A while ago, I typed myself as a Winter. Amazingly useful as this knowledge has been, it’s obvious to me that there’s more to optimising colour effects than simply knowing whether they suit you in theory. While working through my seasonal refresher, it finally became clear where this was heading. Please join me while I quack-science the hell out of a seemingly straightforward problem. Warning: it’s long.
Colouring: Winter - cool, medium to high contrast.
I’ve been wearing a Winter palette for a while and by now I can tell the difference. I definitely look better in these colours, and the down jacket in #1 finally cliched it for the Deep end of the spectrum. Bright but far from luminous, I can’t quite manage a zinging neon but this particular shade of citron is a surprising success. I had no idea.
My ultimate objective in identifying this colour family has been to work out how to hack it. Is it possible to wear colours that don’t suit me, and if so, how?
Outside the Winter palettes, there are indeed a few colours I probably shouldn’t be wearing, and yes, they make me look pretty grim in the wrong light, but it’s not as simple as that. It seems to me that interaction of different colours is every bit as important as the colours themselves. A lot depends on fabric texture, luminosity, and how they combine. For instance, the almost-neon orange of my favourite beanie works very well as an accent on high-contrast black and white looks, in spite of being warmer than perhaps is good for me.
Core Neutrals: Black, white, navy blue.
Secondary neutrals: charcoal, pale grey, purple, cognac
Brights: True red, shocking pink, icy pastels, metallic silver, cobalt, citron. Preferably cool, but anything at just the right level of intensity or saturation can do the trick. There seems to be a sweet spot.
Problem colours: Moss green, dark lime, olive, army green, beige, dark reds, salmon pink, taupe. Shades of grey are a problem - good at the ends of the spectrum, troublesome in the middle.
Styling Priorities: colour contrast and depth.
I’ve found that applying a few Kibbe principles alongside the colour theory can make a world of difference. I know exactly what this means aesthetically but I still can’t quite explain it without using words like yin and yang.
Kibbe type: Soft dramatic/flamboyant natural. Strong vertical lines and bold proportions are key.
Fabric Surface texture can have a huge impact. Outlines should be bold and well-defined.
Grooming: Hairstyle, eyewear and lip colour establish the overall aesthetic. The rest of the package had better match up.
With the exceptions in the first row, these outfits are all about wearing colours that I don’t believe particularly suit me but I’m committed to wearing anyway. Hence, you might think these are not some of my best looks. Please feel free to tell me so - that’s what this exercise is for.
1-5 High shine, bright accents
This approach feels the most authentic and the easiest to wear. Works very well as a day to day style. I like the combination of timeless classic and urban glam - Acid Sport, all grown up.
Difficulty level: easy
#2-3 The dark red and olive featured here are closer to the Autumn palette but they mix well with black when combined with different textures. Plush fleece and glossy leather add depth and shine.
#4-5 Black and white can easily become boring, so I’ve become more adventurous lately in mixing it up with different colours and textures. I’m particularly pleased with the sequin decals on this old +J jacket. 3D skinny knit from Uniqlo U, vintage white plissé skirt.
6-10 Depth, contrast, graphic details
A good reference point for my boho shadow style, this draws heavily from the Deep Autumn palette. I’m beginning to think I have two divergent wardrobes.
Difficulty level: medium
#6-7 Mr Edge chose this autumn-coloured wrap so I have to wear it. Luckily, there’s enough depth in the red and grey for it to work. Spot the difference: lip colour and high-contrast graphic details elevate the look.
#8 This self-made wax print dress was one of my favourite looks from the summer, but these really aren’t my colours. It works because of the strong vertical silhouette, bold proportions and the graphic precision the print.
#9 Same thing applies to the vintage Kenzo, which I adore. Timeless tailoring and an excellent fit go a long way to compensate for too-warm colours. Corrected with a layer of citron and a shiny black support act.
#10 This Vibskov grandpa cardigan is more complicated. The bold black trim give the warmer colours and marled texture a boost. The B/W print on the tee emphasises the vertical lines.
11-15 Taming soft colours with brightness and depth
A few particularly good pieces from the Summer palette found their way in and hung around. They seem well balanced by Spring brightness and Winter depth, but this theory needs work.
Difficulty level: advanced
#11 I’ve struggled with this vintage skirt from Dries van Noten in the past and now I understand why. I like it with this cerise blouse from Zara but will probably save this look for next spring, along with 12.
