The Blueness of True Summer and A 1-2-3 Idea

Until I accepted how blue True Summer colouring is, finding lip and blush colours was never very successful. Once I got my head around, “Oh, that much blue!!” the colours that look like rose petals next to that skin started showing up.

The True Summers already knew about it in clothing, since 7 in 10 items in their closet were blue. For cosmetics, they learned along with me, previously veering off towards choices that were too warm out of habit, ending up with mud cheeks instead of petals.

Above, from the Blueprints cosmetics line. I’ve been loving Flash Bulb for True Summer, a sheer blue-violet as you can see. True Summer wears blue-violet like they were born for it. Indeed they were, just as True Winter was born to wear red and red-violet. Life is easier when we do what we were born to do.  Flash Bulb is divine on its own, very rose petal pink-red, not blue lips at all. It almost disappears and puts a completely comfortable and belonging mouth on the face. Centre Stage is good but a bit light for some, to my taste. It’s also a little dry which is good because it stays for hours and doesn’t move. A touch of Flash Bulb over the top and the result is SO divine in appearance and wearability. I want lipstick till noon.  Same idea with the blushes on the left. I love Watered Silk but love it more swirled with Blue Fuchsia. Angel Wings is there as another comparison, a colour any Summer could use depending on her pigmentation, what she might be mixing with, etc.    Although many lipsticks turn blue on me inside my Dark Winter home base, I always thought Revlon Crush shouldn’t. I had a brainwave that it might be better for True Summer but as you see (lower right corner) it is probably too red, clear, and dominating to a whole True Summer face. I am a Darkness-Warmth-Saturation type of Dark Winter. I still use the 100% total entire palette for clothes, plus Dark Autumn and True Winter depending on the item, and the warm or neutral parts of Dark Winter in cosmetics. Read on, I hope it will tie together :)

The next part is procedural. As a client, you don’t have to read or know one word of it. Some readers enjoy it but as a person who just wants to know how to dress your one self, this information can make your use of PCA sound much more complex than it is. Your one colouring is oh-so-easy to shop for, way easier than the whole entire mall where you shop now if you don’t know your Season.

For those who like technical detail, here we go.

In light of The Undoing Project, the latest book by admired writer Michael Lewis, I’ve been reading about the field of behavioural economics, Wiki here. It has to do with how humans make decisions in situations of risk. Heuristics and framing are a trap in PCA decisions just like financial ones.

As an example, I find stereotypic appearance almost dangerous when it comes to identifying Season. The concept is Caucasian-based and too incomplete considering the variability in human colouring. Among many, one other problem is that relying on stereotypes, like relying too much on theory, assumes that we understand all there is to know about human colouring, which I don’t believe we do. I believe that the system should have space reserved for individuality on many levels.

Where stereotypic appearance is more useful might be in judging which of the cosmetic possibilities inside a Season are likely to look best. This is especially true if you’re a Neutral Season. An Autumn-looking Soft Summer generally does better in the warmer choices, and a Summer-looking one in the cooler cosmetic colours.

It applies for True Seasons too. Blue-eyed True Winters tend to look lovely in fuchsia cosmetic choices. Those with black-brown eyes and hair do well in reds, but this is variable depending in part on how olive or alabaster the skin colours are. With a blonde haired blue-eyed True Summer, I would try cool corals and lighter pastels from her palette first, before handing her True Summer’s darker options. Those darker options would be next to go on though because you can’t predict how makeup will work till you put it on the face and look. Any cosmetic could work in several Seasons, especially if it is sheer, or neutral coloured in the case of eyeshadows.

This selection process is for cosmetics only. They are painted right on the face. The proximity to native pigments in the skin makes colour reactions more apparent. They will be seen against a background of various complexions, next to various eye and hair colours. People get too plugged into the cooler and warmer side of their Season in attire, which is not to their advantage. My advice is to wear every colour in clothing but adjust how you wear it based on your draping reactions, personal taste, image archetype, and the garment or item itself.

