Chaos Clinic I: What I learned from wearing the “wrong” colors

My appearance has changed. My figure is changeable. I have a closet full of lovely clothes which I am not coordinating to any great advantage, because I am not at all sure how I want to look at this moment in life. I am in the midst of an enormous experiment, exploring colours and archetypes, sorting out the requirements from the surplus.

Ask not what colors, ask only how to wear them. Seeing my natural hair colour after all this time is a revelation. Composition and proportion are vital, but contrast remains the most important thing.

Which Season Are You? Seasonal Color Analysis

Nominally Deep Winter, with some extra warmth. Not bright enough for Bright Winter, but not too dull either. I am neutral, neither warm nor cool. I can compare silver and gold side by side and honestly I cannot tell the difference. If there were such a thing as a Dark Spring, that would probably be me.

Here’s the kicker: there is a sweet spot. Colors do not need to be warm or cool. They only need to be sufficiently saturated, This means warmer colours can work as long as they’re bright enough.

#1-3: Proving the rule: Black with gold, plum, teal and a load of other colours I should not in theory be wearing. Shades of yellow can be made to play nicely, as long as they are well integrated. This felt bright and sunny for early Autumn. I could bookend with cognac creepers, but the black oxfords create an elongated silhouette.

#4: True red: not a problem. Vermilion, plum, cognac, coral, even bright orange can work in the right context. The problem was never that they were too warm. They were clashing with my hair.

#5-7 The converse of this is that desaturated “fashion” neutrals such as grey, beige or khaki need a lot of help. But they are not off limits. Here they are somewhat rescued by a dramatic silhouette, aided and abetted by a stripy shirt and a shiny necktie.

My last photo is a bit sloppy, but I put a hat on and felt very trendy about town.

The shrug is about ten years old, a rescue from one of my storage containers. I love how the shoulder detail looks under the quilted vest. Need a better photo of that. Still I crave a little more brightness. It could be a key player this winter if I can figure out some more colour hacks.

#8-10: Finally… a failure of colours. Navy blue is theoretically my best neutral. This waxed cotton jacket goes well enough with black and white, but with denim, not so much. I feel there is not quite enough contrast here, or perhaps the look is a little too classic. Proportions just about save it, along with the plaid cotton bomber layered underneath. Bonus hat pin.

Key learnings

  • Colour analysis is not an exact science (duh). 
  • I can safely reintegrate shades of red.
  • I can be confident wearing warmer brights.
  • I should proceed with caution around grey and other fashion neutrals.

This last is the most important, not least because I think it may account for quite a few orphans. I would like to rectify this, so grey with brights could be an objective this season. A nice way to liven up winter.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • unfrumped replied 1 year ago

    Oh I love all these.
    I understand some of your findings.
    My Colby is more cool than warm, so there are colors that look yuck near face, but I have learned that I prefer a certain depth or saturation in the medium range— too pale & I’m washed out, too bright & I'm overwhelmed, too dark etc. .
    The discussions on value- contrast & color- contrast are in line with what I have noticed myself.

  • Janet replied 1 year ago

    I *think* you and I have similar skin tone? I’m pale — more so than makeup artists and cosmetic salespeople think at first (they always start with a darker foundation and then realize, nope, this chick is pale!). With slightly rosy, slightly cool undertones but not terribly so. I can wear gold but just feel more myself in silver, especially with my undyed greying (sigh) hair. And I have less red in my skin now than I did pre-menopause. So I relate very much to the color mixing in patterns making certain warm colors easier to wear!

    I love the red on you and think you can more than safely bring it back into your dressing. Do you have much of it?

    And your hair has gotten so long! I like it! And much love for the bomber in 10.

  • approprio replied 1 year ago

    Unfrumped: there is always that sweet spot, isn’t there? I rather suspect these systems put too much emphasis on hue and depth, and not enough on contrast. But that could be my own bias speaking. 

    Janet: you could be right. Yes, I am quite pale, 02 neutral fair on the Clinique palette. I only wear more silver than gold because those are the interesting pieces in my price range, and I probably thought I was cool because the warmer colors tend to be softer when they appear in the shops. But looking back at the veritable rainbow that has worked its way through my closet, all shades of red have been there. A few of them are still around. Mainly the bright ones, I notice.  

    Thanks for the comment on the hair. Now that I am more used to it, I’m surprised how much I like it too. I am very fond of that bomber, a bit of an orphan that may yet come into its own. A natural partner for the jacket, if I can up the ante on the colour scheme. 

  • LJP replied 1 year ago

    Interesting. I do love your very long hair. It's a statement unto itself. - adding a touch of romance into your looks. And that shrug is pretty cool too. As to colour, I can see how you feel neutral in tone - the photos prove that.

  • CarolS replied 1 year ago

    All good learnings/observations and I get what you mean about the nuances of saturation level. Red looks fantastic on you.

    I love the idea of dark spring. :-)

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Ok, I am hung up on how fabulous your hats are. Now I need to go back and read the rest. :)  I do think you are onto something when it comes to colour saturation being relevant and maybe as important as warm vs. cool, at least for some complexions and colourings. 

