How Seasonal Color Analysis Can Help Make The Most Of Your Wardrobe
Have you seen the seasonal color analysis filters on TikTok? If you haven’t, the filters surround your face with a ray of colors that makes you look like a circa 2013 Facebook meme—and help you determine which “season” of colors looks best on you.
Seasonal color analysis—like blazers, vinyl, and type-driven design—is back from the ‘80s.
This color analysis concept first broke out in the 1970s and ‘80s with books like Bernice Kentner’s “Color Me a Season” and Carole Jackson’s “Color Me Beautiful.” Both books take their concepts from the principles of Swiss expressionist painter Johannes Itten, who, with his 1961 book “The Elements of Color,” was the first artist to group colors based on seasons. Itten describes colors as feelings and experiences that react differently with one another.
Today, as in the ‘80s, you can pay any number of color analysts to determine which season—or group of colors—looks best on you. “Cool” seasons include summer and winter, while “warm” seasons are spring and autumn.
To determine your undertones, a color analyst might use any number of indicators, like the color of the veins on your wrist—greenish-blue veins mean warm undertones, while folks with cool undertones have purplish veins. Warm undertones tend to look better with gold jewelry, while silver works well for cooler people. But much more goes into determining your best colors besides your skin’s undertones.
Eye color and hair color are also crucial. Their lightness or darkness, along with skin color, comprises your contrast—bigger shade differences mean higher contrast. For example, a person with icy blue eyes and black hair has very high contrast. The saturation and vibrancy of your hair, eye, and skin colors also matter.
Finally, comparing photos of yourself wearing different colors is one of the best ways to determine your season. Professional color analysts often use dozens of colored scarves during an in-person consultation to see which plays best with someone’s complexion. This is the concept that the TikTok filters try to replicate, but take your results from these filters with a grain of salt. Professional color analysts look at how different colors work on your complexion in natural lighting, with no makeup and no dyed hair.
Jackson’s “Color Me Beautiful” promised to help you “choose the thirty shades that make you look smashing, develop your color personality, learn to perfect your make-up color, discover your clothing personality,” and more. Notably, Jackson analyzes white women in her book almost exclusively—she automatically deems women with olive or Black skin winters. Even today, many online color analysis quizzes, including Jackson’s, lack racial diversity.
Other, more inclusive tools have since emerged, like Darlene Mathis’s “Women of Color” with a foreword by Jackson. Today, stylists like Cocoa Styling on YouTube help dark-skinned women find the perfect wardrobe colors that work for them.
Resources to help you DIY your seasonal colors include Your Color Style, The Concept Wardrobe, and plenty of YouTube videos like this one. For a complete, professional color analysis, check out stylists like Truth is Beauty, 12 Blueprints, and @thecolorkey_ on Instagram. House of Colour, a British-based color consulting company that is gaining traction in the States, connects clients with a color consultant near them. The Internet is rife with examples of happy clients who found their color and, because of that, say they’re making more sales at work or getting more compliments.
So, why does any of this matter? On a practical level, identifying your color season is central to creating your own capsule wardrobe or a wardrobe that’s whittled down to only the pieces you’ll use and that look good together. Knowing what colors look best on you means your clothes will play together nicely, you’ll get more use out of them, and you’ll be excited to wear them—so you can mindfully curate your closet to only the pieces you really need.
But also: If color analysis makes someone feel better in their own style, then that’s all that matters. We tend to gravitate towards any framework that helps give us a sense of identity, like enneagram types and astrology. Color analysis is another way we can say, “That’s who I am.”
Springs have warm undertones but often have light hair and/or light eyes. They have a bright chroma, meaning saturated hair, skin, or eyes. They look best in bright colors like turquoise or coral or light colors like ivory. Famous springs include Emma Watson, Kerry Washington, and Taylor Swift.
Lucile Corduroy Pant from LA Relaxed, $118; Colette Marinière from Sézane, $100
Summers have cool undertones but lighter hair or eyes, giving them a more muted appearance. They often have eyes that are blue, gray, or cool black and look best in muted colors like maroon, mauve, or sage green. Famous summers include Elle Fanning, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kate Middleton.
The Darian Blouse from Christy Dawn, $188; Gigi Top from Whimsy and Row, $88
Autumns have warm undertones with dark features, like dark eyes or hair, sometimes with gold undertones. They have fairly low contrast giving them a soft appearance, and they look best in browns, oranges, and dark greens. Famous autumns include Chrissy Teigen, Rhianna, and Jennifer Lopez.
Earth Paloma Racerback Bra from Girlfriend Collective, $46; Everly Top from Reformation, $148
Winters have cool undertones and the highest contrast of all the seasons. Because of their bright appearance, they look best in jewel tones like royal blue, emerald, and fuchsia and look great in high-contrast combos like black and white. Famous winters include Viola Davis, Lucy Liu, and Alexis Bledel.
Camelia Dress from Sézane, $195; Emma High Rise Wide Leg Jeans from Reformation, $128
Natalie Gale is a Boston-based freelance journalist. When she’s not writing about art, food, or sustainability, you can find her biking to the farmers’ market, baking, sewing, or planning her next Halloween costume. Say hi on Instagram!
Featured image includes model Shelly Cochrane wearing shirt and pants by Reformation; earrings by Mejuri; necklace by Apse; sunglasses by Paloma Wool; travel mug by Kinto; jacket (vintage); bag editor’s own