What Happens After a Personal Color Analysis?

Those of us who are personal color analysts often wonder how our clients are doing on their post-analysis color journeys. What is surprising them about their new color palette? Has it been difficult for them to find certain colors - perhaps their neutrals? Have they found a lipstick that they love? Sometimes our clients send a follow-up email or two, and we get snippets of how their color analysis has impacted their lives. And sometimes we are lucky enough to have a client who documents their color journey on their blog! 

In December I had the pleasure of meeting Leah, a self-described thrift-vangelist whose blog, Thriftshop Chic, aims to ignite and/or fuel readers' love of the THRIFT! Having done extensive research on personal color analysis (PCA), Leah came to Colors by Hope in order to gain more tools and knowledge to help her find secondhand clothes that she really loves and will wear. Leah and I share the philosophy that fashion (colors included, of course) is a way to have fun and embrace ourselves as we are, rather than following some set of rules about minimizing flaws or never doing X (which just leads to self-doubt and insecurity, and none of us need more of that). Since her appointment, Leah has been posting about her PCA experience as well as her post-PCA Light Summer thrift finds. Below are some excerpts from her post entitled I Got My Colors Done: Personal Color Analysis, Part 1. I strongly encourage you to read the full post (and while you're at it, take a look at all her other fabulous posts). 


Excerpts from Thriftshop Chic's I Got My Colors Done: Personal Color Analysis, Part 1

For awhile now I’ve been wanting to use PCA as a source of knowledge that helps me pick out clothes I love and will wear. Too often I’ve thrifted something I really liked, only to leave it hanging in the closet because the color, actually worn on my body, made me feel blah, weighed down, too serious, or made me look like I hadn’t gotten enough sleep.

You know the feeling?

To figure out where I was going wrong, I started researching personal color analysis. PCA operates on the premise that everyone has certain hues that complement their complexion – and others that clash. It’s not about your mother telling you never to wear yellow (or always to wear blue), but rather finding out which yellows and blues go best with your unique skin, allowing you to make informed decisions about the colors you wear.

In my research I quickly learned that PCA has evolved a lot since the days of Color Me Beautiful. You might remember Color Me Beautiful as the four seasons style model where every blond was a “Spring” or a “Summer” and every person of color was an autumn. (Please. Like everyone with skin darker than Cruella Deville’s has identical skin tone.)

  Nah.

Nah.

So I started looking for an analyst, and lo and behold, I found Hope Turner just a few miles away from me. Two things I loved about Hope’s take on PCA: one, if a color you love to wear isn’t part of your “season,” who cares? Wear what makes you happy. Not only do I agree with that, but it let me know she didn’t take this whole thing too seriously. I felt like she wasn’t married to the system for its own sake but uses it because it gets the best results.

And two, Hope acknowledges that PCA as an industry has largely ignored people of color. Part of the reason she decided to learn 12 Blueprints’ method is that it treats people of any and all skin colors as unique individuals who come with their own glorious coloring, making it impossible to lazily slot everyone with brown skin into “autumn” or maaaaaybe “winter.”

A generous gift made it possible for me to book an appointment with Hope, and it was a blast. After chatting about the R2D2 jello mold hanging in her kitchen (a good omen) and making tea, Hope walked me through the basic scales we’d be talking about – the aforementioned value, hue, and saturation. She also walked me through the 12 seasons or tones – Bright Winter, Soft Summer, True Autumn, etc. Then we got to draping.

Draping consists of the analyst flipping back and forth between two large fabric swatches meant to help us decide whether I was more this or that on a particular scale. It’s done in front of a value/hue/saturation neutral grey to eliminate interference from other colors. Hope described what she was looking for – does the person in the mirror look more approachable in this color? More at peace? More outgoing?  Does the drape overwhelm them, cause them to look ill or dull? Does it bring out redness or yellowness in the skin, or does it seem to balance the skin out? Etc.

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A couple of Hope’s clients with the drapes that work for them.

The process was pretty demanding, attention-wise – during a three-hour appointment, we spent the majority of the time draping. That’s a lot of looking at your face and trying to notice very subtle differences! Luckily Hope started off by saying that while she wanted my input and wanted me to see for myself the colors that worked (or didn’t), it was her responsibility to guide the session and to see and interpret subtle nuances she has been trained to analyze. (Each 12 Blueprints analyst does 20 case studies in training and Hope has had many more clients beyond that.)

So I tried to relax and enjoy. Inside, though, I was nervous – was I going to end up with a season whose colors I hated? What if I disagreed with Hope?

