The idea for today’s post comes from a group of questions that readers and clients have asked. Thank You for sharing your observations. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to clarify my vision of personal colour analysis (PCA). I hope that clients will understand and celebrate their colouring more fully, and that prospective students may find it easier to select the training systems and PCA communities that are right for them.
The phrase, leaning in your Season, may have different meanings depending on the situation and who said it. Usually, it refers to a person whose colouring harmonizes with their primary Season and reasonably well with some of the colours of the group next door, leading to the conclusion that they lean into that neighbour Season. It might also be taken to mean that they lean into some of the neighbour Season’s properties, as, “I’m a Dark Winter that leans cool.”
We haven’t done a long post for a while so we’ll delve into this subject. No pictures or it will be 20 pages long instead of 10. This may be the longest one ever, divided into 10 Q&A.
As point of clarification: How well the next-door Season works from a technical perspective and how often you might dip into its colours to find clothing in stores are two separate topics. Makeup is different again and will have its own question.
Since this website doesn’t touch on how PCA is actually performed, which is a whole other iceberg, I will try to keep it as practical as I can and still answer the questions, given my inclination to over-theorize with anyone willing to listen.
The Order of Colour
Seasons follow the order shown in the image below. The order is not a human construct. It is based on how light behaves.
Leaning into immediate next-door neighbour Seasons is what most of this post addresses. It does not relate to any particular dimension of colour, as warm or cool, or more or less saturated. Separating the dimensions from one another is in the realm of the trained professional colour analyst, though clients often gain a sense of their ranges in time. We’ll be talking about wearing another Season fairly well in general terms.
Leaning into Seasons across the circle will not be relevant. To me, it doesn’t happen because it does not work on many levels. Here are two:
First, theoretically, crossing the circle would be the effect of believing and saying that, “I believe that the order of colours in rainbows is flexible and random.” If you take that stand, it follows that colour positions in colour wheels is interchangeable, since its ROYGBIV order comes from rainbows. If that is your belief, it’s fine but we will digress on most every aspect of PCA.
Second, in real life, people don’t drape that way. The Spring side and the Autumn side look odd in a million ways in each other’s colours, with the amount and location of the oddness depending greatly on the particular individual being draped.
Nobody crosses the circle to find a Season of partial harmony. I don’t invent things. I just describe what I see. I never see a person who drapes almost as well except in immediate neighbours. Depending on how an analyst prioritizes observations, she might disagree with this and we might or might not arrive at the same Season result.
This post is about using immediate neighbour Season palettes.
- Is it really possible for one season (let’s say Dark Winter) to have different sections for people who “lean” a certain way?
Say, those who are more “smoky” in appearance, those who are more “intense”/more saturated (which can lead one to thinking BW), and those who are more “warm”/Autumn?
Answering the second question first, yes. Many different natural presentations are possible in any of the 12 Seasons. People can look different in the same Season.
The first part of the question can have a short answer, which is: anything is possible in how Season colour collections are sectioned from the field of all possible colours, but it is not necessary to subdivide any of them and would make little sense because,
a) Although the people look different, they reacted to the drape colours in the same technical ways. That’s how they got put in that Season. The drapes span the Season; they do not sit dead center (more on drape colour choices below). They are looking to pick up all the clues in all the possible natural colouring. In Dark Winter, colours will span jewel tones, muting textures, warmer to cooler, and other variations. Every drape in the set is taken into account when the sets are assembled. Variety of textiles is highly useful (more on drape fabrics coming up).
b) Kathryn Kalisz (founder of the Sci\ART system of colour analysis) got the Season parameters right. They do not need changing. When I say genius, I mean it as an understatement. Her vision has proven itself in real life over and over and over. It takes a long time and many faces to fully appreciate how well her Seasons allow for the nuance of facial expression, unique colours, facial geometry, the magic of colour combination, and the energetic extension of what we see to what we feel.
