Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Gift of the Gab…and why Hair Color Matters

Since you last saw Elmo for his customized color analysis, his friends have been here to see me.  (I take it Elmo liked learning his best colors through his completely custom hand picked color analysis.)

You’ll note his friends and family have the same fur color but different nose color. You can pretend that fur = skin and nose = hair, ok?

Here is Elmo’s cousin, Elma, with her “Bag of Skittles” palette:

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This is his neighbor, Elme, and his “Golden Rainbow” palette:

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This is his online friend, Elmi,  with her “Tropical Holiday” palette:

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Finally, this is his Great Aunt Elmu , whose nose is badly dyed.  While she grows out the color this is her palette.   I call it  “Condiment City”:

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When she lets the gray grow in (or do Elms go glittery silver? – I should have asked), then we’ll modify her palette.

Want to see all the palettes together? 

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They all have the same color fur (and the same eye colors) yet their best colors vary.

More on hair dyeing soon….. People are a bit more complex than Elms. Not everything changes for people.

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I use at LEAST one strip of fabric swatches for a client’s hair. The variation in it is important.

How I do Color Analysis. Simplified.

When yesterday’s client turned up I was a little surprised.

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My client explained he had come because he’d decided he wanted to wear clothes. And he wanted to do it right:  he wanted to honor his natural coloring, and maximize his beauty even when hiding some of his body under clothes.  It all sounded perfectly reasonable to me.

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I explained how I do my analysis.  I start with finding what we call body colors.  In his case this means:

  • the color of his face and body fur – which match
  • the color of his nose –  which is different
  • the color of his eyes – both the pupil and the whites of the eyes as they’re so big, and, finally,
  • the inside of his mouth – as it’s always open.

That took us here:

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I selected:

  • the whitest of whites
  • a strip of bright reds that caught every nuance of his fur
  • blacks that ranged from nearly black to darkest black (mirroring the range from his pupils to his mouth); and
  • a strip of oranges that best reflected what I saw in (not literally) his nose.

Then, after his body colors were chosen I went through the rainbow, selecting other colors that harmonized with these.  His palette was quite simple.  Only 8 strips of color in all. (Truth be told I’ve never given anyone such a small palette, but then again, I’ve never had such a small, colorful, client.)  And here it is:

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This palette is called Toucan.

Stay tuned…Elmo’s wants to DYE HIS NOSE. (What? ?? Get over it! You dye your HAIR!)  You don’t want to miss that post and how it affects the colors in his palette, do you?  

Didn’t think so.  After all, color analysis isn’t just about FUR color.

Until the tetrachromats take over, I’m enjoying this gift

At the playground, my daughter ran up the steps, crossed the wobbly bridge holding my hand,  slid down the slide,  then banged on the children’s chimes. Over and over again, she did this, following the same route, repeating the same events.  She is visually impaired and such repetitive behavior is common in open physical environments. It’s an adaptive way to learn the lay of the land and simultaneously play safely.  Nobody taught her to do this: she just does it – often to the frustration of other children who want to play with her.

chatted to my friend, Heidi, a violinist.  Mid-conversation, Heidi uttered, more to herself than to me, “It’s a shame the D is flat.”  

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Whaaaaa?  The comment stunned me.  Now, Heidi wasn’t spotting a child as I was, but she was having a conversation with a woman on the move (me) and surrounded by a cacophony of children’s voices.

We all notice different things.  We have different sensitivities, different genes, different adaptations.  Heidi later told me that her dad required that the she and her sister learn to identify notes.  She has relative pitch.  She can always identify a note played on a violin, and almost always on other stringed instruments.

My online friend, Blakely, shared this article about the identification of a woman with genetically inherited  superior color vision.  This woman possesses four types of cones (color vision cells) rather than the standard three, and what’s significant – she uses them. She is a “functional tetrachromat” and sees much more variation in color than the rest of us.  Other tetrachromats had been identified, but they do not actually use the fourth type of cone.  Does our culture, comprised primarily of trichromats, not encourage the development of superior color vision?  Possibly.  So why did this ONE woman’s vision become functionally superior?

IFI have attended very few music classes and I was not raised in a house full of music. But we did go to many an art museum; I was always drawing; and I’ve always loved color. I know that my third grade teacher’s lipsticks were perfect for her, and so were her clothes.  I had eye surgery as a baby and while my visual acuity is fine, I lack stereoscopic vision.  In other words my brain cannot use information from both eyes at once. I rely on shadows; texture and color changes;and relative size to identify and understand things like steps, gradient changes and to judge distance.  So I might be more sensitive to color as an adaptive response to a biological shortcoming, however I don’t think I see variations in color exponentially more than others. I don’t think I’m tetrachromatic. I do think that I have a good eye for color harmony, particularly as it relates to people and what they wear.

