Color Me Beautiful

color-me-beautifulAn “Aha” Moment. Back in the early 1990’s, I found the first Color Me Beautiful book at a garage sale.   At the time, I’d never heard of Color Analysis.  The principle behind it is that the tones of your skin, eyes, and hair determine which colors of clothing will look better on you, and which ones make your skin look sallow, tired, or washed out.  The color schemes are collected into warm and cool undertones, to complement the undertones of a person’s skin.  Those undertones are further divided into “seasons”:  spring and autumn colors usually have a gold undertone and are warm;  while winter and summer colors usually have a blue undertone and are cool.   Examining eye, skin, and hair colors, along with draping fabric colors close to the face, helps one determine which shades of color look best on them.  There are consultants who can help people do this, but really just taking a friend and this book for a day trip to the mall can tell a person what they need to know.

What’s the big deal? In other words, why is this so important to me?  There are two reasons:  the first, is that I hate, hate, hate shopping for clothes and trying on 50 tops to find one that looks good on me.  It seems like a collossal waste of time.  Not that I don’t like shopping; I do.  But I don’t like the frustration of a whole store full of shirts and not one that looks right.  Of course the size and cut make a difference;  but the biggest difference is color.  If I could just go straight to colors I know look good on me, then it’s only a matter of getting the right size.  I’d spend literally half my time trying things on.  The second reason has to do with how I feel about myself.  If I know I look good, I’m more productive.  I’ve learned from experience that when I’m dressed well, makeup on, hair styled — I get twice as much done as when I wear sweats and a t-shirt (unless I’m cleaning the garage or painting a room).

So I made adjustments to my wardrobe after reading the book.  I discovered that autumn tones look best on me.  I bought my first orange shirt.  Orange?  Yeah, orange.  Pumpkin orange, to be exact.  I was skeptical at first, but when I tried that color on, it looked really good.  Needless to say, when I cleared my closet out of clothes that I never wore because they looked just…. wrong, I had lots of room leftover.  I would take my book to the thrift store and began filling my wardrobe back up.  (There’s an excellent wardrobe planning worksheet at the back of the book, and I highly recommend using it.)  Pretty soon, people were asking me if I’d lost weight.  They were telling me I looked really nice.  And the compliments became a regular thing.  It really does work, whaddya know.

After a few years I fell out of the habit of being conscious about the clothes I wore.  I’d changed part-time jobs, and was doing less in the ‘public’.  I got sloppy, basically.  Because my workplace was now in my home, I could stay in pajamas half the day and nobody would care.  But that slippage did work it’s way into my self-image.  I stopped getting my hair trimmed, or styling it;  I stopped wearing makeup; I didn’t really care what clothes I wore as long as they didn’t clash horribly.  It wasn’t that I was slovenly;  it was just that I was making minimal effort to look nice. I look back at family pictures, and I can see evidence that I believed “it doesn’t matter; who cares, anyway?”

But there are times it DOES matter.  Like meeting your husband’s new boss.  You want your appearance to reflect positively on him, right?  So the t-shirt and sweats isn’t a good choice for that kind of meeting.  And there I was, back at the store, trying on 50 tops and getting frustrated!  I was reminded of how it had been when I was using the colors from my autumn palette.  It made the shopping easier, and I got compliments.  Right.  Back to the CMB book I go.  I dug it out of my stack of books and reviewed it.  And once I looked in my closet, with that list of colors in hand…. egads.  This is wrong, and that is wrong, and no wonder I don’t get compliments on my appearance anymore!

CMB, as a company, has gone through a series of evolutions. They are no longer run by Carole Jackson, and they have become a MaryKay-style company, selling makeup through consultants.  While I think that’s fine, I also think it shortens the vision the company had in previous years, especially during it’s first decade.  After the huge success of the first book, Always In Style was written by Doris Pooser.  A couple of years later, Carole wrote the CMB Make Up Book.    Then came my personal favorite, CMB’s Looking Your Best.  This book is definitive, and I’ll explain why in a minute.  The newest book, by JoAnne Richmond was written in 2008, entitled, Reinvent Yourself with Color Me Beautiful.

