The Soft Dramatic Soft Summer Part 1

September 18, 2012 by  


The body types being referred to below come from David Kibbe’s excellent book on the subject, Metamorphosis (1987). For me this is the book that works, IF you can find yourself. It’s harder than you’d think. I am asked to offer it as part of PCA appts, which I’d gladly do if it could be objectified. As long as it’s just my opinion or Mr. Kibbe calls me to train with him, the client won’t get her ROI (return on investment).


Searching for the Soft Dramatic Body

She has a lush, exotic quality to her features. Angelina Jolie? Maybe if her head were on Sharon Stone’s body. This is where it becomes anyone’s opinion, but to me, her body is too small and compact, her expression is very open and giving and the features are too Yin. She’s not physcially big enough to embody Diva. Height does matter somewhat. This is an imposing physical presence that seems bigger than it is at any height. An SD woman commands her space.

If Phyllisha Rashad is Dramatic Classic (DC), SD is more physically Yang than that. Even a DC could drown in all the fabric draping of SD, or look that way even with the draping scaled down to her size, as if she’s wearing curtains.

I wonder if IRL, Angelina’s proportions would have that Hollywood quality of large head/small body that photograpshs well. JAniston has that too. Whitney Houston would be very close to SD and often dressed that way.

SD and Flamboyant Natural (FN) are close in my head. What separates them is the FN’s ability to still wear sweats and eat popcorn. The SD is not nearly as accessible or approachable. She has a more formal energy all the time. She doesn’t own sweats and can barely force herself into yoga wear, but she’s easy to imagine with a tennis racket, on a skateboard, running on the beach at 6am without makeup. Movement is key for the Naturals.

Naomi Campbell? Perhaps, but she seems very slender.

Linda Evangelista? Very possible.

Someone smart suggested Kate Winslet as a Soft Dramatic (and very possibly Soft Summer). That’s a great choice. Big body. Lush, large features with a lot of overall Yang energy, too much to assign her curviness to the Romantic or Soft Classic group.

Visual Processing and The Soft Summer Palette

Neurochemical information travels millions of pathways from retina to various centers in the brain. That’s just the beginning of how an image forms. Neuropsychology kicks in and modifies the retinal data to adjust for lighting, experience, and assumptions as the brain strives to make sense of what it sees, and of course, of surrounding colours.

We appreciate that seasonal or 12 Season colour analysis is based on simultaneous contrast, the fact that two colours side-by-side change one another in our perception.  Soft Summer is a most spectacular Season but we can too easily focus on “those colours are dull” instead of what that very ‘dullness’ makes them capable of that no other can do.

For all three Summers, the ability of adjacent versions of the same hue but differing values to appear 3D, to advance and recede, is central to (my) understanding (of) those Seasons. On Summer colouring, monochromatic colour schemes lose their flatness and give the illusion of a rounded, touchable image. Why the Summers? Because they’re cool-colour (blue-based) colours, so when their value is made darker by adding dark grey or black, they remain blue and they do so across the light/dark band. They don’t turn green or purple.  This works especially well with the True and Soft whose colours are muted, which our brains interpret as ‘far’, establishing a depth relationship.


Because of how edges are discerned at the level of the retina, we have more difficulty understanding edges. Monochromatics are even more challenging for discerning edges. They seem to move. They come and go and float around. With even the slight influence of Autumn in this Neutral Season Soft Summer colour collection, this 3D effect from contiguous monochromatics moves to a whole new level.

Over the Autumn palette’s span, which has influence in five different groups of natural colouring, the theme is dimensionality. It’s been called texture, strength, rope, weave, all expressing a similar notion of how this colour language speaks most clearly. Soft Summer steps up from the early 3D effect above that works so well on True Summer, to the phenomenon of the hologram. Still shimmery, more 3D.

Photo: acidxpop


With no good evidence, I’ve always seen the Soft Summer composition as lost edges, a figment of the imagination, impressions of depth that might just be apparitions, uncertainty about what is real, like the ghosts of shapes that move in and out of each other, whispered suggestion, signals you’re not sure you heard or saw, phantoms moving in and out of your perception.  The colours made sense tome that way. Finally someone smarter than I am explained it to me: equiluminance.

