Monthly Archives: January 2014

Joan Callaway, author of The Color Connection

A few months ago I googled “Author Joan Callaway.”  I’d bought a book by her, The Color Connectionand when I realized how fabulous it was I wanted to see what else she’d written, hoping for additional gems for my book collection. A book about surviving grief came up, It’s an Ill Wind that Blows no Good, and a short twitter feed with some political tweets. Photos made it clear this was the same woman despite the subject matter of her writing having changed.  While I was slightly disappointed there was no further mention of color or style, I was pleased to find that she lived less than two hours away and I could contact her. We became Facebook friends at once (fun!)  and I continued to devour the book. Then I had the incredible pleasure of meeting her last weekend.

colorconnection

From further reading, I knew that Joan had suffered the most terrible of losses when she was just a few weeks younger than I am now.  Her youngest son (of five children) and her husband had died from a fire in their home.  Surviving this clearly led to her more recent book , but I had no idea that it also led to the book that I cherished so much.  You see, after her husband died, she needed to support her family so she opened a store.

Well, actually, she tells me, she and a friend thought they’d become realtors but at the second or third lesson they changed their minds when Joan asked a question and was told, “You don’t need to worry about that, the broker will know.”  Joan explained to me, “I’m the kind of person that needs to know about EVERYTHING so that wasn’t going to work!”  Indeed, Joan’s must-understand-everything attitude is displayed beautifully in The Color Connection.  More importantly for the reader, Joan knows how to organize information and how to explain it clearly.

The first store that she opened sold craft based art, and later beads too. One day Joan took a gamble and bought six pairs of earrings by Laurel Burch to sell though they were pricier than her customers might want to pay. They “flew off shelves” so Joan decided it was wiser economically for her to sell earrings than beads. She soon became known as the “Earring Lady.”  One of Joan’s assistants in her shop gave her the confidence later (and thank goodness!) to also sell clothing.  When clients came in with palettes, holding them up to clothes, Joan was intrigued.  This was the start of her quest to understand seasonal color analysis through reading, attending workshops and having her own colors analysed many times.

This is Joan’s Suzanne Caygill “Onyx Winter” palette on top.  It’s the first time I’ve seen a Suzanne Caygill palette presented in this plastic case format…

joanpalettesAnd, here’s the other side:joanpalettes3Below is a palette extension created for Joan later, by Dorothy Gietzen, one of Suzanne’s graduates.  It is this palette than Joan says she used the most.  Here she is with it.  Her hair was jet black when the palettes were made.

JoanCwpalettes Dorothy wrote, in beautiful handwriting, on the back of each card strip the categories that the colors fell into ( understated, dramatic, neutral, etc., and any additional notes such as how much of a color could be worn). JoanC1 If I could travel back in time I’d certainly want to shop in or better yet work at Joan’s store, Tarika.  Clients and sales assistants got free color and style advice and education.  Joan would record well dressed people on TV on tape to show her staff as a teaching aid!  She stocked garments in colors and styles that worked in seasonal harmony, making shopping in a way that would make Suzanne Caygill proud simply effortless.  Garments in summer colors were in summer styles, autumn colors in autumn styles and she and her staff understood the smaller variations too (that everyone wasn’t just one of four seasons but each had more differentiation).  Joan’s book has a concise chapter on “illusions” so no doubt her staff also knew about selecting the most flattering of garments within the s too. She had windows at the front and back of the store for good daylight and two changing rooms, one very romantic and feminine, one more masculine and ethnic.  Joan enjoyed watching clients choose which to use!

Joan mentions to me (and also wrote in her book) that she sees too many people online in style forums and, before, in her store, thinking they can only wear exact matches to the colors in their palette.  She would show people in her store how to open out their palette to see if the color or print in question blended with it.  She notes that fabric swatches are far easier to use than paint samples for this purpose.  Consider: I have approximately 3,000 fabric swatches to choose from for my clients.  The human eye, it is estimated, can discern 10 million colors.  An analyst can’t physically store and sort through that many swatches in a timely fashion even if we can discern the differences: it’s simply not practical.  (Though I admit I’d have fun having 10,000 swatches to work with or being able to magically alter my fabric samples ever so slightly!)  Clients therefore need to understand their palette and remember it’s the overall effect of an outfit that matters.  I’m so glad my teacher, Debra Lindquist, taught me this too and I’ve been passing “How to Use Your Palette” notes onto my clients when I send them their colors!

Joan suggests people add swatches to their palette when they find fabrics that fit between colors, whether from fabric bought for sewing a garment or a bit snipped from a seam if it’s a garment that was purchased.  It’s a nice way to add to your understanding certainly and, she notes that if it’s a print then having a snip in your palette in your purse will serve you well when shopping for coordinating items.

The most unexpected and genius tip I learned from The Color Connection has more to do with Slow Fashion and the wise purchasing of pieces generally.  Joan suggests that you keep a shopping wish list actually in your closet.  As items occur to you, you add them to the list and (and here comes the brilliant part), you also make a mark after the item each time you’re getting dressed and wish you had it.  When an item has lots of marks after it, it’s going to be a wise purchase and should go on your actual shopping list. 

wishlist

I asked Joan whether her book got the most favorable reception from consumers, designers or retailers (as her book has sections written for all three groups).  She laughed and said, “From color analysts!”  It wasn’t an answer I expected, but it makes complete sense. This sort of clearly written, all encompassing book was so needed!  I’m fortunate to now have a signed copy!

jcallawaysignedbook Joan not only wrote and owned her stores, but she also set up a Bereavement Outreach Group – the first of its kind-  and more recently set up a literacy program for at risk school children. I was curious which of her accomplishments she was most proud of. She had to pause to and chose co-founding All Things Right and Relevant a second hand store in Davis that provides work and job skills to those suffering from mental illness.  It’s part of a much larger support system for those with mental illness, providing everything from housing to counselling, so it was the big picture she was referring to.  After all, Joan doesn’t do things by halves.

