spring made sense. This article was helpful: despite being mostly cool, I have yellowish skin in my eye corners.

I think I am a Clear (Bright) Winter. I'm not a stereotypical example; I don't have light blue eyes like Zooey Deschanel. Nevertheless, these colours tend to look best. I'm washed out in Summer colours, sallow in Autumn colours and sickly yellow in Spring colours. I can handle a little bit of warmth, like strawberry red and champagne (the colours, of course, but strawberries and champagne are tasty nonetheless).

It's quite unbelievable. I didn't think that bright red would suit me and I was afraid of intense colours. I have to admit that I were wrong. It definitely works! Red is a complementary colour to my eyes, while having the same hue as my skin.

You don't have to agree with me, of course. If you have a good source, let me know! I'm open to all ideas.

And now, something less reliable, but interesting. Some people draw a line between colour analysis and personality. I don't really believe that it can be applied to everyone. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

Winter is the season of withdrawal. Winter people have a powerful stillness and strength. You can command authority without saying a word. A winter personality is self-assured, your distinctive qualities will make you noticeable in a crowd. Cool and objective: you have confidence in your own abilities, are motivated and ambitious which makes you a great leader, in business, in style and on the stage.

Uh. I'm not really comfortable being an authority or a leader. I prefer being on my own. I'm motivated an ambitious, but not very self-confident. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Bright Winter traits and style (not only about personality, though): "there is a trace of the delicate in these people", "Winter has a still polish. Spring expresses dazzle and movement", "logos are blingy, and can look cheap on anyone but the Bright Winter", "avant-garde, it’s edgy and exaggerated, and it’s cold and shiny. All very Bright Winter", "knock-out glamour".

That's more interesting, because it deals with 12 distinct Seasons (instead of 4). However, there's a big difference between "what I like" and "what I wear". I'm drawn to avant-garde, edgy and glamorous, but I don't have enough courage to look that way. Call me a coward.

Positive Winter traits: loyal to friends and family, natural poise, good listener, truthful, sensitive, creative, perfectionist, commited
Negative Winter traits: somewhat self-centered, worries what others think of them, worries about everything, moddy, lacks confidence, neglects friends, pessimistic, expects perfection from all

Eh... how can you neglect friends, while being loyal to them, commited and a good listener at the same time? It gives me an impression that all Winters are emo kids :D About 2/3 of traits are mine. Try harder.

I don't know if I'm right. I might be totally wrong. Or misinformed. Nevertheless, I don't think that I wasted my time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What's your MBTI type and does it affect your style?

If you don't know... MBTI stands for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and is one of the most popular personality sorters out there. You can take the modified (Keirsey Bates) version of the test: CLICK ME - you don't have to pay or register.

Anyway, I got INTP, which means that I'm introverted, intuitive, thinking and perceiving. The type is know as the Architect from the team of Rationals, according to Keirsey - or the nerd/the geek, according to many people. This seems kind of accurate - and the nice thing is that Albert Einstein was an INTP (or rather would have been an INTP if he'd taken the test).

I don't look like a stereotypical geek. I don't wear glasses and thick plaid shirts. In fact, I am concerned about my appearance. That much is obvious; however, I'm not a girly girl either. There is also a theory about NTs paying attention only to comfort and versatility (I DON'T). And of course, many people believe that INTPs have exactly one set of clothing. I am here to prove them wrong!

Nevertheless, I wouldn't be myself if I didn't analyze every tiny aspect of my fashion choices, right?

I versus E: being introverted, I care about feeling good in my clothes and less about impressing others. This doesn't mean that my wardrobe consists of frumpy, but comfortable items. For example, when shopping, my first thought is "will I feel good?", not "what will people think of me if I wear it"?

N versus S: while S is about details and being down to earth, N is about the big picture and having head in the clouds. Actually, I don't really like patterned clothes, or girly details like frills, sequins, tiny diamonds and floral prints. I'm not attached to brand clothes as well.

T versus F: I don't know if being a thinking (rather than feeling) person affects my style choices. Maybe it's about choosing dark and cool colours, or not liking pink? On the other hand, many NFs don't wear pink either. I have no idea.

P versus J: This might be the most important factor. I hate being forced to wear a particular style, or colour; I couldn't follow a strict dress code. I'm not going to follow the latest trends, because feeling good in my clothes is most important. For example, you can see nude beige tones in stores this summer: I look positively washed-out in dusty tones, so I'm sticking to my blue and black, even if everyone else is wearing beige, tan and grey.

