Thursday, August 31, 2006

PeaceBang on CULL-ah

When I say the word color, I always want to pronounce it like a Long Island lady,
as in "Honey, you really got some CULLAH at the beach today!"

It's the end of the summer, so I have some nice CULLAH right now, which means I can wear dark brown and look nice, rather than like a piece of deadweed.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.
One of you asked my advice on the subject of CUL-lah.

It's amazing how much of a mystery we have made of color. I'm sure you've all participated in some version or another of one of those Color Me Beautiful programs where you sit under a harsh spotlight and some manically enthuastic woman with big hair throws various swatches of fabric against your neck in a desperate attempt to prove to you that you are a Spring or a Fall or a Summer or a Winter.

And then you go shopping and fall in love with, say, an inky blue blouse that feels like heaven, is cut like it was made for you, and looks simply smashing on you, but you don't get it because you're a Summer, and it's NOT YOUR COLOR.

I hope you never did that. By all means, have fun and get your colors done. But, you know, don't drink the Kool-Aid, my sweets. If you're a summer and you want to wear black, go out and rock some black. Just make sure you add extra blush and maybe a dramatic smoky eye or add a bright lipstick.
That's why God gave us cosmetics, my darlings! So that we could not only appreciate color but that we could actually WEAR it on our bodies without having our facial features disappear completely!

PeaceBang has a few tips on color (completely unscientific, you understand, without any swatch throwing whatsoever):

1. Color is supremely important to your overall look. Choose it wisely and wear colors that you adore and that feel right for your personality and persona. This doesn't mean you should dress all in purple because purple is "your color." People who hate purple won't want to be around you, and is that fair?

2. Fabric and cut are just as important as color in choosing a garment. If you love a garment's color and it hangs wrong or isn't a nice fabric, or doesn't fit, leave it be.

3. Adult women should generally avoid soft pastels. They're too evocative of the nursery, they look good on very few complexions, and certainly clergywomen don't need them in their wardrobe, unless it's a delicious buttery yellow classic sweater set, or a beautiful baby pink blouse that makes your skin glow (and that you can wear under a black suit or pair with a smart black skirt). If you must wear pastels, try to limit them to accents and consider them carefully: do they communicate cutesy, or do they communicate soft beauty? Men, you can look fabulous in pastels, but only on structured, crisp garments. 'Cause I'm not ever going to give you permission to wear that salmon pink Nantucket sweatshirt, no matter how much you beg.

4. Neutrals are important but they are not as simple as they seem. As I have said before, off-white is not just off-white. There's ivory and ecru and eggshell and tan. Choose whites and neutrals to suit your skin tone (you can only fudge so much with make-up). This goes for blues and maroon tones, too. There are many, many blues in this world, and nothing looks cheaper than a badly dyed navy. Nothing makes a man or woman look more jowly than a flat, deep blood maroon color. And there is a certain shade of powder blue that should be taken out and shot.

5. Orange looks particularly good against dark skin, but it can also be surprisingly beautiful on some white folks. White men, don't be afraid to consider a tangerine orange tie, or a pink Oxford, for that matter. But not if you have a ruddy face.

5. If you don't wear make-up and you're over the age of 40, you have to be particularly mindful of the way certain colors can wash you out or make you look sallow or bluish.

6. Hair color can make or break your look. It is never silly to spend a good amount of time considering your hair color, comparing swatches, looking at photos, examining your skin and hair tone under different lighting, and consulting with your hairdresser. Haircolor has a huge unconscious impact on people's perception of you, and it is an expensive beauty investment. Don't feel foolish asking your hairdresser about highlights vs lowlights, what she means by "caramel" when you're thinking "honey" and asking for a re-do if the color still doesn't please you a few days after it's been done. Your hair colorist wants you to be happy. If you need to have a re-do, do not expect to pay, but do tip, unless the bad first effort came about due to egregious failure to hear what you requested.

7. You should love the colors you wear, not choose them because you think they're "right" for you. You may look terrific in lime green, but if lime green is inappropriate for the season (and it's gone totally out of fashion anyway, after a huge surge in popularity in 2004-2006) and if it makes you feel peevish, choose something else.

8. Colors have an emotional impact on people, including you. Use them to your advantage.


Blogger jledmiston said...

I once was forced to wear a peach-colored bridesmaid dress -- and was invisible. My skin is peachy. My hair is (kind of) peachy. Something to kindly consider when choosing dresses that others will wear.

Good post.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Berrysmom said...

