Congruence between how we think we look, how we want to look, and how others react to how we look, is the only way that our self-expression can be successful.
The overlap will never be 100%, life would be too boring, but a lot of intersection would be a good sign that we are all processing a similar reality. Others would cooperate more in helping our life unfold as we hope. If we think we look employable while everyone else thinks, “Why in all the world would she wear that?”, we are not helping ourselves.
Heather* is an Autumn woman. It doesn’t matter which of the three Autumns since they and the rest of their outfit are equally unflattened by white for different reasons. Heather might still have worn that tight white skirt if she knew that others were wondering if she’s gained weight and ignoring her perfect sweater, or she might have made a different choice.
Not only is Heather worried about weight gain, she knows that white is not among her flattering colours. Why do you figure she bought the skirt?
Something must have mattered more than her colours.
Was it because her friend bought the same skirt on the same shopping trip, a BFF bonding moment? The lifelong friend is instinctively tuned into what others want to hear. Whatever that is, it subtly becomes her truth in that moment.
If she told Heather that the skirt looked great, then to her, it did. Had she been shown a picture of Heather as a stranger, she might have had another opinion. Had Heather known this about her friend, she might not have acted so quickly on her advice.
That wasn’t the reason.
Is it because Heather’s colour analyst forgot to observe and measure every feature of the face during the PCA, panicked, and jumped to the Season conclusion too soon? Unsure of the client’s colour ranges, she opts for calm colours as a safer bet while Heather knows herself to be another Season?
Or would the analyst so abhor any garment for herself that felt showy or standing out that she would never do that to a client? A quiet appearance is the analyst’s way of doing unto others, her Golden Rule. It subtly becomes her truth and displaces the objective markers she learned during her training.
That happens too.
But those were not the reasons.
Her analysis result was correct. Heather had another need, one strong enough to rank higher than her colour palette when she is faced with shopping choices.
This condition defines her very survival: the need to be desirable. Not just to anybody and everybody. To one person.
This is no simple need. It be little but it be fierce. Given its own saferoom in Heather’s subconscious, the one that holds her last and biggest fear, the sign outside says: Open This Door Last.
Over the years, the room got thicker walls and a dead bolt. The most important thing is to keep it safe and satisfied, whatever it takes. If the beast breaks the chains, who knows what might happen? As always when we are out of balance, and we all are somewhere, we end up creating the very thing we fear.
The skirt was having an opposite effect. Instead of white, a soft denim blue or burgundy suede skirt would have had us swooning. In Heather’s eyes, those colours don’t make the point strongly enough. The significant other might miss it unless she amps it up a few notches. The white skirt is an overreaction to secure the essential relationship and feel safe.
Had I understood Heather in this way when we did her PCA, I would have framed my advice and images differently.
Having experienced Heather’s situation many times over the years and recently with the One Woman, Two Versions posts, I keep running into the gaps large and small between how we see ourselves and how others see us. This includes the big topic of other people’s filters. Why does one person see a woman’s makeup as too bright when another sees it as just right?
I care about what we communicate by appearance choices. I want my clients’ non-verbal language to be saying what they want to say, whatever that is. First, they need to gather words for what they want to say. My role is to act as a mirror that projects back to them what they are actually telling the world. The more neutral and non-reactive I can be, the more faithful the image they see.
Other people can make us better if we allow it. By creating a real reflection, with generosity, love, and listening in our hearts, we can help stuck energy flow again in one another. That doesn’t mean giving out advice to achieve what we want for our life, which is useless to them. We need to know what they want while helping them find balance in their blind spots. Heather’s white skirt is a place where her communication is being jammed. A better choice would let her energy trickle and rise again, she would be received as she intended, and the things she wants would move towards her.
Let’s meet two more magnificent women. All women are magnificent.
In my colour beginnings, I had a one-dimensional view of humans and their colours. Soon enough, I realized that although Sonia* and Carol* wear the same colours, they would do themselves and the rest of us no favours by wearing the same shapes.
Enter from the wings Rachel who explains a system where body shape and proportion are translated into effective clothing and consistently proves how well it works. I direct every client towards this service, since I am but an observer with casual knowledge and a lot of interest.
Sonia and Carol are now wearing beautiful clothing that they bought themselves. I think they look great. Only one of them does.
Sonia is happy. She trusts herself; she is re-learning her identity, calmly and joyfully aware that it takes months and years, not days and weeks. She has never been closer to living on her own terms.
Learning new things is the #1 best way to be in the moment, despite the fact that on this planet, using new muscles will hurt. Sonia is not backing down now. With every purchase, right or wrong, she enjoys that second of suspension when she is bigger, fuller, and richer, like that moment before we release a joyful breath. For the first time, her wardrobe feels like coasting instead of struggling.