Because my skin often looked yellow to me, I figured I was some sort of Spring, one of the “warm” (aka yellow-er) seasons. But I had read enough on the 12 Blueprints website to know that I could very well be wrong. And I had also read enough to know that when someone is surprised by their season, it can take awhile to live into it – to really feel like these colors are “you.” (If you never feel at home in your assigned colors, you were probably mis-analyzed, which luckily doesn’t seem to happen much with the 12 season calibrated drapes approach.)  I could, of course, keep wearing whatever I wanted – but the reason I was doing this was to find out which colors really enhanced my complexion, and I didn’t really want those colors to be colors I disliked – say, icy greys or baby pinks.

Here was the most interesting part of the process – Spring colors looked okay on me (better than pure black/white or the deep tones of winter), but they also made my face look yellow. This didn’t strike me as necessarily bad – I was used to seeing my skin look yellow compared to my husband’s and my kid’s, and even yellow in the mirror – which I read as sort of “healthy tan.”

Turns out, though, that only people whose skin doesn’t fall into the Spring categories look yellow in those colors. When the Summer drapes came around – particularly the Light Summer drapes – the yellow disappeared, the red splotchiness in my skin cleared out, and I was left looking like my skin made sense:

  I know I just got done telling you that photographs shouldn’t be relied upon for color analysis, but I hope you get a sense of how evenly harmonious my skin looks against this Light Summer drape. It was certainly obvious in person!

I know I just got done telling you that photographs shouldn’t be relied upon for color analysis, but I hope you get a sense of how evenly harmonious my skin looks against this Light Summer drape. It was certainly obvious in person!

After we eliminated the drapes of all the other seasons (particularly Light Spring and True Summer, which are Light Summer’s next-door neighbors), everything just sort of settled in and glowed with the Light Summer colors.

Hope walked me through what kind of makeup works for Light Summers, and we had a fun makeup application session. (For those who don’t really wear or like makeup, that part is optional – though you might find you like the makeup that actually goes with your face!) I tried a less-orange foundation, though Hope commented that what I usually wear should work because it blends right into the overtone of my skin, which, again, is different from the undertone.  My shimmery, warm, light bronze eyeliner got swapped for slate grey and my coral lipstick switched out for more of a berry color – again, exchanging warmer colors for cooler ones. I was afraid “cooler” colors would look greyed out or pale on me, but then remembered that only people who aren’t Summers look greyed out in the somewhat muted Summer colors.

We took some pictures of me draped in my new colors (see Hope’s Instagram for more), and then Hope gave me my swatch book: 65 colors that harmonize with Light Summer undertones and that can be used to find clothing and makeup that harmonizes, too.  She taught me how to drop the swatchbook onto the sweaters I had brought with me to see whether the colors on the swatchbook and the garment light each other up, or just look like awkward neighbors or mere background.  Spoiler alert: only my scarf and one of the five sweaters I brought along really sang next to my Light Summer colors.

Overall Hope was warm, friendly, professional, able to put me at ease through what could have been a daunting process – and we had FUN! It’s almost magic to watch as you move closer and closer to colors that make your face come alive, and it felt great to finally know not only which clothing colors did that but also why lipstick has never looked right on me and what to do about it. On the drive home I couldn’t stop smiling in the mirror – everything popped!

You can read about how I’ve been easing into my new colors and what thrifting is like with a whole new set of criteria here.


Thank you, Leah, for letting me share your post!

For another beautiful illustration of a post-PCA color journey, take a look at Judy's story on 12 Blueprints and stay tuned for the 2nd edition of Christine's book, Return to Your Natural Colours.

At the end of the day, PCA is just a map. Maps are important for getting us where we want to go, but you're the one who gets to decide where you go and how you get there!

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One Woman, Two Versions 7

Another installment in this series - I love the dynamic discussions these posts tend to inspire. Again, there are no right answers. When you look at the two photos of this woman, allow your gut to react. Consider the following questions. Which woman knows herself better? Does one image bring a feeling of serenity, of harmony? Does one stir up a sense of discord or noise? Where do you feel like you are seeing the whole person? 

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Note: This is number 7 in a series. For posts 1-4 of One Woman, Two Versions, go to 12 Blueprints. For post 6, go to The Perfect Mood Board. Post 5 can be found right here on this blog.

