The Dramatic True Summer
February 20, 2012 by Christine Scaman
David Kibbe, Where Are You Now?
Maybe you had your colours analyzed and you know you’re a True Winter. Armed with those most-flattering colours, how come it’s not coming together for you? You read about the drama of Winter and say,
“Why do they keep forgetting about me? Dramatic styles feel intimidating and say nothing about me at all. I love softness. Is my self-perception off, like it was with my colours, or is there still something missing? I’m frustrated with feeling frustrated all the time over how I look.”
Once you know the colours in your skin, your Season, it takes one trip to the mall to realize that even if you buy items colour-matched with a spectrophotometer, they don’t always look right or good. Who could argue? Your colour analyzed palette comes in many different styles. Which is yours? You can’t be great in both the swirly silky print blouse and the Hugo Boss blazer. The strong vertical stripes that work on me will do nothing for the woman who is defined by abstract, splashy florals, though our Season is the same.
I’m not talking about taste because that can be part of what got us into the trouble of not looking impacting in the first place, buying what we like or what we were told to like. A 15 year old says “I don’t want to be stuck wearing only square clothes if I have a square body. I want to wear the clothes I like. That makes me feel good.” And it looks good when you’re 15 and still searching for yourself. The style carousel very much depicts the brain storm going on inside. The whole picture fits because it is a true representation of the wearer.
We outgrow wearing the brain storm because we outgrow being the brain storm. Our self-assurance comes across in part by having settled, like the demons in the Golden Compass (in Philip Pullman’s story, our souls exist outside our bodies in the form of animals; before puberty, the animals shape-shift with our emotions and moods; after puberty they settle to a permanent species). Adults learn who they are and settle, which feels more settling to look at than a woman who is still trying out different identities (does that look like Midlife Crisis?). At this point in our lives, beauty that could happen on its own is important to find. Once processing is involved, it is as stressful to look at as hair that’s been straightened to within an inch of its life, best left to the young.
Mr. Kibbe is right. You do look better with his advice. You can be as literal or encompassing as you choose, just as you can wear some of your best colours or exclusively those. On shopping days, I (a Dramatic Classic) still wear leggings, boots, a long belted T under a shorter off shoulder sweater, not my best look. Big deal. On first impression days, it’s a jacket, the point being your best jacket isn’t mine and are you really sure you can pick out your best line, cut, and detail in any item of clothing? As many of us will figure this out alone and get it right as were able to figure out their colours without expert guidance – that is to say, very few.
I am strongly attracted to classification systems that work. This one does, whether you’re in the business of dressing yourself or others. 13 styles, or image identities, are described in detail, including all aspects of clothing, hair style and colour, and cosmetic colours. These are gathered under 13 consistent shape/line/colour umbrellas, all of which relate back to essence you’re trying to project, the same one you already project through your body’s inherent lines.
Lines communicate and our lines communicate about us. Art students do an exercise where they draw an object using the bare minimum number of lines. They do another where a model changes position every 5 seconds and the students capture her form only with a few lines till she moves again. As with colour, when two visuals don’t belong together, they push each other further in opposing directions. If the face is asymmetric, a symmetric hairstyle will have the face looking downright lopsided. Two lines, three lines, and our brains are making decisions about what’s in front of us.
Though we don’t wear shoulder pads today, I was amazed at how relevant and usable his writing still is. The styles really do create 13 very different pictures. Only you will write the book where you agree with every word, but his is so enduring because so many women still connect so strongly with it. A straight line then is a straight line today. The quantity of information for each identity is huge with little repetition between them. I typed mine on a card, laminated it, and carry it with my Colour Book. I learned long ago that I don’t know how I look to others from the front or back. What has especially fascinated me is watching women get their style right and having all this remarkable, defining geometry appear out of their face, just as colours suddenly appear in your face when you wear your own Season’s palette. Who knew that both were there all along?
Any image identity can go with any Season. While there are recurring pairs, Dramatics among Winters, Softs among Summers, Naturals among Autumns, any of the 12 types of colouring can be found within any of the styles. I know Gamine Dark Autumns. I know Dramatic True Summers. His models are a Dramatic Autumn and a Romantic Winter. Figure out each one separately first.
Celebs are tough to characterize because they’re all so thin that it hides their body type. To give you the drift, Christina Ricci seems a Soft Gamine. Mariah Carey is a Romantic. Melanie Griffith may be a Soft Natural. Ashley Judd is a Theatrical Romantic. If they shared one another’s best styles, every one would have detracted from herself. Even on their Size 4 bodies, when it’s right, it’s oh-so-right. Kathryn noticed how perfectly Dramatic Classic styles suited Rene Russo in the movie The Thomas Crown Affair. I so agree, like they were made for each other.