Carol is bugged and doesn’t know why, which makes her more bugged. Her logical brain tells her the colours and lines are those of her physical body. She is spending 1/3 what she did a year ago. She knows that her face, that once was lost in the same room as her previous cosmetics, is lovely. She is willing to learn, has stopped obsessing about an imaginary Finish line, and hears sincere positive feedback.
Still bugged. The clothing colours are not speaking with her true voice. She is a Winter who is drawn to Summer colours, or anything soft, like bees to nectar. Her appearance word choices are about blending in and belonging. Words around separation, visual or any other kind, give her heart palpitations. Winter colours feel so conspicuous.
In Sonia’s world, love and security happen by appearing. In a meeting, she needs to talk to feel that she is in the room. A challenge was learning that her rhinestone octopus earrings might be taking it too far for the office or the first meeting with the guy from e-Harmony, especially worn at the same time as the fishnets and the skirt with all the zippers going in different directions. It came as news to her that her point might be getting lost.
Carol wants the same love and security in the same world. To her, it arrives by not standing out, not being noticed, feeling calm and happy in the background. In a group, she would certainly ask a question and is passionate about what she cares about. She’s not shy. She is thinking. She is fine with her body, just doesn’t need attention or conversation around it.
I hear their different language around appearance. As the colour analyst, it is my job to interpret the palette so that they can recognize themselves. I must tailor my advice to where they find comfort and security in their appearance, but how?
Ever on the pulse of anything cool, clever, and good, Rachel introduces me to the Enneagram, and the Enneastyle book (look down the list on this page) . Seriously, if you are interested in self-perception regarding appearance, you really want to download this pdf whether you know your E type or not.
A free test can be found here along with options offering much more info for barely more money.
Many great books have been written. The Wisdom of the Enneagram was given to me by Naomi Eastman, our analyst in Vancouver. Excellent, excellent book. If you know any others that you found exceptional, please add them to the comments. I would love to read them.
From the Enneastyle booklet, from the Author’s note:
Just as in any facet of life, the whole of one’s personal presentation is far greater than the sum of its parts. For it is the integration of all aspects of the personality: body type, coloring, instincts, spiritual focus, energy, image, personal gifts and struggles that create the harmonic, balanced and complete whole. Just as we appreciate beauty in nature, we appreciate it when someone dresses and behaves in a manner that is congruent with their energy, archetype, passions, expressions, personality, features and body type.
Katherine Chernick Fauvre
Katherine Fauvre Consulting I Enneagram Explorations I Fauvre Research
For Enneastyle, Fauvre conducted a study across thousands of participants, using pictures, questionnaires, collages, and conversations with participants regarding their communication goals around appearance.
We can measure the body’s exteriors, its colours and lines, but as Fauvre said to me in an email, “internal and external harmony addresses what is innate”. How do we measure, compare, and organize everyone’s interiors?
The booklet begins with an explanation of the Enneagram concept and description of the 9 types – basically 9 ways in which people perceive reality. The results are presented as each type’s Desire, Need, Fear, Avoidance (I avoid this type of look….) , Image Personality (keywords, I appear to…), Theme Statement (I am…), in the context of how they wish to look and communicate by appearance. Expressions that came up most often, type of language, similarities in images, and some ways in which the types measure their success, which I found very entertaining, are included.
Each of the 9 types divides into 3 Instincts:
The Self-Preservation person (“Me. I’m on my own. I must take care of myself.”).
The Social subtype (“Us. Me and my group. We can take on the world as long as we’re all together.”).
The One-to-One or Sexual Instinct (“You and me. I am only complete and safe if I can form an intimate relationship with you.”)
The quotes are my paraphrases.
If a person dresses to divert attention away from the body (for reasons that are explained in the booklet), attire that reveals the body will feel like exposure. I wonder how often a Bright Winter who wants any palette except Bright Winter is of this type. It would certainly explain a few things.
Knowing this, I could have helped her so much better than by saying, “Try it, you’ll get used to it.” I could have taken more time with matte colours, found resources for her neutral colours, and so on. Like our Autumn Heather in the white skirt, this Bright Winter is willing and wanting to compromise her own colours to meet a greater perceived survival need. My job is to help her do this as beautifully and effectively as possible, guiding her to the best choices without compromising either of our goals.