CMB 1985

CMB 1987

CMB 1995

CMB 2008

While I think all of the books have something to contribute, I would have to say that the first Color Me Beautiful book and the Looking Your Best book are the two most worth having.  The first book gets your feet wet in learning about color, style, makeup, hair, etc.  It’s a primer, both where it comes to the seasonal palettes and where it comes to learning how to assess your appearance.  The other book takes those basics and expands them, turning the four original seasonal palettes into 12, making it much easier to pinpoint those colors that really pop on you. Let me illustrate:  Yellow is a color that works for me, but only in certain shades of yellow.  I’m a Warm Autumn, and I can’t wear a bright yellow; it drains my face of color.  But a soft Autumn, whose colors are closer to those of spring, can wear a buttermilk yellow and pull it off.  For me, if the yellow is muted, like a mustard yellow, or a golden yellow… wow.  Looks great (especially when paired with a muted purple, like I’m wearing today).

Warm Autumn

Purse Palette, side A

Purse Palette, side B

...I admit it, I cut pages out of one of the books.  (Meh; the book cost me all of $4.00, including shipping, from Amazon.  If I need to, I can buy another copy with the pages intact.)  The pages I cut out were trimmed to just the color blocks, and then slipped into a regular size sheet protector, that I then trimmed down to fit the height of the color blocks.  This gets folded in half and I carry it in my purse.  So anytime I stop at a thrift store, garage sale, boutique– I have the colors handy with me (and I didn’t spend $49.95 for the swatches that the CMB website sells!)

I’m going to be talking about this subject more in coming posts, but I thought you might like to see how I look today.  I have on a golden yellow turtleneck, a muted purple sweater, and a scarf that has both colors. (Never, ever underestimate the power of a scarf!)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on color analysis.  Won’t you drop a comment?  Just scroll back up to the top of this post and there’s a link for making comments there.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Beth
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 13:54:04

    The colors look great! I am also an autumn. I think I am a warm autumn and wearing the jewel tones of autumn look best. I should follow your example and go through my closet. It’s a great idea to do it that way.

    You look really good in the picture. I would never have pictured the purple like that, but it really pops! Thanks for sharing.


  2. Cat
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 14:18:22

    Oh that’s cool, we both share the same color scheme! Hey, if you don’t have a copy of the Looking Your Best book– I recommend that. It talks a lot about professional womens’ style, and how to express yourself through color while at the same time maintaining a businesslike image. It’s very well-done, and it spends a decent amount of time analyzing body shape, fabrics, draping, etc.

    Thanks for the compliment in the purple. I would never have combined purple and yellow in my clothes, without these CMB guidelines. In fact, the purple sweater — it used to be a really dull shade of blue that I couldn’t wear. So I got a box of Rit Dye in purple, and voila! I wear this sweater quite a bit since it changed color — paired with a moss green, or with ivory, it really looks great (and I wear the same scarf with all of them).


  3. Amy
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 08:21:03

    This post made me smile : ) Such a blast from the past. My mom was soooo into this in the 80’s. She fanatical about carrying the palate around and even ordered the swatches : ) She also tried to influence her teenage daughter (moi) who looooved to wear all the craziness of the 80’s. Didn’t go over so well : )


  4. Cat
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 08:30:19

    LOL Amy, your comment made me chuckle. Yessss, I’m guilty of doing exactly the same thing your mom did. And for some strange reason, my daughter and daughters-in-law aren’t going for it. I wonder why??? 🙂

    So what’s your style now? Do you still wear all the craziness, or have you settled into an image for your wardrobe?


  5. wittybizgal
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 15:55:38

    Ah, a blast from the past! I am an Autumn also, and I’ve noticed that when I wear warm tones of every color I look way less pale. I really think there is something to this sort of color coding…it seems to have fallen out of fashion since the 80’s (back when I had my “colors done” by a friend selling makeup) but I still go by it even today. 🙂


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