  • LJP replied 1 year ago

    And yes to saturation level being as important as the colour itself. I’m similar to you in that I can swing both ways , so to speak , as long as makeup ( my personal way to make a , say , less flattering colour work ) and colour saturation are attended to .

  • slim cat replied 1 year ago

    Your fab hair is best accessory! Maybe for that reason I want to see all of it in #1-3 ( the hat there throws me off a bit - maybe it's just me ;) ).
    Love the red on you and checkered jacket with hat in #8-10.
    Outfit #5-7 is very stylishly complicated - fab!

  • Joy replied 1 year ago

    Yes, I was nodding along to your tale.  I am also neutral having some features of both warm and cool in my coloring and wearing both gold and silver metals..  I also need color saturation.   My worst colors are mostly cool...purples, teals, blues ,blue-reds.  So I go with warms but that does not always work with white hair.  No. professional color person has ever even been able to put me in a season.  I sympathize with your struggle.  It does not help that your body keeps changing either.  I have been in many color groups, the last was heathered colors.  Now I want more clear saturated colors.

  • rachylou replied 1 year ago

    Hair colour tremendously affects the colours one can wear… with green hair, I can wear warmer colours, lol… in any case, you do strike me as a winter, looking great in those clearer, bright saturated shades. Love the red and blues on you, and the one with the hit of yellow amongst the black. Your natural colour does give you a very different vibe… more San Francisco tbh, my neck of the woods, hehe ;)

  • Angie replied 1 year ago

    I like that you're experimenting, and figuring things out  :)

    Your hair is so long! WOW! Please send some over to me...

    LOVE you in reds and pinks! The warm browns WITH high contrast are smashing in #10 too. I like the bright white in the check that livens up the neutrals against your complexion. 

    100% agree with your clever learnings! Think you still wear navy well too. Add high contrast to the outfit. 

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    So, going back to your natural hair colour makes all the difference in terms of what colours work best -- for sure!

    When my hair was dyed red, I wore a lot more chocolate, green, purple, and they looked amazing. With my blonde hair, they were okay, but not as good. Now with silver hair, grey is a great neutral for me (it was just so-so before). 

    Also, whenever I look at those colour fans I laugh. There are ALWAYS some colours in the range that is supposedly mine that look downright awful on me. And some in the other fans that look amazing on me. In fact, the one time I got an analysis done the woman was picking and mixing and matching from various fans! All while telling me with a straight face I was a true summer. Which is fine, and accurate, as far as it goes. But it only goes -- that far. <shrug>

    I doubt if the navy is bad for you. I suspect it's more the outfit as a whole doesn't please you in some way, as you suggested. It's always a whole package, colours in relation to other colours and the wearer and to the textures and to the light...

  • Jenni NZ replied 1 year ago

    You had dyed red hair before, was that right? And maybe some rainbow colours at one time?- or I might be mixed up with some other Fabbers for that. You certainly have beautiful long brown hair now!
    And I am intrigued by how many storage containers you may have!
    Actually the outfit in 8-10 really appeals to me. Love the cap!

  • approprio replied 1 year ago

    Interesting stuff!

    Lisa, not much of a makeup person, but yes, a bright lip can go a long way! Much as a change in hair colour. 

    Slim cat, thanks! I think 5-7 is the one I will most likely repeat, since it will be easy to replicate with other colors. It feels very close to how I get dressed at the moment, also just the right combination of “trendy” and “different”

    CarolS, yes! Dark Spring is my color palette!

    Joy, oh my! Color analysis is not even an exact science. Obviously it is a dark art!

    Angie, are you quite sure?? Cuz I can pick some hair balls out of my tangle teaser if you want… :-P

    Just so we’re clear, I’ve no intention of giving up on navy. And I don’t think it would take much to give that last outfit the boost it needs. A bright base layer and colorful socks might be enough to swing it. 

    Suz, rachylou, intriguing how hair color changes the game, no? The natural colour opens up the brights in an unexpected way. On the other hand, I remember when I had blue hair, suddenly I looked amazing in brown…

  • Style Fan replied 1 year ago

    I love your long hair.  It adds so much to your look.  Dark Spring sounds perfect.  I have my doubts about Colour Analysis.  Some analysts have a good eye for seeing colours, but there is much else to consider.  

    I also wear silver because the pieces are more exciting and affordable, even though I have a warm skin tone.  I don't think it matters.

  • unfrumped replied 1 year ago

    Jumping back in with a random question that is not about colors.
    Have you seen the Dry Sweats from Uniqlo? They have a kind of vibe that makes me think of you. ( I am trying them myself!)

  • Sally replied 1 year ago

    I love the red top on you. Well all the colours suited you but the red stood out for me. You have a great collection of clothes and it’s a very exciting time determining your style based on changes. You also have a great collection of cross body bags.

  • Staysfit replied 1 year ago

    I love all these outfits and find your creative use of accessories fun and unique.  The hats, necklaces, shrugs, ties, etc. Your colors work.  I am not surprised that longer hair changes the palette that works for you.  Hair takes up a lot of real estate so it becomes a big part of your natural coloring and needs to be factored in….just like colors change a bit when we go grey.