We look for ourselves in all kinds of systems. We would look like Venn diagrams, with many coincident areas (Summer, Cancer, E9, Classic, could all sound similar). Once you see how the 9 E types are settled around a circle, and how they correlate to the Gut/Heart/Mind, you would recognize similarities with the personality stereotypes in the 12 Season order with True Winter at 12 o’clock.
In a couple, he is an E3 and she is an E9. They realize that clothing communicates, that they need only learn fashion as it concerns their body, and both agree that they would like more glamour in their look. Something gets in the way. E3 is looking for the fast track and figures if he is brilliant at lots of other things, these little image details won’t really matter, will they? E9 knows that she will stop activity traffic in and out of her life to keep it simple. All this clothing information sounds complicated and potentially uncomfortable. In time, both will read some of the information, take some of the steps, and they will look somewhat better. On my end, I won’t have to wonder if I could have done more. They just had other priorities.
Bet there are many Dark Autumn E5 men. E5 might be someone who breathes into their brain during Yin Yoga class, the idea of breathing into their lungs being a novel one. We would not discuss his wardrobe in terms of emotion. We would talk strategy and tactics.
A client is an E7. Many Gamine types probably are. Used to be that one negative word about her choices and the walls went up. In defense mode, we no longer heard each other. Today, I adjust my language to focus on a happy, busy future. She has learned that how her body is and how colours appear next to her are not good or bad. They just are. Statements about how she is shaped and coloured are not judgments, just facts. She can receive them while staying relaxed and curious to learn more.
As David Fauvre has said, “You’ll never see yourself the same way again.”
To know how a client wants to look, I must learn to ask the right questions.
I already ask, “What colours would you never wear?” The answer doesn’t matter, very few people have a correct sense of the possibilities, especially before the analysis. The answers range from, “I’d wear every colour, even neon, no problem.” to, “Just yellow. Also green. Well, not blue (now counting on fingers) or orange, and not brown.” My reason for asking is only to learn how permissive they will be around change.
A question I ask male clients is, “If you wore a white shirt and medium or dark gray pants, what would you add or adjust to feel comfortable?” The more clearly I know what you want from your appearance, the better I can help you find the right choices.
Working from hotels has had conveniences. The negatives have been the costs and need to decline so many requests when schedules don’t sync. I hope to begin seeing clients once again this fall in a dedicated studio. To focus on each person’s situation and save time on the day of the session, we will have a questionnaire to fill in one week before.
The questions so far are:
Besides knowing your colouring, why are you having a PCA?
If you have been thinking about it for some time, why did you contact me today?
If I could solve one appearance concern for you in the next 5 days, what would it be?
What is easy about any aspect of clothing, including fit, style, colour, a favourite print, a form of self-expression that feels right, or any other? What is difficult?
What words describe your desired appearance? Formal, comfort, glamour, functional, fitting in, standing out, or any other? Please bring images to your appointment if visual cues would be easier.
Do you know about the image analysis service at Best Dressed? Is that something you intend to pursue? If you know your image archetype (from Best Dressed and affiliates only please), it will be helpful if you share it.
Do you receive feedback that aligns or conflicts with what you believe to be true about your appearance?
Is cosmetic shopping confusing or easy, intimidating or under your control, frustrated by barely used items or fulfilled with items that are used regularly?
What would you like to know about makeup colour? How do you wear makeup, if ever, or how would you like to change how you wear it?
Are there any big purchases ahead?
What pleases and displeases you about your hair colour experience? If you would like it to change, how would that look?
If you care to share the information, what is your Enneagram type? If you know your Instinct, that will be helpful for us. Knowing your Tritype is not necessary for our purpose.
Independent of constraints about which colours or styles are available, what would you like more of in your wardrobe?
What would you like less represented in your wardrobe?
How do you not want to ever look? Can you give an example? For eg, a man might say, “I would never want to look showy.” When asked, showy means a dark suit, dark shirt, dark tie, and necklace. It does not include a tie with pink flowers, his favourite item of clothing.
What is your favourite piece of attire?
Is there something you would like to try but feel concerned about how it might look? Is there a colour that you often experiment with but have not found success?
During your appointment, is there an area where would you like us to focus our time? Choosing correct colour from the palette, more detailed cosmetic application, hair colour, creating complete outfits, or some other?
Have you anything else that you care to share, ask, or request at this time?
I would be appreciative of any suggestions for questions to add to the list. Think back to your PCA. What do you wish the analyst had known? What would the right questions have been, given what you know about yourself today?
My expertise is neither with Archetype or Enneagram. I don’t want people to feel that they have to write for an hour. The idea is to allow enough time to get the thinking ball rolling about how clothing relates to themselves in ways that they might never have considered.
You can help me help you. As an E1, all I want is for all of us get better.