This is partly why the drapes span the Seasons as she devised them. They are right to all six senses. The more I do PCA, the more I see, the more I would resist changing what she created. The boundaries could be moved, and sure, they would relocate who goes into which Season, but I believe that a lot more would be lost than how people look. She understood the psychology of colour, including human, with an incredibly fine degree of tuning. Or, to always look at questions and solutions from many angles, am I becoming more and more attached to what I learned first? Lots of things are possible. I have awareness of the possibility and still believe that the mountain of evidence in favour of her Seasons keeps getting higher.
Regardless of natural appearance, every Dark Winter looks most fully expressed and harmonized when they wear the Season as is, and the same for the other Seasons also. Everyone might not have the same colour in the same place in their appearance, but the paintbox that coloured in their lines is the same and therefore, they react to drapes the same way. Every person might not wear every colour in the same item, location, area, or combination, but they still belong to Dark Winter. Colouring is balanced between eyes, skin, and hair, and in the totality of our appearance.
Even the most saturated Dark Winter benefits from something in that Season that True Winter did not provide, or something was lost, altered, or distorted in the neighbour palette. True of every member of every Season or they wouldn’t have been that Season.
- Does anybody fit perfectly in the middle of their Season?
Yes, if middle is defined as draping decisions with very little contest from the neighbour Seasons.
Other people drape adequately in some of the neighbour colours, usually 1 to 3 of the 6 used in the Test Drapes. The final Season decision may go back and forth between Dark and True Winter or Dark Winter and Dark Autumn. This depends greatly on how the analyst reads drapes and which colours she has in her sets (more on drape colours coming).
If the contest between Dark and True Winter was very challenging, someone might decide they lean into that Season. This may be technically true or possible, since, on the circle diagram, I think of Dark Winter as 1030 to 1130. Leaning need not apply to how they dress unless retail gives them no other choice, which is absolutely true sometimes, and no big deal at all.
As I have learned more about colours, drapes, PCA, and how clients apply information, I try not to talk of leaning or make sure that the client appreciates that their entire Season is way-way-way more important, beautiful, and communicative than anything about leaning. They shop and look better and enjoy their Season more when they don’t hear about this, or its relevance is minimized.
The language is mostly technical as the analyst works through, “Is the person at 1115 or 1145?” Suppose we said one day, “Gosh, it’s so hard to distinguish the Winters. Maybe if we moved the Winter drapes further apart, it might be easier.” Suddenly, people would start leaning the other way.
When we read about things, we can envision bigger swings than were intended. Picture tiny, tiny shifts. To the client, this makes no difference unless they live in a place where retail supplies colours in all 12 Seasons, which they don’t even if they live in Manhattan. Nobody does. A Dark Winter will still come out as Dark Winter.
Clients will certainly wear some colours from a few related groups, and the wardrobe interactions will be beautiful even if the colours are not be the absolute best version of that colour. True Winters may disagree but everything need not be 100% to work extremely well. In fact, it never is. If the colours share 80% of their attributes, you’re in a great place. Dark Winter and True Winter share a great big piece of territory. Light Summer and True Spring darker turquoise could be worn by either group and the surrounding colours will find all the things they share and make a home and a context for them.
Many Dark Winters wear some Soft and True Summer, maybe a blue from Bright Spring or a darker coral from Light Spring. They are content and look way the heck better than if they’d bought all the other stuff at the store that day. Their Season educated them as to which other colours would cooperate. Their colour analyst taught them how to tell.
- If I did wear some of the neighbour Season adequately, even though I am clearly my one Season, does that mean I should shop for those colours, or avoid the opposite side of my own Season?
In no way does draping decently in a neighbour Season mean wearing only half of the correct Season palette. You are an entire Season.
Folks often think that more Seasons might make things easier, not unlike asking for more drapes. The reverse will happen. They will end up having more information to manage, more difficulty in analyzing clients, more interruptions in fabric and product continuity, more categories that apply to fewer and fewer people, more confusing disctinctions between groups, and more challenge telling colours apart among Seasons. Everything will cost more time and more money with little added benefit.
I might be convinced of 50:50 combo palettes between two Seasons, or palettes with only half a Season, if I had ever seen one single person who would benefit from it *in a technical situation*, but that never happens.