The idea of leaning warm or cool in one’s Season might be an impression from the PCA. The number of drapes you see yourself in at the analysis is too limited to arrive at these blanket statements. Even if the analyst has the beautiful Luxury drapes, she will only have a few drapes to represent any given colour. As a technical impression, it may hold some truth. As a practical guide, it is too restricting for clothing but holds some truth for makeup. My advice is to stay very open-minded about incorporating all palette colours into wardrobe, and try all sorts of makeup in your Season and some other Seasons too before accepting or rejecting anything.

The top is Lavender gloss from the Blueprints line. I love this colour for its blueness,  its orchid colour that works nicely on Winters too who want to tone down certain lipsticks, and that it has this toothpaste quality that is so good on True Summer. Chalky colour really suits them. On its own, it is more pale and muted (grey) than my idea of a healthy mouth and face but you will (and should) have your own ideas. The gloss with Centre Stage is superb and stunning and magnificent  The blue eyeshadow is the accent colour for this Season, an excellent blue that is not too dark, equally (barely) greenish and reddish, and never competes with the natural blue of the eye. Let your eyes feast on the pink and blue next to each other. Feels good, ay?

Coming back to the importance of individuality within Season, and hoping not to confuse readers, personal expression can swing too far. Boundaries can be helpful to keep us from tipping off the edge. The Season palette is a starting point that is true. From there, you can make as many paintings as an artist could if handed that selection of paints.

I fully appreciate that in our strengths lies our weakness. That’s just how the world works though I seriously wish it weren’t so. Some might say that Seasons, or 12 Seasons, are too simplified given all the possible translations. Sure, they are. But in simplicity lies truth. In complexity, truth can be lost in detail. Given the choices of systems, I pick the one with the true starting place from which to create. I will use that as a trusted baseline for the decorations I will add. The question then becomes how to play safely in the everyday traffic of getting dressed well.

Although a person is only one Season in their colouring, we can still wear colours from other palettes, often two or three of them that are not necessarily neighbours. Various analysts have blogged about this so I won’t here, except to say that we could ‘lean’ into two or three Seasons, at which point this language has become counter-productive because the Season borders get blurred. We might lean into certain colours but not entire Seasons. We seem to need a new way of thinking about it.

I tipped the paper to give a different view. I was trying to show this sweetest pink-violet reflectivity in the navy, very lovely with the undertone of a similar colour in this woman’s natural colouring. You’re not missing anything, the camera is  not picking it up. Oh, photography.

A measure of a PCA’s system success is how well its clients use the information to empower better shopping and wardrobe decisions. I have been wondering if a better way to describe individuality within Season is with a 1-2-3 concept. When I think of Seasons, I actually am thinking of colour dimensions (hue, value, chroma) primarily. Our analysts are taught how to think in those terms as well. Ideas like this one come from conversations among our whole community. Everyone brings their own genius to the table. Good things happen. I am grateful for it. I am also grateful for all the other PCA companies whose way of seeing things instructs us. Others have recognized very similar effects to this 1-2-3 concept. Our differences might just be in how the information is framed and implemented by the analysts and the clients. As Amanda Roberts, our analyst in California, summed it up:

The concept is really about very slight differences in how people might use the palette. Maybe just, this lipstick a shade lighter than this one is a bit better for this woman with lighter hair than this one with darker hair in the same season. But who knows, it could be the opposite, and we don’t really even know until we try.

Inside a given Season, let’s say Bright Spring, everyone has clarity of colour (high saturation) as the colour dimension that is set way high on the dial, the dimension that really wants to be satisfied for them to look best. The other two dimensions (light/dark or value, and warm/cool or hue) are nearer the medium setting and more tolerant of fluctuation. Of those two medium dimensions, one can be more important in some members of the Season and the other with other members.

Let me break that down some more. First, as we know, Bright Springs need clarity. Clarity of colour defines and unites their colour harmony more than any other aspect of colour. That group of people stands up.