I studied color analysis professionally because I wanted to improve my ability.  I knew I wanted to make custom color palettes (this means each is unique to the recipient) rather than to identify the best of a set of prefabricated palettes (the more common, and less successful approach).  I said in an earlier post that I’m a perfectionist.  I  wanted the greatest challenge: if I couldn’t do color analysis fabulously, and understand human coloring and color harmony enough to create bespoke palettes, then I wasn’t going into the field.  There were better analysts that people that could see.

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I also knew I wanted to provide clients with highly functional palettes.   Texture affects how we perceive color. Since you wear fabric, your palette should be fabric for ease of matching colors.  Furthermore  your palette should be nicely presented and portable.

Perhaps this woman with superior color vision also reveled in color from a young age, noticing nuances and engaging her fourth kind of cone?  Perfect pitch, for the most part, seems to require the right genes and the right musical training at a young age to develop.  Superior color vision, might also need educational nudging.   Therefore I am noting down

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as a future business project.  Just think: if these young ones are interested in color harmony,  they’ll make the highest caliber color analysts, and if not, they’ll be able to enlighten us about a world of MUCH MUCH MORE color!  It’s a win-win!

Perfect pitch is also  more likely among the autistic and  the visually impaired.   In autism, there is often a generalized over sensitivity that  accompanies the reduced perception of social cues.   In those who are visually impaired, as you’d expect, other senses compensate for reduced vision.  My daughter tells me, “The air filter changed note.”  I think she is noticing a pitch change but I’m too clueless musically to be sure.  “Can I have some cantaloupe?” she asks when I pick her up at school and she can smell it on my breath.

One day, on an extremely crowded and noisy bus, my daughter looked withdrawn. Her four year old self does not like it when there are “Too many legs in front of me, Mommy!”  But on this occasion we were sitting down, so she had plenty of personal space.  “Are you ok?” I asked.  “Yes,” she smiled, “I hear church bells.”  I had to listen hard to hear the quiet ringing, beyond the groan of the bus, the whoosh of passing cars speeding through the rain and the discourse around us.  She was not withdrawn, but  drawn in.  It made me so happy that she found such bliss in the middle of all that.

Color harmony is my bliss.  Every day I am so happy that I found color analysis, that I studied it and refined my knowledge.  (Yes, even with my now-lowly-feeling-ever-so-ordinary trichromatic vision.)  Whether I am admiring the sweater choice of a stranger on the street, or working on a client’s palette, I have many, many moments of joy and deep engagement.  Every day I do work that I love; work that adds value to the lives of others; and work that is beautiful.  Until the tetrachromats take over, I’m enjoying this gift.

For more on tetrachromacy, listen to the first part of this fabulously entertaining radio show.   Just don’t blame me when you’re even more confused.  And read here, too. For more about autism and perfect pitch, read here.  We are all unique and special.  I love that my work celebrates that.

Life is Full of Goodies

PUbaggy - EditedWho doesn’t love a goody bag full of beauty products (and one tasty lollipop)?

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Especially when you’ve hand selected each item you wanted included…

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These are the samples I ordered from Spirit Beauty Lounge ((you get 9 for $25 including shipping).  From perfume to skin care to makeup…I dare you not to be tempted.

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When you know your colors, you know just what color makeup to buy!

My job feels a bit like this goody bag right now. I picked exactly what I wanted in it:

1) Color

2) People

3) Research

4) Sharing information

5) Beauty

6) Health/wellness

7) Community

8) Clothing & Accessories

9) Sustainability (that’s why I’m recommending incredible eco-friendly beauty product sites)

Lucky, lucky me! I looooove what I created in my goody bag of a job, and am so glad I found my calling. Thank you, dear clients, for letting me serve you and live my dream!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some new products to try!!!  (Fun, fun.)  Oh, and if you have a favorite eco-friendly brand of clothing or makeup or a site you want to share, please, do let me know in your comments below. Thanks!

My Four Year Old is Going to Weight Watchers. Wait, what?

At the park the other day, my daughter, “Peaches”, made a new friend fast.  Holding hands and giggling, the two of them were immediately in sync. It was sweet to witness – the first time my daughter clicked with another child right away.  Mary was older.  Then, playfully, she started to pull my daughter, hands still grasped, legs running, towards the far end of the park. “Where are you going?” I asked, hoping my question would cause the girls to slow down, to turn and respond.  I didn’t want this lovely experience brought to a harsh end with my daughter falling from being pulled too fast.   Mary’s reply threw me for a loop. “We’re going to Weight Watchers!” she said, with an earnest grin.