I got my colors done way back when it was trendy, and boy am I glad! I'm a winter. I would never have thought to wear gray, but now I love it and it looks great on me. However, it's not my Bible. I've just learned which colors look good on me (and isn't it interesting how those turn out to be the colors I LIKE, too?) and I kind of shop by instinct. When I notice that everything in my closet is starting to look the same color, it's time to branch out.

Then there was the whim that overtook me this summer when you posted those Naturalizer knockoff shoes and the only color they had in my size was bronze and gold, so I got them. I have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I can wear them with, but I love them. Guess I'll have to go shopping for a brown-tone skirt I can wear with a black top (cuz the brown against my face will be deadly). Thanks for the shoes, PB!

1:22 PM  
Anonymous jinnis said...

Thank you for the commentary on color. I have been hunting for new professional tops that can be worn by themselves or under jackets - all must be breathable in Texas - and have had miserable results, largely due to color. And the fact that most "professional" tops in many stores are too girly or revealing or tight. I even heard one man say to his spouse, "I wonder what profession this one is for?" In JCPenney's, no less.

I had been tempted to give in to blouses in colors that would be all wrong, but the conversation here has strengthened my resolve. If all else fails, I will wear white! And bleach often.

I'm finding that I spend a lot less money if I buy only what makes me feel wonderful.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Psalmist said...

PB, thank you for the perspective. I haven't rejected my "season," but it's gotten interesting as I age, that what used to look good doesn't work as well anymore. see you cringing, PB!)

Jinnis, the top/blouse question is a tough one. I'm in Texas too and a transplant to boot, and it's HARD to find things lightweight enough that can still hold their own once the jacket comes off, without looking "hoochie." For a little envelope of time several years back, there were some t-shirts (don't die, PB!) in NICE fabric, trimmed tastefully, that fit the bill. Now, it's as though you're stuck with those hideous "built-in bra" camis (that do NOT work on anyone larger than about a 32-A) and NO ONE ought to wear THOSE without a jacket. Or, as you say, tops that are "professional" only for the oldest profession. I've seen lots of silly, frilly lacy things that look like they came out of the 1890's bordello collection.

It used to be, back in the 80's, that we could load up on simple silk shells in lots of pretty colors. That could still work, but who makes them? Skip the shoulder pads, and they'd still look OK (if maybe a little boring). And once in a while you can still find a very fine-gauge cotton knit shell that works. I usually go ahead, if I can afford it, and get the matching cardigan so I have something to wear Nov. and later for more casual days. But you're so right - it's HARD to find good tops to wear under jackets. Heck, it's simply hard to dress professionally here in Texas about 8 or 9 months out of the year, period! Where I am, it finally dipped lower than 100 for the high for the first time in weeks this past week. NOT good jacket weather...but no way am I going sleeveless! I do try to do my part to keep America beautiful and not mess with Texas. :)

If only the fitted blouses that have been popular for a few seasons now, came with shorter sleeves! It's too bulky and hot down here to wear a 3/4 sleeve blouse under a jacket. I did see some sleeveless ones in the Chadwick's summer catalog (again, please don't keel over, PB), but even for women with slender arms, sleeveless is simply not very professional-looking in most situations.

8:54 PM  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Psalmist, sounds like you're doing great with a difficult climate situation. I think nice T's are the best we can do sometimes, and while I'm just too fat and lumpy to wear them well, many women can. Same goes for Chadwicks. I just generally think their colors are ugly and their fabrics can be cheap, but they also have some really nice classic pieces.

Given that I look like hell in the summer, I absolutely sympathize with your challenge in looking polished in such hot weather! Good luck!

9:54 PM  
Blogger Chelle said...

As someone who sews, may I suggest finding a seamstress in your area and having a talk with them?

Soemtimes getting items made especially for you in the long run turns out to be more economical than going out and buying; since once a pattern has been established, multiples can be made.

And the pattern companies don't turn on the same schedule as the couture world. Most pattern company patterns stay in their books for a number of seasons. For those who are really in-the-moment fashion-wise, Vogue always has plenty of couture patterns.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Psalmist said...

Chelle, you're right. That's a great idea. The last time I had someone do some custom sewing for me was many years ago, but I'll never forget all the compliments I got on the Pendleton wool gray plaid skirt she made me. Even in the 70's, it cost me about $35 for the fabric, notions, and dressmaker's services), and worth every penny (and more). I think I wore that skirt for at least 15 years off and on (back when I lived in states that have a real winter), it was so classic. MUCH better quality than I could have purchased off the rack, and the fit was fabulous. (conking self on noggin)--Why didn't I think of that sooner?

9:42 AM  

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