Of those standing, one person might have value (as lightness, because Spring is light, bright, and warm) as a bigger deal than hue (as warm or cool) in their use of the palette. They are still Bright Spring. The more colour chroma they wear, the better they look. Their workshop is the same palette as any other Bright Spring. On the workbench (inside the palette), they have more tolerance when colour is light. They might bear resemblance to Light Summers or True Springs. The warm to cool span of the palette is not an issue, no detracting optical effects of any sort occur, as long as colour is #1: high saturation, and #2: light in value. Her dimension order might go Sat-Value-Hue as her personal 1-2-3. She can wear the lighter warm corals and cool light blue-greens equally well. Once colour gets to the darker end, she might do better in warm or cool. She might be fine in dark warm green-blue but dark cool true blue might be severe. She will have both in her closet but only one as a turtleneck.

Another of the standing up people is a Bright Spring who might go sat-hue-value. As long as colour is warm, he has wide flexibility in lightness or darkness. He can wear yellow green and the darker orange and warm green just fine. Once colour is cool, he may do better in light or dark, always inside the Bright Spring palette. M&Ms blue might be great but the darker cooler blue may be better as pants than a winter coat.

Our analysts are clear on how to assess this level of detail, although we discuss it as customizing palettes for individual clients. We want to avoid losing folks in technicality that doesn’t serve them or watching our clients narrow down their palettes based on too little data and reject colours they should totally be wearing.

An example from another Season:

One Soft Summers’s parameters are Sat-Value-Hue. Summer is generally soft, light, and cool, and the 1-2-3 draw from those. I can’t think of a Soft Summer (or a Bright Spring from the previous example) who has wider latitude in darks than lights, but they probably exist.

Low colour saturation is the foremost thing that establishes a relationship between her colours, allowing them to interact in ensembles. The second thing for this woman is to be lighter side in the Season. Colour can go as warm or cool as it likes in this second building block as long as it is not from the darkest swatches of her palette. Once colour hovers near the dark extreme, she might do the dark burgundy but not the dark blue-purple.

Other Soft Summers are Sat-Hue-Value. First thing needed for their colours to communicate with one another and to the world is to be soft. The next block narrows down all the Soft Summer colours to recognize that as long as they are from the warm to neutral swatches of this cool-neutral palette, they can wear any lightness to darkness level with no issue. Once they get distinctly cooler in the cool-neutral palette, they might not want to buy a turtleneck or lipstick in some of the darker or lighter colours, depending on their unique colour reactivity, but they for sure ought to seek out those colours in prints and accessories. Everything talks to everything else without having to be equal sized or in the same location.

Do some people have a 1-2-2 reading? Yes, where 2 is either relaxed in both dimensions or more rigid in both dimensions.

I’d like to repeat what Amanda said about slight differences. The jumps are not big between these variations of a Season, not even in cosmetics.

I hope that I haven’t confused everybody. These are just my impressions. It’s ok to disagree. Different perspectives enrich us, much preferred to a monoculture of the mind as someone said so eloquently (and whom I would gladly credit but have forgotten where I heard it). There is plenty of room for many definitions of beauty. We love hearing how the world looks through your eyes.

Picture break from my daughter in New Zealand, a country that appears to have nothing wrong with it except that cherries are $32 a pound.

Skip this next part if you’re not into the technical stuff. To confuse things with jargon a little bit more, I’d like to separate the idea of contrast from the 1-2-3. To keep these ideas together on this site, I will put that section here. From the new edition of the analyst training manual:

You may hear or read about people being dominant in value contrast or colour contrast. The sentence can be divided in two parts. In the first part, I am not a follower of the dominant and secondary terminology in PCA because it implies that we can know the order of importance of a person’s 3 colour dimensions by looking at them. Humans are not visually or mentally set up to get the right answer often enough, my own opinion. We are not good at predicting inherent and most harmonious value and colour contrast by looking at someone.