Even Seasons with the widest natural presentations do not need to be split up. More groups means more blur for everyone, including the client’s final appearance. When Kathryn Kalisz devised the Sci\ART Seasons, she got them right. Sure, a bit of variability is fine, unavoidable depending on inks, materials, the palette designer, the number of colours, but not a great deal.
I am not a believer in narrowing down our palette. If the drapes found black, white, and primary colours, then they did. If you are a Soft Season, darkness somewhere is good such that your total look averages to medium or medium dark. The palettes are already adjusted to be the right darkness, warmth, and saturation. You don’t need to think about this too much except maybe with combinations that most people figure out instinctively anyhow.
Don’t follow every suggestion every day. Nobody needs to look the same all the time. Everybody should wear all their colours.
- How do you (Christine) apply your Season (Dark Winter)?
I believe that presentation matters, more at some times than others. The same piece of jewelry can be received in a brown paper bag or a beautiful box that shows the piece at its most beautiful. It’s the same food if you have to eat it with your fingers or at a lovely place setting. Human decoration is like that. Presentation makes a difference to how we are perceived and received, in the short and long term.
Clothing, like draping, is about fit, style, price….it never comes down to just one thing. If I held out for only Dark Winter colours in my closet, I’d own very few clothes or spend all my time shopping. I wear a mix of True Winter, Dark Winter, and the cooler and darker colours of Dark Autumn. I look Autumn-ish, and would not likely be mistaken for a True Winter though I test better in many of those colours than in Dark Autumn.
I have made happy peace with how I want my colours and my appearance to serve my life, my closet, and me. Season is a place to relax, explore, and enjoy the miracles that are colour, life, and humanity. It is not a place to feel constrained or anxious about missing the boat, which is one choice when striving for perfection, the other being to do nothing. Anxiety over not being perfect or not doing anything means continuous struggle, which I consciously move away from. I put a lot of thought, time, and effort into the creation of a peaceful life in which I gave back more than I took, which I do not say from some lofty ideal but because that’s when life seems most willing to work with me.
The great thing about knowing your Season is how shockingly better you look at every level of practice. Fairly close was how I decided to use my palette. There’s nothing bad about being 80%, and at 80% of our palette, there is no wrong, or barely enough to matter. At 80%, I was like, “You mean, this is it?? I do this and I’m good??” Picture me doing the gesture of shaking water off my hands.
I don’t get too caught up in repeating natural contrast, for example. I prefer variety in appearance, exploring many possibilities for many different benefits. To my personal taste, it is over-thought and something about the look becomes predictable or uniform. You may feel otherwise and enjoy the tighter framework. That’s perfectly fine.
By Nature, I am eclectic in how I navigate life; maybe that’s the wrong word. Send me into a store asking me to come back with something red, and I’ll come back with everything except red.
Some folks want to be perfectly in Season all day everyday; excellent. Some will want to be Cordon Bleu chefs, master tailors, and the most perfectly controlled diabetics possible. That will entail more education, practice, and experiments that a perfectionist might see as fails while someone else might consider a big success.
I fully get that we cannot know how good we could be at something until we use the best materials. The standard of colour accuracy for which we aim with the drapes is light years and several galaxies beyond what I apply to my own shopping. I also believe that there are as many right ways to wear a Season as people wearing it. However you choose to wear yours, I’ll see you there.
Also, I trust the process. The more ways in which I see it applied, the more I know it works. I’m not about to outthink it or reinvent the world’s best-working wheel. The palettes are amazing out of the box.
If Christine is going to talk about Christine, you know we’re going to go on a trip. Please don’t read the next section unless you really love abstractions.
Bottom line answer to the leaning topic: Wear all your colours. Use them to paint the most detailed world of You that you possibly can. If you tested decently in one of the neighbours, wear some of those too (you’re going to have to anyhow).