  • replied 1 year ago

    The deeper colors definitely work, but the red is especially good. Love your creativity!
    Yep, haircolor definitely changes the palette. I was able to wear brighter colors with redder or lighter brown hair. Wasn't sure if I was a Spring or Fall because of that as a teen. With dark brown hair I have to stay in my Dark Autumn palette. Lots more neutrals, and medium dark combinations.

  • approprio replied 1 year ago

    Jenni NZ: I have a couple of large plastic boxes containing mostly benched items. Maintaining some variety gives me freedom to experiment. I like having a closet I can shop, because it focuses my attention on what I have, rather than what I think I might want. That said, right now it is mostly full of things that are too small for me, although some of the trousers are just about wearable again.

    Oh, and the hat in 9 is a proper deerstalker!

    Unfrumped: hehe if there is one thing my wardrobe does not need, it’s another pair of joggers from Uniqlo! Trews in 1-3 and 5-7 are from last year’s U collection. They have been in heavy rotation, so I am beginning to nurse them. Whichever ones you mean from their current collection, they are probably great so I wholeheartedly endorse them.

    StyleFan, Sally, Staysfit, suntiger, thanks for the comments. I have very mixed feelings about SCA! It’s been helpful in refining the palette and working out what I want to do with colors, but even when the principles are well understood it can be misleading. As you can see, for me it has been a process of trial and error.

  • unfrumped replied 1 year ago

    approprio- fair enough; I applaud restraint.
    But these ones are very interesting…! Kind of a trouser- jogger , without cinched ankles.
    I do not know how well they will hold up, though.

  • approprio replied 1 year ago

    Unfrumped: do you mean these? 

    My experience with Uniqlo joggers has been good. I have a couple of older pairs (eg. see find below) which I have been wearing for years. They are close to retirement, mostly worn indoors now, but they have held up very well. Can recommend!

  • unfrumped replied 1 year ago

    No, the Dry Sweat Tucked Tapered pants. I do no have Finds. So perhaps mis- represented as sweats or track pants.

  • approprio replied 1 year ago

    Was that not the link? Reposting.

    They look really nice to me.

  • unfrumped replied 1 year ago

    For me the links just go to general website.
    One thing is the model is tall & thin so pants are very fluid on her- not quite so much me! Also styled with a refined boot with heel that looks GREAT- perfect juxtaposition of sporty & dressy, just what I’d like to do, but as in recent shoe post by Sally, my footwear is now more clunky, which gives a different look.

  • Sal replied 1 year ago

    I always admire your layering Approprio - and the way your looks are adventurous and timeless yet modern and practical,

    I find seasonal colour analysis interesting - as I do Kibbe analysis- but it’s only one way of looking at things. It doesn’t include personality and location and era too much. I think there are ways to make most colours work for us- some are harder - requiring the cut and contrast to be more precise - whereas others are very simple.

    I now more have a list of colours I don’t want to wear- either because they don’t suit me (citron, icy pastels, optic white near my face) and others I would find to easily incorporate ( chocolate brown). But it changes - I avoided charcoal grey but added two pieces of gear in this colour and am liking it again. Same with the lilac merino top.

  • Jaime replied 1 year ago

    Well this is fascinating. The long dark hair does give you an entirely different look of course. I am also some sort of winter (I believe) and definitely wear brights better than muted colors (as you have noticed), but let's be specific.
    1-3 I have to say I was very surprised by the close up, it didn't seem you, but when I saw the full look it looked absolutely you and excellent. Which does go to show that flat lays have their limits and indeed this works with your coloring.
    4 Red is definitely back on the table and I love the texture of the joggers.
    5-7 Again a full look that is amazingly so much more than the sum of its parts. I do love how the joggers with boots take the artsy look of the shrug and tie to a whole other place.
    8-10 The plaid jacket makes it. 

    So it is the contrast more than the colors. Hmm. Very illuminating, will be assessing my selfies with this in mind.

  • Star replied 1 year ago

    Enlightening for me too, and I so agree with this. 

    I am also more to the cool side but could wear gold and silver equally well.  I say could because that was when I was a dark brunette (pale skin and blue eyes).  Now my hair is silver and saturation has become even more important.  I thought I was going to enjoy pastel colours now but no go, saturated colours are way better.  I also thought I was going to give up black, you know supposed to be more aging.  Not so, I look better in black than ever before. So blacks and pops of saturated colors (like Victoria does) may be the way for me to go. Interesting.  Oh and I thought optic white would be very good - actually not.  

    Getting back to your point, I thrifted a red with white polka dots pussybow a couple of years back and the shop lighting led me to believe it was a cool red.  Horrors, when I got home I saw it was actually an orangey-red (warm) so I was sorry I got it.  BUT because it is such a saturated red it actually looks totally fab, maybe even better than a cool red.  PS: A Red pussybow with white polka dots is not my everyday wear, but I have worn it 2x for a night out with dark denim and felt fabulous in it :).  I like you in red in the pics above.

    And Yes to wearing light grey with saturated colour.

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