At first, I smiled. They were so deep in imaginary play.  Then I felt sad.  I remembered a pregnant friend telling  me she was relieved to be carrying a boy, because if she were to have a daughter she’d fear passing on food and body issues, like she and her sister had “inherited” from her mother.  Another friend told me that whenever she goes home to see her mom, her mother either tells her she’s too skinny or too fat.  How young are girls when they start to pick up ideas about eating, weight and appearance?

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Just think about the name: Weight Watchers.  What message does it convey to young girls?  That one’s weight is of utmost importance and must be watched! That you need a group of people to support you in watching it!  Couldn’t it have been called Healthy Lifestylers?  I’d have no qualms about my daughter hearing that name.  To me that would be a positive message.  Some might say these are two sides to the same coin, but I disagree.

I want my daughter to know about good nutrition. I was pleased, and also chuckled, yesterday when she asked, “Are these organic, Mommy?” putting grapes into our basket.  (If you don’t know which fruit and vegetables have the highest levels of pesticides, read the updated list, here.)  I want her to witness mindful eating in our home.  I want her to understand how her body feels when it is hungry and how it feels when it’s pleasantly full.  I want her to enjoy food.  And find forms of exercise she loves, as she grows up.

I recently heard about a great organization (thanks, Jenn!) called Girls on the Run. Everything about this non-profit seems fabulous.  (Well, ok, I’d rather it were ‘Girls on the Swim’ because I love to swim…but, wait, did you stop to read their Mission and Vision on that link? )  Let me share:

Mission: We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.

Vision: We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

It’s for girls age 8 – 13. Pretty awesome, right?  I want my daughter exposed to those kinds of messages.  Yes, please!

And then, when she’s around 13, I want my daughter to know about color and style BECAUSE IT IS HEALTHY.  I want her to recognize that her coloring is one possibility out of many millions, and so is the shape of her body.  I want her to appreciate that there is a huge range to the female form, and yet every single woman can look stunning.  They just need to know their best colors and styles.

In unison with the founders of Girls on the Run, I want my daughter to be joyful, healthy and confident.  Without question, how she feels about her looks as she enters adolescence affects how joyful, healthy and confident she is.  I hope she never stops liking what she sees when she looks in the mirror wearing new clothes.

Still in agreement with the folks at Girls On the Run, I want her to be part of a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.  Worry about one’s appearance is time consuming and energy zapping, whereas feeling confident in appearance is energy releasing.  When a person looks their most beautiful, authentic self, doors in the world open.  We have more opportunities because people see us for the beautiful, put together, capable souls we really are.  More time, energy and positive influence can only help us to move faster to our dreams.  Style and Color know-how can be a catalyst to activate this limitless potential in girls.  I know of no other color and style consultant who focuses on helping young women, and it boggles my mind.  So much value can be added to these young lives and so much distress avoided.  Personalized color and style guidelines offer a healthy, fun, real approach to feeling and looking great.  To work in this capacity,  enabling girls and young women to better pursue their dreams, is my life purpose.

My four year old is not going to Weight Watchers. My daughter will be part of a new generation of women who are empowered and body wise from a young age.  And if she ever asks me what Weight Watchers is, I’ll tell her,”Honey, its an old fashioned notion.”

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Please note: I mean no offense to anyone that goes to or has benefited from Weight Watchers. I simply detest the name and prefer my food not have pointsWhat gets me is the notion that we should watch our WEIGHT over our HEALTH. People are meant to be different shape and sizes.

If you’d like to see photos of my professional color analysis work, please click on menu links above, and see more here.

More Reasons Why: Dressing for Health

“The sense of being perfectly well-dressed gives a feeling of tranquility that religion is powerless to bestow.” Ralph Waldo Emerson 

I worked at a psychiatric hospital when I was twenty, assisting the nurses. The first week I had to watch a man who was waiting for brain surgery. His condition was such that he was very unsteady on his feet, but he kept forgetting this and getting out of bed.  My job was to sit outside his door.  If I saw his feet swing out from under the covers, I popped my head into his room, and then he’d remember, “Ah, I forgot, didn’t I?,” he’d say, slightly embarrassed, and lie back down.  This went on for days.  We needed to ensure he did not break any bones in a fall before his surgery.  He was lovely but my twelve hour days dragged on.

