Color Theory: What’s your best palete

I find color theory fascinating.  There are certain colors (and therefore outfits) that look amazing on others but awful on me.  Heck, I even have a Pinterest board titled “Can’t wear but wish I could” full of cute outfits in colors that just don’t work on me.

Back in the 80s I had my seasons done and was told I was a winter.  That didn’t seem quite right; I wear both gold and silver jewelry, have clothing in earthy shades of rust as well as bright red (while looking deathly ill in the lemon yellow that a winter is supposed to be able to wear), and looked considerably more yellow skin-toned than my husband.  Since then, however, there have been a number of refinements made to the seasonal model that make it seem closer to on the mark for me.

Specifically, the idea of adding dimensions of dark/light/true/bright came in, making subtle changes to the base colors.


What is neat about these additions is that they make clear why certain color combinations worked and others didn’t.  In fact I appear to be a dark winter or dark autumn (two palates that share a lot of the same colors).

It turns out that if you look at my “Can’t Wear” board, most of the items are soft colors (taupe, cream, dusty rose, lilac, etc).  Soft Autumn/Soft Summer colors.  Colors that wash me out.  However knowing the colors that work best on me has made shopping a great deal easier.  Even using two palates instead of one, it has made decisions a lot easier.

dark winter

dark autumn













The similarities in the palates are clear, although I believe that my home palate is still dark (sometimes called deep) winter; I have always looked better in a pure white than an off-white (which is one of the big tests of cool vs. warm palate).  It’s hard to miss the cross-over of colors, though, and there is an entire page by one web-based color site talking about how to tell the difference between the two.

The danger, of course, is that “your” colors aren’t always in style.  It’s a struggle to be a dark ANYTHING in the spring, which is why I wear so much black and white or color and white that time of the year.  The contrast works well on me.  Of course, it’s hard for a light spring to shop right now, whereas I am overwhelmed with the choices in my colors.

If you’ve never had your colors done, it may seem a bit overwhelming at first. However, there are some shortcuts and tools to use.

  1. Skin tone:  Use this chart to determine whether you have a cool, warm or neutral skin tone.  If you are clearly cool, that will make you a summer or winter.  If you are clearly warm, that will make you a spring or autumn.  If you are neutral, keep going.
  2. Jewelry:  Look at your jewelry.  Is it almost all silver or gold?  If it’s almost all silver, that suggests cool. If it’s almost all gold, that suggests warm.
  3. Eye and natural hair color:  Take a look at this chart.  It shows not just the skin tones (which can be hard to judge) but also the hair colors and eye colors that naturally appear, matched with their palate. I have dark brown eyes, pale skin, and medium brown hair.  Deep winter and deep autumn are the only palates that match that combination.
  4. The RED Test:  Finally follow these instructions using red clothing you already own to tip the scale between the cooler shades and warmer.  In my case, I don’t look as good in tomato red as I do in a true red or blue-tinted red, leading toward a conclusion of cool.

Once you have your colors, this pinner had a board for each color palate.  Use those colors as a guideline for what to add and what to consider a basic in your wardrobe.  This blog also has a TON of resources.

One last thought:  Just because a color isn’t in your palate doesn’t mean you can NEVER wear it.  It means you need to keep it away from your face.  A mustard sweater isn’t my best choice, but with a bold scarf in my colors it can be lovely.  Start collecting scarves NOW that can tie those other colors in and you will have an infinite number of combinations.

Burgundy for Fall

Burgundy for Fall

H&M marled cardigan, $65 / H&M white top, $24 / Current/Elliott jeans / ECCO mid heel platform pumps / Coach crossbody / Accessorize silver hinged bracelet

Moths are evil

One of my projects this weekend was to pull all my sweaters out of storage and put them away.  As I was pulling them out, I held up the BEAUTIFUL Red Eileen Fisher tunic sweater that I’ve had for several years and found the following:


Notice the three small pin-holes (there were a couple of others) visible in the back of the sweater up by the neckline.  For a moment, I thought “ok – those won’t be too noticeable, right?”  Until I found this:


That is REALLY noticeable.

Why does this kind of stuff never happen to the CHEAP sweaters?

Fall shopping list

I am trying to be more careful about what I buy, focusing on quality over quantity.  However the season is changing and we are entering the best time of year for me to get the types of things I love.  So here are the items on my fall shopping list.

Duo Olson BootsA) Duo Olson Boots.  These are the A#1 item on my list.  At a list price of $315, they are not inexpensive, but there are a few reasons why they are worth it.

  1. They come in custom calf measurements, 2CM at a time.  This means that I can measure my calves, pick a size and KNOW they will fit properly.
  2. They are real leather and high quality construction, meaning they will last a long time.
  3. They are the perfect heel height – high enough to wear with a skirt, low enough to not hurt myself in.
  4. They are unique and different.  Yes, I know the true classic is an equestrian style riding boot, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I like a little something extra.  The military styling and vertical line created by the buttons fit the bill perfectly.

image1xlB) The Perfect Oxblood Bag:  I haven’t decided precisely what bag this will be yet.  The current leading contender is The Cambridge Satchel Company’s Oxblood satchel.  I love the color, the structure, etc.  Asos has the 14 inch for $196, and Cambridge Satchel Company has either the same basic price on the 14 inch or the slightly smaller 13 inch for $5 less.  However, again, these are not inexpensive bags.  The key to finding something else that works will be finding a structured bag; I just don’t like slouchy these days.  And of course finding the right color; there are a lot of wine’s, burgundies, maroons, and such that aren’t quite right.

C) Oxblood Clothing:  Oxblood happens to be a color that looks amazing on me, so one of the goals will be to find clothing in this color while it is in style and in season.  The good news is that, unlike with leather, the other shades of wine, burgundy, maroon and dark red are all acceptable.  The bad news is that I’m finding far too little of it anyway.  I’m still looking.

What I am NOT buying any more of this fall:

  • 397b4754cc989335893c3a2bdcc639fbStripes or polka dots.  I am well-supplied.
  • Purses in colors I already have.  I have too many bags as it is.
  • Greens.  I look OK in the dark greens that show up this time of year, but I don’t look fantastic.  I am going to stick to colors in which I look fantastic.
  • Most prints.  I am rapidly concluding that the most flexible, attractive and sophisticated wardrobe for me uses unembellished pieces in rich colors, combined with terrific jewelry and patterned scarves.  There may be exceptions for certain specific types of geometric and/or abstract prints, such as this Vince Camuto top, but not many.  (Luckily for me this is already sold out in my size.)
  • Colored Jeans/Pants.  Not because I don’t love them, but because I have quite a lot of them already, in pretty much every color I can picture myself wearing.  I don’t need anymore unless I need to replace something.
  • Corduroy.  I live in Arizona.  I can wear it for about 2 weeks out of the year.  It’s just not a good choice for me.

Things I am on the lookout for but don’t absolutely require include fun jewelry, scarves, and cardigans.  I have LOTS of each of those, so I need to be more careful about what I buy and take the time to do an inventory.  However those items form the basis of my wardobe; they are very hard for me to walk away from.

So what are you shopping for this fall?

Picture-taking fail

I’ve put together a number of adorable outfits of late.  And failed to take pictures of ANY of them.  The reasons are many, but often boil down to just not feeling especially good about myself right now.  I’m working on that, but I’ve been working on it since I was a teenager and I don’t expect to be done anytime soon.  Just hopefully in a better place.

In the meantime, my goal will be to post regularly and, if it’s not pictures of me than to include pictures of the things I am shopping for or admiring or polyvore versions of my outfits.  Something to get back into a regular posting habit.