One Woman, Two Versions 5

In the brilliant tradition of 12 Blueprints, I leave you with two photos of the same woman. This woman happens to be me. I'm not going to include many words in this post because I want the images to speak for themselves. Look at the pictures and let yourself react on a gut level. What story is the first woman telling? What about the second woman? Does one story have more tension in it? Does one evoke more self-awareness, more confidence? We are not looking for right or wrong answers here; we are simply considering the power of color to communicate different versions of ourselves. 

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Note: This is number 5 in a series. For posts 1-4 of One Woman, Two Versions, go to 12 Blueprints

“Do I Have to Get Rid of All My Clothes?”

Maybe you’ve come close to booking a personal color analysis (PCA), but then you’ve had the thought, “What if I find out that none of my clothes match my color palette? Will I have to get rid of them all?”

First of all, you don’t have to do anything after a PCA. But let’s say you want to have a wardrobe that is primarily made up of your best colors.

Most of us have two limiting factors – time and money. 

So how do you get a color-coordinated closet without spending tons of time and money? I’d like to share some strategies that have worked well for me:

1)    Swatch your closet

This step might sound obvious. Before you start getting rid of clothes, pull out your new swatch book and go through your closet to figure out which items harmonize with your new colors. You might be surprised (I speak from experience here). Keep in mind your season’s characteristics (hue, value, and saturation), especially the most important one. For instance, if you are a Soft Summer, you want your colors to be muted most of all, so you could start by identifying your brightest clothes and letting go of those first.

2)    Make a list

What items of clothing do you wear most often? What are your favorite things in your current closet? Think about where you spend your time and how you dress in different settings. Maybe you wear jeans and t-shirts most of the time, and your favorite items are funky scarves and jewelry. Maybe you work in an office and wear suits during the week, but you live in casual dresses on weekends.

Make a list of priority items based on how much time you spend wearing them and/or how much you like them. Your list can be general (e.g., a pair of jeans in one of my neutrals) or more specific (e.g., a striped cotton sleeveless top). Once you have a list, mark the items on it that are worn closest to the face (e.g., tops, jackets, scarves, necklaces). These are the things I suggest you look for first.

Extra credit for those who want to put more time into this step: Download and use the wardrobe fashion app Stylebook. This can help you figure out what you wear most often (so you know what to buy in your new colors) – and what you’re not wearing (so you can get rid of those things or start wearing them). When you’re building your wardrobe in your new colors, you can add to Stylebook and use it to plan outfits, shop your closet, and save looks that inspire you.

3)    Do some research

When you first get your swatch book, it can be hard to envision what the colors look like in a wardrobe. Taking some time to research and get to know your palette really helps – and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. In my experience, Pinterest is the best way to do this. There are many wonderful Pinterest boards showing your colors in clothing, jewelry, makeup, etc. You can spend as much time as you want looking at different images of your colors to get ideas and start to visualize how you want to express your colors. Check out my Pinterest boards to get started. I also recommend the Shopping for Your Season board by Christine Scaman of 12 Blueprints.

4)    Look for deals

Start with less expensive purchases. Not only does this save you money, it can also help you ease into your new color palette. Thrift and consignment stores are my favorite places to shop because they are low-cost, eco-friendly, and I get excited by not knowing what I’m going to find. If thrift/consignment isn’t your thing, look for sales at your favorite stores or go to places like Target that tend to have good basics at relatively low prices.

Online shopping can be tricky because colors often become distorted by photos and screens, but you can often find good deals and a much wider selection. To improve your ability to find your colors online, good lighting – preferably indirect daylight – is important. It can also be helpful to look at contextual clues in product photos. For instance, if you’re looking at a dress on a model, look at the coloring of the model and the background colors. How dark or light does the dress look next to the model and background? How warm or cool does it look in context? How bright or muted? (Hint: if it’s popping out and making the model and/or background fade, it is probably quite bright.) I recommend reading this post by Christine for a more thorough guide to shopping for colors online.

If you decide to shop online, always read the return policy and ask yourself if you are truly willing to take the time and effort to return something if it doesn’t work for you.

5)    Have fun!

This is the most important step, in my opinion. Are you familiar with the KonMari Method? As you’re going through each item in your closet, ask yourself if it sparks joy. So you’re a True Summer, but that bright orange top still makes you smile from ear to ear? I say keep it! Or maybe you’re a Dark Autumn and you found a patterned skirt you just adore with a few Autumn-y colors, but the background color is a pastel blue. Can you picture yourself rocking it anyway? Then get it! Or does it feel like too much of a stretch? Then save your money for something that you have no doubts about.

Choose joy! We’re talking about colors after all.

Note: I am not getting paid by any of the companies mentioned in this post. All recommendations are my own.