True colours: finding your own style

Hands up if you’ve ever had your ‘colours done’? Or at least feel you need to?

True colours

For those of you unsure about what I mean, let me explain. In the 80s colour analysis became a popular styling theory when Carole Jackson first published her book ‘Colour Me Beautiful’. According to Jackson, our skin tone determines what colours suit us best, and we all fall into one of four hue groups: spring, summer, autumn or winter.

It’s a theory I still see many stylists adopting today, and in particular I meet women over 50 who feel it’s vital. I can see why it is still so popular. Having a set of colours to stick to when shopping boosts confidence, and helps you feel reassured.

But equally it can be restrictive. I’ve met a lot of women who adore an item of clothing in a certain colour, but sadly tell themselves they can’t wear it because it doesn’t fall into their allocated pallet.

So is colour analysis all it’s chalked up to be?

First it’s worth understanding that there is no psychology of colour. Every shade looks different based on its saturation, illumination and hue. So in one environment a colour may look great on you, but in another it may not.

You may remember that white/gold or blue/black dress debate that went viral back in 2015. The dress turned out to be blue/black, but why were so many people wrong? Studies since found it all depended upon what lighting the viewer perceived the photograph was taken in. Those who thought the dress was photographed in artificial indoor light saw it as blue and black, while those who thought it was taken in natural light saw white and gold. So we see colours differently based on context.

With this in mind, colour analysis is a bit of a myth. There’s no one set of colours that perfectly suit you, and many stylists now advocate a different approach. I asked one of the fashion industry’s most revered stylists, Claire Ginzler (who’s Prue Leith’s stylist), if she ever uses colour charts. She said: “Personally I’ve never done the colour thing. If you’re doing personal styling, you can do a lot of courses, but the main thing is about understanding your client.”

Because the true power of colour is how it makes the wearer feel.

That said, you don’t have to abandon colour analysis if you don’t want to. If being told certain colours work on you actually makes you feel better when you wear them, then there’s certainly value to it. It can give an unconfident shopper foundations from where they can develop their sense of style. But what’s important is remembering that you don’t have to abide strictly by your chart, and equally that a certain hue that you’re told should work maybe doesn’t.

So it’s time to look at ‘colour analysis’ differently. It can provide you with guidelines, but it’s definitely not a necessity to getting it ‘right’ style wise.

And next time a colour catches your eye, you shouldn’t reject it just because it doesn’t fit within your chart or perceived view of what suits you. Instead, consider how wearing it will make you feel. Because that’s what wearing the right colours is really all about.

Jacynth Bassett

About Jacynth Bassett

I'm the founder of the-Bias-Cut - Shopping With Attitude Where Ageism Is Never In Style. Swiftly becoming recognised as one of the UK’s leading pioneers of style at every age, I have written on the topic for The Guardian online, The Huffington Post and have contributed to an internationally published book. I also regularly speak on panels and podcasts, am a ViewVo accredited business mentor, and the weekly ‘Style Advisor’ for The Menopause Room. In my spare time, I love to dance, specialising in hip-hop, and to dine out with family and friends.