In the second part, the ideas of value and colour contrast do apply. Value contrast means light-dark separation. Winters have higher value contrast. Colour contrast means how far apart are colours around the colour wheel, and from there, how close to complementary do colour pairs become in attire.

IMO, warmer Seasons look better in higher colour contrast. It expresses visual energy. They are more colourful to look at. Springs have higher apparent colour contrast and/or wear it better. Autumns can wear both value and colour contrast at a higher level, meaning colours are further apart on the value scale and around the colour wheel. Summers have both or neither at a lower level, meaning closer together on the value scale and in more adjacent locations around the colour wheel (analogous) instead of opposite (complementary).

If these were rules, people would look the same every day. Within any Season, repeating how we appear is a good idea but may be overplayed by clients to the point that they extinguish too much individuality and interest from their appearance. They do better when they use their entire palette in various ways. My point is that we cannot know which type of contrast is dominant by looking at someone. Know their Season first, and then play with value and colour contrast. These are real enough but they come after knowing the Season by testing.

The 1-2-3 idea applies in any Season. The most important dimension is whatever the Season is and takes the #1 position. Of the other two dimensions that are set nearer the middle, one might matter more to any given individual. You could have Winters, Autumns, Summers, and Springs all of whom share value in the 2 position (except the Lights and Darks where it’s #1), but who would not wear value or colour contrast the same way.

London, Ontario just got about 8 inches of snow. As I contemplate how much I care about living in Canada, I leave you with another picture of New Zealand, a most incredible country.






10 thoughts on “The Blueness of True Summer and A 1-2-3 Idea”

  1. A most interesting albeit complex post. I do believe I’ll need to read it a few more times, but it will be well worth it. I completely agree that we should exercise our individuality within our palettes.

  2. I had just started thinking along these lines myself–that a person might have not just The Most Important Thing but also The Second-most Important Thing. When I had my PCA a year ago, my analyst and I didn’t talk very explicitly about where and how I could “bend the rules,” but as I have explored my palette I think I am getting a sense of which boundaries “lean” in which direction, and I agree that they don’t converge on a “second-best season.”

    I am a Soft Summer, and your examples have reminded me that I am curious about something: How often does it happen that a Soft Summer, in the very first comparison out of the gate, looks “more employable, more date-able, more expensive” in Winter’s black than in Summer’s silver? Not great (tired, maybe had a hard day, but at least present for the discussion), but definitely better than silver (two-dimensional and zoning out; not paying attention). I’m hoping your answer will help me gain insight into my intuitions about how darkness and value contrast pertain to me and influence my personal interpretation of Soft Summer.

  3. Sarah! How smart are you?! You just took the point of all my talking and put it into two perfect paragraphs. Your thinking was mine exactly. The second best Season concept was not successful enough in that practice didn’t validate or confirm it, and the public’s understanding and implementation were too broad.
    With our clients, our analysts and I are specific about customizing their home Season. In my own experience, I observed myself speaking around the idea of a second best dimension (or TMIT2; I don’t use TMIT any longer, I didn’t explain it well enough back then and there were complaints; but anyone can sure feel free to use the expression). It came from practice, not theory, so it felt more sound. Plausible theory is all fine and everything but history teaches us not to link it too tightly to reality without evidence. I think it will apply to many people, although nothing applies equally to every member of every Season. Humans are unique and complex, though we still share a great many things.

    And again, brilliant about the SSu black question. You’re a good problem-solver. Should you ever want a new career, call me :) You are quite right that many SSu are quite passable in black, maybe about even with Silver. It depends on the analyst’s drapes to a large extent…how blue is the black and how shiny? How dark is the silver and how shiny? I ask about the shine because Softs sometimes don’t wear it easily, maybe more SA than SSu, and more true of cosmetics than clothing. But yes, SSu certainly needs lower value than TSu and they find it in black if that’s the only other colour on offer.