For me, one purpose of knowing Season is the freedom and exploration of a space that is mine for a reason. If I were a colouring app, I would make Planet Me generous and gorgeous with new colours every day. Instead of seeing Season as discrete spots of colours or a test with Yes/No answers, I imagine it as a maze, a web, a fantastic piece of software, an intricately, exquisitely, mysteriously interrelated, interwoven world of similar energies. I picture connections between our colours and those of our attire, like conversations between colours flying back and forth, how our world would look if Google’s activity suddenly became visible. Each energy (colour) that is left out leaves a gap, a drop in the curve, a hole in the canvas, a slowing down of the velocity, and an assumption that we understand levels of human perception that in truth, we barely grasp. A Dark Winter wearing an area of burnt orange because there are dark yellows and oranges in the eyes look cool to me, outside the box, someone like me who thinks about what could be. Like all human communication, Season is a means of finding people who are like us.
Way off track. I really am very normal to meet, very medium and pragmatic. At least I think I am. I mean, I’m Canaydian, ay? I know all this sound a little crazy but I can tell from your Pinterest boards that you feel it the same as I do. I just write down what I see.
All I’m saying is, don’t impose limits that may be more real inside your logical mind than the other parts of your mind or anyone else’s mind.
Reeling it back in. OK, I’m good. Next Q.
- What percentage of colors can one expect to be their “best” within their Season?
Sometimes, folks take best colours to mean that the entire palette will be their most striking colours. In the sense that the palette shows you the best colours to wear out of the field of every possible colour, this is true, but not necessarily that every colour will be equally amazing.
Is that just common sense? I’m not sure. I think people sometimes confuse the purpose of knowing their Season. But you did specify “within the Season”. You already appreciate that a Season is a whole system of colours that are grouped together because they are able to form strong relationships. This looks good to the viewer on conscious and subconscious levels.
Within a Season, I’m never sure of what ‘best colours’ means. Dividing up the answer:
a) I want to be sure that I’m answering the question that was intended. Please add to the comments if I don’t. How were the ‘best colours’ chosen?
By the analyst at the time of the draping, or some other way? Since the meaning is usually of colours that were great at the draping, I’ll speak in that context.
b) When the person who declared those colours your best leaves the room, are they still the best?
Depends who you ask.
The client? Which client? The one who wanted every Season except the one they are, or the one who already suspected their Season and loves every colour? The one who has had it in her head for 20 years that she can’t wear yellow because some aunt said something, way back when?
The client’s family? The least objective people possible, and probably the most invested in keeping the relationship exactly the way it has always been.
The client’s friend who came to the appointment? The one who wanted to be that Season herself, or the other friend who loves anything coral?
The analyst? Which analyst? The one who loves orange but seems to magnify it (me, who does not enjoy testing with orange), even if the client is a warm Season? The one who can feel colour viscerally and has tears running down her face for 8 out of 10 colours? The analyst who sees faces better than features, or the one who connects with features more than entire faces?
Christine? She would answer that, of the 20-25 drapes in each Season (counting Test and Luxury, more on that below), maybe 5 to 8 are breathtaking, but Christine also has preferences, aversions, and idiosyncrasies particular to her experiences.
Welcome to the wild and wonderful world of working with humans, not machines. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
c) When the person who declared those colours your best saw you in roughly 1-5 examples of each hue family, and only met you an hour ago, are they the final word on your best?
Keep in mind that in any Season’s set of Test Drapes, the client is only seen in 1 version of each of 6 colours in the drapes that she has. Every set has 1 of each white, yellow, green, blue, and red.
Test Drapes are not selected to be the most beautiful colours that the Seasons can wear. Although many are gorgeous, their purpose is to represent the Season’s colour dimensions for that hue as exclusively as possible related to the stage of the analysis process in which they will be used (meaning, what is the purpose of the drape, what will it be compared to, and what is the decision that we are trying to make at that point in the analysis.)
Everything is a balance. We want the Test Drapes to be very beautiful on most clients who wear them. Suppose that the analyst sees many Bright Winters, and that many of them happen to test better in True Winter than Bright Spring. The analyst will request that her Bright Winter colours be a tiny bit cool, especially for colours that Winters don’t always wear easily in large blocks, such as yellow. So now the Bright Winters love their yellow. The other side of the see-saw is that it is technically more difficult to separate the 3 Winters than it is to separate a Bright Winter from a Bright Spring. If the Bright Winter drape colours are close to True Winter, the analyst’s job has now become more difficult. Of course, there are 6 drapes in each set so it will never be a single drape tiebreaker decision. I’m just pointing out that there are no simple decisions. There are many angles for every choice to consider.
