How do I know I’m “right”?`

I was talking to someone about being a color analyst the other day and she asked how do I know I’m picking the right colors. “I’m looking for color harmony  between the client and the colors,” I explained, “For the colors to look balanced,  pleasing, and “right” with my client.”

“How do you know it’s right?” she asked.

“Well,” I said, “it’s my own artistic interpretation BUT if you had other custom color analysts do the same person’s colors our results would most likely be very similar.”

Here is an example. These are all custom made palettes for the same person.


The palette on the top right was done by Suzanne Caygill in 1982.  Suzanne Caygill was not the first person to do study the effect of wearing different colors, but she is regarded as the pioneer of color analysis – and she started the seasonal approach that is so well known.  The palette shown is an Iridescent Summer palette.

The palette on the bottom right was done by Lois Marlow Scott, who trained with Suzanne Caygill and was known as Suzanne Junior. Her palette for this client is an Early Spring palette.

I, not having seen any of these other palettes before, made the palette between these two. You can see how it actually looks like a blend of the two other palettes encompassing both the muted pinks of Suzanne’s palette and the warmer peaches of Lois’.  I was not trained in and do not work seasonally so this palette is not of a particular type. I simply choose the colors that make my client look most magnificent.

You can also see two other palettes and part of third to the left. They look more similar to each other, but still similar to the three on the right.

None of the analysts had seen each other’s work prior to making their own palette for her.So how do I know I am right?  I see it: I see color harmony. But also, by way of visible evidence (separate from photos of my clients with their palettes), here you can see that my work falls between two women very highly respected in this art form.

Edited to add two points, and a photo of the client with these palettes:

1)  This client had light blonde hair through adulthood and then started highlighting, so her hair is more constant than other people’s might be from decades ago.

2) I’ve been asked if this woman would be a Soft Summer in 12 Seasons approach. I can see why this is being asked though there is a yellow-green-peach influence that is being missed..and well, these are customized palettes considering her hair, skin, blush and eye colors not just looking at her skin. Sadly or interestingly, depending on how you look at it, she did also have three 12 Seasons analysis by different analysts both in person and online. She was told Bright Winter, Bright Spring and Light Summer.

All would overwhelm her spectacular quiet beauty which you can see here:

muchablogTop right, she brought only her Suzanne Caygill palette when she came to see me. I saw it after I completed my palette for her. I did not want to see it before as I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone else’s opinion – not even Suzanne’s!

Bottom middle, her palette byLois Marlow Scott, which she brought along with her other palettes when she came back to see me.




Frequently Asked Questions!

A lovely woman from the Czech Republic emailed me with questions.  I thought why not share my answers in case some of you are wondering the same things. (And if you have other questions, drop me a line and ask!)

Q. “Do you consider personality – for example if someone loves colors that are not the best for him/her?”
A. I choose colors for a palette based on my client’s coloring (see this blog post for a review of that) but I can think of four cases where other factors come into play:

1) If a client loves yellow/pink/green/whatever hue and is DYING for it to be in their palette, 
for example, yellow but it’s not one of their best colors, then I will SHOW them their best yellow , let them photograph it and compare it to other yellows so they can really ‘learn’ it, but no, they do not actually GET it in their palette from me. I tell them that they should wear their best yellow with one of their best colors (actually in their palette) and in a style that is FANTASTIC for them.

2) If someone’s palette feels at odds with
 a person’s environment (let’s say they work in  a very corporate environment and their palette feels sweet and girly) or their personality doesn’t mesh with their colors (perhaps they are very quiet and their palette goes loud) then when it comes to how to actually USE the palette, I help them do that successfully so that they feel and look fabulous (and appropriate).


3) If someone is very fair in skin and has light/soft (in color) hair and they NEVER wear make up they’d get a different palette than their identical twin sister who LOVES makeup and doesn’t leave home without filling in her brows and at least wearing mascara, blush and lipstick too.