Today, at her retirement community,  Joan leads a memoir writing group, and runs her own mini-library outside her front door.  joanlibraryAnd, due too demand, she’s working to get Color Connection republished!  It’s expected to be $48.  Whether you’re determined to find your best colors yourself (she has the BEST chapter on this), or you want to know more about style recommendations for the seasons, this is your book!  I’ll be sure to update you when it’s available. (SEE BELOW!)

If you want to read more about Joan, this is my favorite article about her.

Oh, and, last point. I also purchased Scientific Dressing by Marilyn Curtin, a book Joan recommends in hers. For anyone who loves to analyze the figure and wants to better understand style choices with regards to proportions, stance and head position (really!), this book has some interesting tidbits. I’m not jumping up and down saying, “Buy it!” as I didn’t love everything about it, but I’m glad I bought it as it made me think about a few new things.

UPDATE: The book is $52, a tiny bit more than anticipated but really it’s like three books in one.  GET IT, here.  And enjoy!

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Turning 40, Slowly

As someone who’s always wanted to be in her thirties, I was grieving a bit in the weeks before my 40th.  Then a few days before my actual birthday an older friend gave me a card with a pack of post-it notes because, “It’s hard to remember anything these days!” Next, a large box arrived, sent from my best friend from middle school,  with a tiara inside and the note, “Welcome to the Big Kids Club!” The gestures were both so fun, it made it hard not to embrace the day. And not to laugh.

me40

After a family breakfast out on the actual day (tiara on head) followed by a fancy holiday party lunch, I went to the Fibershed Fashion Gala , at the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards in Sonoma.  Please, take 20 seconds to read this blog and see its photos as I can’t describe the concept behind Fibershed any better, any faster or with more beauty. More details are here.  Pretty cool, right?

I was curious to see locally made clothes and to meet the designers that made them. Would there be colors within my palette?  Styles that would suit me?  At prices I could afford?  You see in my dream world, I’d not only tell clients their best colors and styles, but which local (to them) designers to turn to for investing in new pieces.

Currently I buy most of my clothes nearly new, really thinking about how much value each piece will add to my life.  That’s how I do Slow Fashion.  But I wanted to know how else it could be done, both for me personally and for my local clients.

There were not as many garments and accessories to see as I’d envisioned, but there were plenty of surprise discoveries.  For instance, I was expecting only to see photos of furry beasts and then the woolen creations made from them.  But this woman uses only mushroom based dyes!

mushroom

mushroomdyes

lesliedress

I liked this designer’s trail-on-the-ground-urban-rather-than-bridesmaid-convertible dress.

ditto hangers

These hangers were part of a raffle prize, but apparently everyone (not just me) was asking about them, wanting to buy them.  Earth friendly and -for those of you with minuscule storage space or who want more of a boutique, airy and spacious feel in your wardrobe – they DOUBLE your closet space!  Ditto sells them in plain brown in three sizes – adult, children and infant, and their site has a sale through January.  Perfect as my daughter’s clothes have outgrown the hangers we have for her. The Container Store sells them fora bit more in black in the adult size only. Rave reviews here.

There was a bounty of gorgeous food that I was too full to actually relish. And look  how unexpectedly gorgeous wine barrels are serving as a backdrop for fashion!

fibershedfashiongala

And then, I stumbled across a woman selling the most wonderfully scented spray.  Ever since pregnancy, I’ve been exceptionally sensitive to scents, disliking most of them but this was incredible and I didn’t even know what it was. Room spray?  Body spray?  Something called “Cloud of Protection” it turned out, and typing this I’m laughing at the name, but if you smelled it first, as I had, you’d understand. Both nurturing and cleansing, with a brightening and uplifting result. I was hooked and intrigued: the maker seemed to understand scent in a way I’d never encountered.  I bought the sample kit for $20 and have since purchased the full size of The Balm (excellent for smoothing my hair into a ponytail) and “C” Perfect Skin , the oil, even though I’m not actually out of either yet. The oil is the best I’ve tried (I swear I look younger! Best birthday gift to 40 year old self ever, right?!?) and truly affordable. 

bynievesPlus the packaging is charming.  By Nieves is sold here.

yarn2

Dinner out completed the day.

In conclusion: the yarn for sale was beautiful but knitting isn’t my thing.  The prices of the garments I saw were too high for me personally, and the colors and styles weren’t my best. The kids clothing I looked at for my daughter was cute but not soft enough. (She’s very particular.)  So while I can’t say I’ve found new designers to go to or locally made yarn to create with, I can say I continue to be inspired by Fibershed and by Slow Fashion in general.  I enjoyed taking the time to go see what was being made.  I’ve found a smarter way to hang my family’s clothes.  I’ve got happier skin.  I spent time on my 40th birthday doing something I feel strongly about and something that makes me happy.  And, I realized that if what I want to buy to wear isn’t available locally YET, then I’m inspired to make it!  And while I think that’ll involve up-cycling old clothes, I’m letting my ideas on how to do that exactly percolate SLOWLY.  (Why rush, right?)  I want to savor the second half of my life more than I have the first.  After all, I just had the pleasure of turning 40.