Have you noticed any MBTI and style correlations? Or maybe you believe that there is no such thing?

PS: I found a test that claims to figure out your MBTI type based on your facial features. I got ISTP (with Sensing being the most prominent, while I'm very N), so it's not really accurate. I'm not going to believe that there is such thing as "an extroverted forehead". After all, it's our brains that think, not our foreheads! :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Your measurements lie!

When I was trying to figure out my body shape, I noticed that many people believed that they could find an accurate answer looking at body measurements alone. I'm talking about this (in)famous body shape survey:

You might not notice that something is terribly wrong. Especially if you fit into one of the four categories. I don't.

Let us look closer. I'm not a rectangle and not a triangle - that much is obvious even without knowing my exact measurements. Here they are:

102-69-105 in centimetres (40.2-27.2-41.3 in inches, more or less)

The difference between my bust and hips is 3 cm (about 1.2"). The first category, "hourglass", is not for me, then. But then again, the difference between my bust and my waist is 33 cm (about 13"). I clearly do not fit the "pear" category, then.

This was just an example.

Anyway, what do my measurements tell you about my body? My waist is defined, yes. On the other hand, a woman with small ribcage and big bust can have exactly the same chest circumference as a woman with big ribcage and smaller bust. You don't know which one is me. I can have very wide hips and a flat bum - or not that wide hips and a very prominent rear. Last but not least, there are two factors that determine your shape, but are not covered by your body measurements - shoulders and thighs. You can have two women with identical measurements - the first with broad shoulders and slim thighs, the second with narrow shoulders and big thighs with saddlebags. The first one would look more top-heavy, while the other one would be bottom-heavy.

Do you understand me? Your measurements are not really relevant. I've seen many desperate girls asking online questions like "im 86-63-89 (34-25-35) am i a pear or a hourglass???!!!11". I bet they all want to hear that they're hourglasses. But honestly, does it change anything? If you thought that you were a hourglass, and then someone told you that you were a pear, would you really morph from Salma Hayek into Alicia Keys?

It doesn't matter, my dear. It's just the beginning. Let me tell you something: despite my measurements, I'm not as proportionate as you might have thought. My ribcage is quite small, my shoulders are narrow - but then, my hips are the widest part of my body and my thighs are definitely not skinny. All these factors make me bottom-heavy (or pear-shaped, if you like).

My main goal is to add volume to my shoulders (but not to my boobs, which can be tricky) and to disguise my large bottom half. Even if my bust grew up to 110 cm (43.3"), my shape wouldn't change much. And yes, I believe that pears don't have to be flat-chested.

This is how it looks:

(the font is called "An Ode To Noone" and is free for non-commercial use)

If you're unsure of your body shape... visit YouLookFab and Inside Out Style. Both Angie and Imogen are extremely nice and helpful. If you're curious, I'm a busty pear according to YLF and an 8 with small shoulders according to IOS.

Have fun!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Your style choices: knowledge or intuition?

You walk into a store. You see something nice and decide to buy it. If someone asked you about it, what would you say?

Some people are fully subjective. They like that particular style, colour, lenght, cut or fabric. They feel good and do not wonder why. Ignorance can be bliss.

On the other hand, there are people that carefully think about every detail and how it affects the perception. They know (or at least try to know) what is flattering for their body shapes or natural colours.

Almost everyone is somewhere in between. Many women move towards the "knowledge end" as they become more self-conscious. And there are some who stopped thinking about every item and found it liberating.

"I know my body shape, my proportions and my fussy bits. I know how to flatter the pretty body parts and how to disguise the less pretty ones". Or maybe, "I don't know my body shape and I'm perfectly fine with it. I don't want to feel restricted by fashion guides". Where do you stand?

I must say that I'm on the conscious side. For example, I can love a dark orange, mandarin neck, boxy jacket. However, it wouldn't look good on me. My face looks sallow when I'm wearing something warm and muted. My big bust and short upper body look disastrous in higher necklines. And finally, boxy jackets and my defined waist are not compatible with each other. Sure, I could probably use some tricks to make our hypothetical jacket look "not so bad", but why bother?

This is the way I am. I tend to look for science in every aspect of life. I don't believe that you can separate science from art. They're not opposites. Fashion and style don't exist in vacuum. It doesn't make them less fun; for me, science IS fun. Of course, we all make clothing mistakes and sometimes we buy things that are against some specific rules (and therefore, establish some new ones). World would be boring if we didn't.

What about you? Are your style choices conscious or subconscious?