Shopping is just a quest to find yourself out there. The prize goes to the one who can most accurately and authentically represent the inside on the outside. That look is unbeatable by any bank account or new wave. Kibbe’s book takes a lot of reading and thinking. So much like learning your own colouring, it places us in a temporary chaos that is important and necessary. Our usual shopping structure both supports and constrains us. Like in a Primal Soup, creativity and innovation are taking place under our radar from which we pull new idea relationships. We are inclined to move away from that chaos, but it’s an important place to move towards. A lot is happening there that is good.
Today, I’d like to try my hand at being a woman whose colours and style don’t mesh so easily. We start with a Dramatic True Summer, a Season we’re used to seeing embodied in lines that are curved, flowing, watery. Maybe today’s model is the True Summer who says she wants to wear black and scarlet instead of her better palette. Maybe what she really wants and doesn’t know it, is an outlet that expresses the drama she knows herself to possess. All she can articulate is resistance and she assumes it’s to the colours.
Working with animals teaches you to listen harder. They’re all telling us what they want or need. When you miss enough diagnoses that were right in your original patient history, you learn to put your arrogance on the shelf. If the colour system isn’t working for the woman, it’s not her who’s broke. Rather than say to her “Wear your colours for a week, you’ll get used to them”, which isn’t entirely wrong advice, perhaps incomplete is a better word, I need to think about where her reservations are coming from. As we know, there are thousands of psychological levels here, but at the heart of it, what is missing for her? Perhaps, this woman needs to discover her own lines. Then, she can assemble the apparel outlines inside which she’ll paint her colours and feel good at last.
What’s a Dramatic look like? Not the luscious dumpling Romantic that the singer Adele is. Draw a Dramatic with a ruler not a compass, not just the lines of the face but straight across the shoulders and long, narrow, and straight down the body. Kib’s examples would be Joan Crawford or Jamie Lee Curtis. Adjectives like statuesque, sharp, and imposing apply the instant they walk in the room. The very beautiful Darin Wright, creator of the outstanding Season-analyzed cosmetic line eleablake, seems to me a Bright Winter Dramatic. You’d fashion her statue with a chisel and hammer from a piece of marble, not from dough, cloth, or cotton candy.
How would she dress? Far more briefly than in the book,
YES: sharp and geometric; sculpted, sleek&long, crisp; mod to heavywt fabric; bold, sweeping, clean, angular (plunging V, thin turtleneck, mandarin, halter necks); mid-thigh jackets; coat dress, sharp shoulders, narrow no-waist; colours as ensembles, monochromatics or neutrals or pastels; prints Picasso, bold; jewelry thin, sharp, asymmetric.
NO: round, swirled, draped, broken or horizontal lines; sheer, clingy, rough; frills, ruffles, gathers; shapeless necks; flouncy, nipped waist, fussy buttons, shapeless or boxy; heavy-chunky.
How do you do sharp geometry in a cool and soft colour selection in every single item for everyday life?
It was surprisingly mind-expanding (and tiring) to have to get into another headspace. I pretended Darin was looking over my shoulder – “Girl, I’d no more wear a shell, matching cardi, and pearls, I’d look like my Grampa!!!!!!!!!!! Someone get me a cold compress and a glass of wine, look what she’s doing to me!!!!!!!!!” It is most interesting what our eye doesn’t see when we’d swear we looked at every item on the Polyvore screen. Through Darin’s eyes, I saw items I would have never registered.
I thought about the word ‘modern’. No particular sense of humor as in not funky or groovy. Not trendy, which has no strength. Modern became clean&futuristic, very much a Winter association in my head up till now.
I thought about what ‘bold’ means. Not sassy, one of the modern versions of bold, which can look tasteless and juvenile and for this category. Keeping boldness of style a separate entity than boldness of colour mattered since True Summer colours don’t come across boldly and I was trying to keep the number of colours controlled. Sometimes, I used an accessory, an unusual colour, or a contrast level to bring up the boldness of an entire ensemble.
Drama while keeping the bling down meant rediscovering how to convey drama through line instead of Dollar Store sparkle or cleavage. Every single item had to convey continuous vertical line and/or extreme angularity and/or unique geometry. Only a few items had more than one of these at a time, very hard to find in this palette. When I look at the Polyvore, it seems too conservative. If the clothes were in Bright Winter colours, they’d jump off the page more, but on a True Summer, she’d become a ghost.
I got a funny feeling of homesickness out of nowhere. I really had to shut myself off and be Darin. Like playing that Rush Hour Traffic Jam puzzle, I had to be very plastic about moving colour and style around one another. It’s a brilliant exercise. By the end, I couldn’t even stand a round watch face, or even a square one.
And I shall never complain about trying to find Dramatic Classic clothes in Dark Winter colours again. Try to put a Polyvore together, like watches for all 12 Seasons or all 13 Kibbes. You really have to get out of your own head, but when you come back, your own head is lot clearer. By deciding why an item is wrong for a Season or style, you learn more than by deciding why it’s right or going on the “I just like it, that’s all.” instinct.
Next is the Romantic Soft Autumn. Make a Polyvore outfit of any type of Romantic Autumn if you have time and send me the link. I’ll post it along with mine.