Test Drapes colours are not identical between analysts. Neither are they calibrated to be at the exact center of every Season; they span the range of the Season. Even if all 6 colours were right in the middle of the Season, every client won’t be so there is no point in putting energy into that. The consumer’s experience will not improve as much as it could be by directing attention into other areas.
Even if I wanted to achieve it, fabric availability where I live at the present time does not permit exact mid-Season drapes or identical drape sets. I once thought I wanted that, now filed under God’s Greatest Gifts (Are Unanswered Prayers). Even if every colour were identical from set to set, analyst to analyst, and year to year, the fact will remain that every analyst would not read them the same way, so there is no value in creating that. The consumer’s experience will not improve…
Using identical fabrics over and over means that new, more beautiful, more evocative, better calibrated, and challenging colours could not be brought in. The reason we know about texture, shine, Season parameters, and so many other things, is because we kept bringing in new colours. The rewards of this expansion have been so great that we are not about to stop. When Terry and I shop for fabrics, we are always on the lookout for the better and best colours. Terry Wildfong is my highly respected colleague and trainer in the USA.
Many colour analysts own Test Drapes only, which is perfectly fine but will limit how many colour variations she and the client will see. If we add the Luxury drapes, the client has now been seen in more colours, say 3 to 5 of each colour family. Is that enough exposure to decide what best is? What if the set didn’t have the lightest, or the coolest, or that client’s very best green?
Sometimes Season is a tough call and we’ll include the Luxury Drapes in the final decision, looking for the most complete and effective wardrobe and most harmonizing colours with the natural unaltered appearance. The decision among the people in the room is usually unanimous. However, I seldom notice consensus on which are the best individual colours or best combinations. So that’s interesting.
- How important is it to always wear my best colours?
It makes a huge difference to always wear your Season, or as close as you can, if that’s what ‘best colours’ means.
It is not important in the slightest to wear a narrowed version of our Season palette. Do we only listen to our 10 favourite songs or eat our 10 favourite foods? Or is the world richer, better, more complex and fantastic because we have the contrast of variety?
Season is a place to explore the fullness and complexity of self-expression, and the many possible faces of individuality. Who wants to see the people they know wearing their fabulous colours all the time? Like an overplayed song, they don’t seem so fabulous after a while. A language with 10 words is incapable of nearly what a 60-word dictionary can express.
Wearing only the best of the best looks boring to me, like presenting a quarter of a person. The reality of humans is of contrasts between our light and our shadow, and a million other things. Showing only our light is a little boring, unconvincing, repetitive, and artificial. There is so much more to a warm, breathing, learning, trying, growing, feeling, and sensing human being.
Wearing only our so-called best may transfer too much power to the opinions of others. Maybe it would be better to ask, “In which colours do I feel best?” Speaking only for myself, I pay attention to being exactly the same person whether I can (figuratively) hear applause or not. Otherwise, I cannot know who I am. Perceiving ourselves through the eyes of others has tremendous value. It changed my life story. Like everything, it needs to be balanced or it becomes difficult to trust our own voice, and eventually, to hear it at all. Other people’s voices can be quite insistent.
I appreciate that trusting one’s own voice takes time but try to move towards it. You will attain a level of freedom, self-reliance, and release from the opinions of others that will be worth the effort. In the end, the person with the final word on your best colours will be you. Your PCA is a form on introduction to that person.
- Is it better to think some colors will be phenomenal, others mostly passable?
Given the inherent variability in the meaning of phenomenal and passable (see #2 above), yes, some colours are phenomenal. The rare colour is that way on almost every person in a Season.
Other phenoms relate to individual pigmentation, as one example. Coppery carrot on Bright Springs with those colours in the hair and eyes is as silencing as truth always is, and not so much on Bright Springs based on a pink and blue or yellow and turquoise pattern.