Luminance means the intensity of emitted light from a surface. That’s not exactly the same as light/dark levels or value because the trunk of a birch tree in shade and one of its leaves in sun may emit similar light at that moment, but in some ways, our brain sees luminance as value. Equiluminance means equal value or light/dark level.

The brain uses its luminance pathways (gray scale, black to white, value) to inform us about position (Where). The chromatic pathways (colour) tells us what things are, their forms and shapes (What). Take away colour and we can’t discern what things are quite as well.

Without colour, the painting looks 2D by the loss of detail in depth. The examples above come from this great website where you’ll find many more great examples.

When colour transitions are gradual because they are of similar value, our colour perceptive brain pathways (or chromatic pathways) are activated but our luminance pathways are not. We feel a little unsure of shape, position, and motion. We have trouble placing forms and objects. In Soft Summer, where saturation is low and values are medium, the colour combinations are exquisite to the point of being supernatural because shapes seem less stable.

The Sci\ART palettes make all this that I talk about happen automatically. Those palettes put these visions in my head, not the other way around. You don’t have to do much other than wear your colours.


Apparel in Part 2. Next article, I promise.




8 Responses to “The Soft Dramatic Soft Summer Part 1”

  1. AC on September 21st, 2012 12:31 pm

    this is probably the most scientific description of the qualities of “soft” that I have seen. You make it easier to understand. To me the word smokey makes more sense, than soft (and I strongly dislike mousy and dull – who would want to be assosiated with a rodent anyway? and dull is a word associated with lack of personality). I pick up on the elusive, but constant “otherness” of the soft summer colours – you would often call them “sort of red/blue/x-coulour”. But they are always something else as well. I keep seing these as colours that have moved towards another colour – there is always this aspect of something else.
    Being a 1.80 tall (or 5.11) woman, X-shape (hour glass) with the above mentioned yin energy (or in other words a powerful looking woman), I am staying tuned for Part 2. This might be me.

  2. Trisha on September 22nd, 2012 1:13 am


    Thanks for the article and the comments, very interesting and thought provoking as always. I think I’m a Soft Dramatic; again I’m tall and hourglass, but although a long limbed, soft body shape, my face is more angular with strong jaw and high cheekbones, although large, not a classic face. I’ve just be recast by Lora Alexander as Deep Autumn Soft and away from purely Deep Autumn as I age and soften slightly. In many ways I prefer the FN style as I’m quite casual by nature and a strong hiker, but my body is not straight, definately long hourglass. I have to admit though, that the draping does it for me, it just looks right around my curves and seems to soften the jaw as well. The natural direction I feel pulled towards is on the edge of casual/ formal. Good luck AC with those colours!

  3. kad on September 22nd, 2012 6:20 pm

    I wonder witch Kibbegory Angelina Jolie will best fit in if she is not in SD ? Here is the thinking process behind that classification :

    Many also think that Whitney Houston is more of a dramatic then an SD:

  4. Christine Scaman on September 24th, 2012 3:38 am

    I agree, Kad, she’s not voluptuous enough. Her facial features are a bit more lush, but the body is moving D. For me, the Kibbegories are a continuum, just as the Seasons are. I was trying to give an example of body size without using Kib’s own examples. I know women who are quite small who wonder about SD and I think “there’s no way, you’re not big enough”. I don’t think you have to be hugely tall, but I do find his height ranges shouldn’t be discounted at all. They’re usually right to my eye – but I really am not expert at this at all.

  5. Denise on September 25th, 2012 3:45 am

    This writing is beautiful. And helps the palette make sense. I’m 5’0 and one thing I’ve wondered about Kibbe is if being 5′ exactly means that I must be one of the gamines. TR makes much more sense and is closer to my quiz results.

    What I’d love to see is a soft summer theatrical romantic!

    Looking forward to the next article!

  6. Maya on October 1st, 2012 8:29 am

    Thank you so much Christine! I always love reading your articles.

  7. Caty on October 12th, 2012 8:51 am

    Love this article! I am also a Soft Dramatic Soft Summer.

  8. Sarah on November 22nd, 2012 6:56 pm

    I’m a soft summer flamboyant natural. Just thought I’d share…

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