#12 This Pleats Please scarf is another of Mr Edge’s choices. I doubt I’d have picked these colours out for myself, but they’re just bright enough and they play nicely with both black and white. I’m still learning how to tie it.
#13 This striped jersey dress is another problem child. Across YLF eyebrows are being raised and heads shaken but let me tell you there’s some advanced colour theory going on here. I may come back to this look for research purposes.
#14-15 I love this jumper and I will wear it regardless, even crumpled from storage as seen here. Doubt if the necklace helps much but the soft colours fail reasonably gracefully thanks to the long silhouette and the metallic sheen in the skirt.
That’s I’m telling myself anyway, because when all else fails I will suck it up. I’ll probably wear this over Christmas, to overeat and be cozy.
SCA is consistent with my knowledge of other theories of colour and it seems to hold up in practice. However, it’s not an exact science and there’s plenty of room for manoeuvre. I love the brightness, depth and contrast of the Winter palettes and they seem to like me too. I’m not getting any younger and I think optimising the colours will be a great way to keep the look going. If I want to make the most of a range of colours I’ll need to master some of the above principles. Hair, eyewear and lip colour are key to this, the rest can follow along.
I’m sorry I’ve been away so long. I’ve had some health problems this summer and spent way too much of it in my pyjamas. In my defence, they were very nice pyjamas, but not really worth talking about on a fashion forum.
Hence I’ve been caught somewhat on the back foot by the changing weather. I usually enjoy dressing for the transitional season, but there’s always a week or so when I don’t quite know what to reach for, even more so when I haven’t been getting out much. This is when I have to trust my instincts, falling back on some established formulae as well as testing out some new styles.
The budget had a hammering earlier in the year (prescription sunglasses and a new handbag) so not much room to splurge but I did manage to add a few inexpensive essentials and I’m finding new ways with existing items and a slightly different hairstyle.
So here’s a preview of the new direction, which doesn’t stray terribly far from the old one, but it’s feeling sharper in some areas, softer and more refined in others, but still quite unfinished in places.
Old favourites: mannish looks
Random thought: Suz and skylurker both mentioned elsewhere that dressy menswear felt more “feminine” to them. I feel the opposite - these two looks are a case in point. Interesting how that plays out.
1. An old blazer from Jil Sander +J for Uniqlo, still my high water mark for mass market designer collaborations. It’s a great fit but the mossy green is not my best colour. I’m liking this year’s embellishment trends so I added some sequin appliqué. As for the outfit, I loved it on the day, but looking at it now I’m cringing at such an obvious throwback. This is pure 1980’s Camden Town, and I know this because I was there. I’m regressing, clearly.
2. I love this grandpa cardigan from Henrik Vibskov. I’ve had it ages and it’s impossible to style without looking sloppy but I don’t care. It’s reasonably flop-proof over a black and white printed tee, but I don’t think I’ve ever done better than Edvard Munch.
New acquisitions: lady looks.
Random thought: last year’s Style Lab exercises helped me focus more sharply on what my closet really needs, and how to shop for updates. The skirt in particular is a great addition, because it’s got me reaching for my other skirts too. I fully expect to wear skirts more this winter.
3. I went for a skirt and bag from the JW Anderson + Uniqlo collection. Both are pulling their weight, both are great for the price, (as good as +J? Dunno.) Here with last year’s boots and a leather/wool sweatshirt I made ages ago.
4. This black scuba knit tee with pastel shoulder insets from &OtherStories is one of the most useful things I’ve bought this year. Great for my body shape, goes with everything. I wish I’d bought two of them. The skirt, boots and fleece (Uniqlo again, haha! Are you seeing a pattern here?) have been around a while.
Vintage treasures: my boho shadow
Random thought: this is my personal danger zone. The risk of keeping a large wardrobe as a working resource is that it can very easily turn into a museum. I have some outstanding pieces here which I love dearly but are irrelevant as fashion items in any given year. My instinct is always to hold onto them until the moment they’re wearable again, but I can’t always wait for that to arrive.
5. I love this ’80’s vintage Kenzo jacket and I’ve worn it quite a lot. This is a prototype look for the coming season, layered over a lightweight down jacket. I’d like to wear it again this year but probably not like this. I think I can make it work one way or another. Maybe with a full midi skirt?
6. Granny takes a trip indeed, I had a major Westwood moment in my pyjama bottoms (see if you can guess where I bought them) with the pirate boots and Anglomania blouse. Two more pieces I love and enjoyed in the moment but should probably bench for now.
What are your thoughts? Your honest feedback is most appreciated.