When he left for surgery, I was moved to the eating disorder ward.  I was told I’d be monitoring the girls at each meal, and was to ensure that each patient ate everything on her (individually proportioned) plate.  Looking back, I cringe at my naivety.  I was excited I’d be with a group of people close to my own age three times a day!!!  It had not occurred to me that meals would be eaten in stony silence.  It had not occurred to me that no meal here would ever be a social event.

Immediately after meals, I was to lock every bathroom door for a couple of hours so that no one could secretly purge themselves of their nutritionally calculated meal.  I sat and filed papers, and understood more of the girls’ lives.  Previous hospital admissions were listed on the inside of each file.  Except for one patient all these girls had been hospitalized multiple times.  Every two to three years, it seemed – when their weight fell below a certain point, which was also noted.  Those that were bulimic had a monetary amount of how much was spent on food every month.  I was stunned.  And, then… I also felt some sort of kinship with these girls. They were almost all straight A students. They were perfectionists.  So was I.

What kept our lives on different paths?  My family is naturally slim and taller than average.  Did I simply have a genetic advantage to being nearer the “ideal” form of our day and age?   My parents have always told me I was beautiful, have never once criticized my appearance.  Was that it?  Was it that my family ate healthy food as a lifestyle, with no yo-yo dieting relatives in sight?  Was my life less stressful?  (It certainly didn’t feel that way.)  What combination of things was it, I wondered.

These girls were gaunt, but each was pretty.  Each came from a family with means.  (This was a private, expensive hospital.)  This was the best care…yet they seemed to keep coming back.

I didn’t work there long, my position too sad.  The man I looked after that first week turned out to be the bright spot: completely cured of his memory loss and balance after surgery and happily back to his family, his job, his life.

Why am I telling you all this?  Do I think personal color and style can cure eating disorders?!?  Gosh, no.  Do I think awareness of how to bring out and showcase a person’s unique beauty can help with self esteem and a positive body image.  Most definitely!

What if women and especially the present generation of YOUNG women start to see unflattering clothes as the problem instead of themselves?  What if they could simply say, that skirt is not good on me and move on to finding one that is, instead of then thinking negatively about their own appearance in the process?  What if education about style as it relates to different body shapes/types promotes mental well-being? 

From age fourteen, I  envied looks worn by models in the fashion magazines. I tried similar clothes on and they looked terrible on me.  I didn’t understand why.  I was tall-ish and slim.  Wasn’t that supposed to be the ticket?  I had no understanding that the models were chosen because they looked the part  – for example, dramatic and avante garde; sporty and athletic; or natural and outdoorsy – looks very different from my own.  I also had no idea that clothes could look very different photographed, from angles or pinning.  I wish I’d known those basics. And I wish I could have learned what colors and styles would flatter me best, in addition to the overall vibe.  I simply wanted to be at ease in my attire.

Young women today would similarly benefit from such information.  And with technological advancements (errr…I’m not sure that’s the right word here), they also need to know how models are digitally altered so that they don’t start comparing themselves to unreal beings.  (Great information and visuals about digital manipulation is here,  Don’t Compare Yourself to Celebrities Pinterest board.)

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About Face, a non profit that educates young women about how women are portrayed in the media, posted this image on their Facebook page recently and it delighted me. The personal color/style consultant in me usually wants to alter uniforms, subtlety changing colors and shapes for different people, but this is so celebratory, I love it as is. (If you want to buy a print of this image the creators are here. Let them know that they rock!)

I dream of style and color savvy young women, of overhearing a teenager saying, “This skirt would be great for me if the fabric were crisper, the color deepened, and…hmmm, maybe some trim added.” Or, “Yes, now, we’re talking – this is a great color and a great style for me, I’m trying this on!”  I want all women to understand and know how to honor their own unique beauty through color and style.  This is not to say I don’t believe in healthy lifestyles – far from it. I am all for eating well and exercising! It’s just that for many women appreciating how they look NOW is the best first step towards that healthier place.

If knowledge is power; if personal colors and styles can be taught;  if it’s also fun to learn; and it’s great for self esteem …then shouldn’t all women, and especially young women, be informed?   Then shops like Bow and Drape where clients customize their own clothing could be the way of the future!

Look Good, Feel Better is a non profit that helps women with cancer.  They recognize that feeling better about one’s appearance boosts morale, that it is health giving.  I’m so glad they exist.  And, I think the self esteem of ALL women could use a boost, especially young women in our media driven culture.  The results?  A greater appreciation for oneself and others, and a more positive response in daily interactions from looking and feeling your best.  Let’s shift our cultural mindset to value our physical bodies right now, as they are, and to make them as beautiful as they can be through educated choices in color and style.  Let’s dress beautifully, for our health.