  4. Very good post. Makes perfect sense. I like the tech stuff a lot – it makes me understand my own particular branch on the tree better. :-)

  5. Just wanted to say I enjoy the beautiful imagery and lovely colours in this article, with the “rose petals” and all :), even if the colours are far from mine, and the tech stuff is very complicated for me (not a technical person in the slightest) ;)

  6. This hits the mark! I have observed that I can tolerate much warmer and cooler colors as long as they are dark. (Most probably I am a bright winter). I own a perfect elegant long gown in dark rich oxblood red which is on the edge between dark winter and dark autumn. I love wearing it in the evening and I look quite imposing.

    And it is maddeningly complicated to find lighter shades because just a little bit too cool or to warm is a mess. Dont’you dare speak of lighter gray, taupe, blue or pink… ;-))) Here I would love to have a PCA to learn my personal possible range.

    There is an advantage, because in real live I get away quite well with the darker colors and neutrals of all winters :-) .

  7. Ricarda, from what you said, “I have observed that I can tolerate much warmer and cooler colors as long as they are dark”, it does sound a bit like your TMIT could actually be darkness, so you could actually be a Dark something (Winter or Autumn)…?

    I don’t mean at all to question the result you’ve arrived to fro yourself (BW), but just to throw an idea out there. :)

  8. Melina, yes, I still consider dark winter and autumn and even cool winter.

    I have compared and tested a lot (as far as possible for me without a correct draping). The experience is: Yes, I can quite well borrow some dark (darker than bw) saturated colors, expecially in the red, teal and blue spectrum. And the dark grey-based neutrals are ok. But I see the limits. Browns or brownish shades are very aging. Even the lighter and pinker shades of dw give me a cover like olive oil, like a tan. That is nice with my blonde hair but fake and flattening on my skin and bone structure. On the lighter spectrum of dw only the brightets and coolest dw shades are ok and not more than a little bit boring an me.

    On the other hand there are these really pure and bright red shades (cooler and warmer) that only bw (and bs) have. And these are totally normal and fresh on me. When I have a bad hair day I wear my brightest red-coral or red-pink scarfes or sweaters to look healty and alive. And the best ist the combination of bright pinkish red and bright coralish-red :-) This cannot be dark, isn’t that so? The same with this freakish bright lime green, the shiner the fabric the better.

    I would really love to have a 12bp PCA to conform or to learn my self-deceit – I will do as soon I have the opportunity somewhere near me in Europe. Until that day I continue on my own.
    My latest purchase is the PrismXII Pocket Guide Booklett with all 12 seaons. It is a very nice overview – and I am a bit confused. The seasons (at least the winters) seem cooler to me compared to the TCI fans I own. To my eyes the PrismXII BW seems to contain mostly the cool choices and some of the warmer choices are at home in BS. Instead of the golds I see the very green lemon yellows. And so on. Maybe this is what Christine sometimes writes, that the Seasons can be composed in differnt ways and in itself very coherent?

  9. Ricarda, yes, it does sound you are most likely a BW ;-)
    Though the darkness thing is something to consider too, as it doesn’t usually matter to Bright seasons much (from what I’ve understood, at least).

    And thanks for the tip about the PrismXII Pocket guide booklet! (I’d never heard of that site before.) I don’t own any actual fan yet, due to the high cost of good quality ones, so having all seasons in one concise booklet for a reasonable price is something to consider :-) Although it seems to me, too, that some of their colors are slightly different from the ones used here and other Sci/Art online sources…

  10. Thank you for this article , it’s spot on! I’m True Summer (blue-eyed and blond haired). My TMIT is coolnes, and my 2MIT is mid-range-ness :). I don’t have to be so carefull with my swatch-checking if the item in question is tad muted, not too light and not too dark, about the darkest colors on TS swatch. Some TW, DW and SSu colors in this “middle range ” are weareble for me.
    Put me in light color and it has to be spot on. I look dirty and splotchy in light color that’s even a bit too warm. I disappear in True Winter light colors, even the ones that are so very close to mine! I look like fake-tanned blob far, far away, :)

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