Gray might be less exciting on some Season or persons than others, but every world needs its support structures. Even a rainforest has brown, gray, white, beige, and so on. How believable would a world without foundations be? Who would trust it?
Everyone should wear every colour in his or her palette. They might not wear them the same way, which the analyst helps each client sort out at the time of the appointment. The client also decides where they feel best expressed. Some want a closet of 6 colours, some 60. The client needs time to choose where they feel best, which is not something the colour analyst might ever know. The beautiful thing about Season is that every choice is right, and oh boy, does that free up a lot of time and money.
- This in mind, could it be generally a good idea to buy sister season fans? Or to buy fans by other companies in addition to TCA? Or buy corporate?
Sent from my iPhone
The more ways we see something, the better we understand it.
The more ways we see how someone else sees or does something, the better we understand how we wish to see or do it.
9. Does makeup choice lean warm or cool?
Yes, in many women, it does. None of this post refers to makeup, which is influenced by many other factors than clothing. Its application directly next to the over- and undertones of the face, skin chemistry, reactions with nuance of particular skin and eye colours and foundation, and inherent pigmentation of lips and skin are some of them.
If lipstick turns orange, one possibility is that the person is a cooler Season, but I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. They might be a little cooler inside the same Season. Makeup takes some experimenting. Makeup lists are extensive enough that women can try a few choices and find their level. Some will wear the full range of warm and cool colours inside the Season, but not usually with the same flexibility or flattery as with clothing.
Warm and cool options refers to Neutral Seasons (those between 2 True Seasons). The final decision depends on how the woman wants to appear, clothing, occasion, and so on. Her decision is also influenced by how she is accustomed to seeing herself. It takes time to see ourselves in a new way.
For True Seasons, who are fully cool or warm, the decision often comes down to the lightness or darkness of the cosmetic choice. Again, every woman will play with a few options as she assembles her cosmetic wardrobe.
10. Is it possible to be a pink-skinned DW? Does every season have pink-overtone and yellow-overtone persons?
Every Season has various presentations. In the same way that most every Season can have a version of many eye and hair colours, so can they have various skin tones.
Human colouring is often balanced on the surface, especially in the Neutral Seasons, though we are all coloured in equilibrium. A Light Spring with warm yellow green eyes will have pinker skin or more ash hair. Or at least the skin and hair look cooler, remembering that we are seeing them compared to those eyes. If the eyes suddenly switched to blue, the very same skin might seem warmer to us.
There was a question about whether hazel eyes could appear in any Season. Depends on what you call hazel, but if you mean greenish brown, then yes, though far more in some groups than others. My ideas of hazel doesn’t commonly appear in the True cool Seasons or on the Spring side, but I would never exclude any Season possibility based on that. In Light or True Summer, I’d be checking and rechecking, but in both, I can think of clients whose eyes might be called hazel. Light Spring looks more green-yellow than green-brown.
Some schools believe that the balance in our colours, whether warm and cool colours or complements depending on the words we want to use, happens between the overtone and undertone. I don’t know if that’s true because I have seen no data. Theories about how things appear or should be are not usually how they are.
I have no idea if undertone is located in a discrete biological layer, or whether people have different colours of hemoglobin, or whatever it may be. Although I don’t believe either of these is correct, and have my own theory (which I will keep private), we don’t need to know. The improvement in people’s presentation is staggering without this knowledge.
It doesn’t matter about some things. You can think an industry should have itself down to one right answer, until you think of your own profession. As an insider, you know that there are questions. This is normal and will always be so. Yet, your industry does lots of good. Medicine doesn’t have all the answers but few among us would wish it to disappear from our lives
One right answer to how to wear a Season sounds great except that the reality of it would be dry and alienate or exclude too many people. I believe that any problem can have many excellent solutions. Give an artist a paint palette with your 60 colours; a new painting every day for years to come. One Right Answer gets in the way of the fabulous possibilities that are waiting for us.
Wear your whole Season. Wear some of the neighbour Season if it makes sense for you. Breathe freely. Shopping Hell is almost at an end.