4) If someone wears a color they love daily
, for instance, as glasses or hair color then I’ll work treating that as though it is a fixed fact – a part of their own natural coloring.  That’s what I did for this client who keeps her hair colored pink and wears her two tone glasses all day (not just for distance or reading).  Bear in mind when I choose such colors, like with selecting any client’s “body colors” (meaning, colors that relate to their hair, skin, eyes, blush), the colors I pick may not be literal translations. They are colors the MAGNIFY beauty of the entire being when worn as clothing, makeup and accessories.


wickedskittlesAnother shot of the palette – here you can see, from far right working in:  glasses colors , green eye colors, pinks (after the magenta of freshly dyed hair fades slightly) then her natural hair colors as they start coming through before she re-dyes…and her rainbow!

Q. “Do you name all your palettes?”

A. If clients want a name then, yes, we name the baby!  Usually I suggest a handful of names based on enticing things the colors make me think of, hear or smell. Working with clients online, I’ll have often had a lot of conversations with them and get ideas also based on their interests, location, etc. Sometimes clients love one suggested name and selection is fast.  Other times one or two suggestions feel ‘almost right’ so we fuse, modify or keep searching from there. Occasionally clients want to name their own palettes.

Bear in mind that my brain is trapped and temporarily detained in color-selection-mode at an in person appointment (and when I am working on palettes for online clients) right after completing your palette.  It needs time to decompress and switch gears to name-creation-mode. Think of the excitement of learning your best colors and – if you want a name for your palette, getting that name pinned down as two distinct, fun events!

maggiechloeDaughter and Mom’s palettes named respectively,
“Glitter Bug” and “Angelic Mermaid” AFTER the in-person appointment


 Q. Will you be in London seeing clients in summer, 2016? If so, when and how long is an appointment?

A. I would love to work in London in the summer of 2016 but it’s not confirmed yet.  It’d be the end of July/start of July in Wimbledon over a couple of weeks. Let me know if you are interested!  Seeing clients face to face, the color analysis takes 1-2 hours. (Online takes me much, much longer as I have many ‘targets’ (you in each photo) rather than one (you in the chair)!  For those of you wanting style too, that is done based on meeting you and then online photos of your in outfits -so I can see what you own, how else you might combine items, what’s missing, your proportions, etc.

Regarding travel: if you have a handful or more of people in one location who want colors done and will commit in advance, do let me know.


Don’t forget, if you have questions not yet answered, drop me a line! I love hearing from you!

Ayla: The Ultimate Skin Resource

Dara Kennedy, founder of skin care boutique, Ayla, scours the planet, researching and studying endlessly, so that Ayla sells only the finest, most effective products out there.
Her approach is unique, with spectacular focus. She demands excellence in outcome and in ingredients and settles for nothing less. Take note: neither should you.
dara ayla
When chatting about her selection process for which products Ayla will stock, I realized there were incredibly similarities to creating your ultimate wardrobe.  Let me share!  You’ll learn how she curates an amazing skincare collection and you can apply this same strategy to your wardrobe! Then I’ll tell you why Ayla is even more impressive.
Here we go!

1) Identify your needs. Then stop!  (Did you hear that? Avoid excess.)

2) Select items with maximum visual impact.  We want gorgeous results!

3) Invest in great quality.  It’ll feel better, look better and treat you better.

4) Consider the big picture. Sometimes imperfections are ok because the end result is still incredible. Sometimes, they’re not.  Establish this on a case by case basis and re-evaluate as necessary.*

5) Look around you and buy from people and companies who really care about their product, their customer, their employees, the planet and the animals on it. Be a part of compassionate excellence.

Abiding by these five strategies, you can enjoy (in your wardrobe or skincare shopping at Ayla):
                                                                     (feels good, right?)
and also
                                                                streamlined fabulousness!
                                                        You’ll have the best of the best 
                                                                    (with no extra clutter).

Dara is discerning and has judgement I admire and trust. When I ask Dara questions, she has factual answers at the ready and  a opinions -her own AND what four top-notch dermatologists she works with would say.  Linn, one of her employees, helped me identify the ingredient I was using when I came to Ayla that was clogging my pores. I’d have NEVER figured it out otherwise. What a resource!  I’ve only felt educated and spoiled at Ayla, never pushed into purchases.  Two months later, my skin hasn’t been so at peace and joyous since I was 11!   It’s pretty darn amazing, decades later, to be loving my skin.

Ayla has a Sample Kit option with products handpicked just for you for $20. Given my fickle skin, fussy taste and cautious spending, this was my ticket in.  Highly recommended.

Ayla means the bearer of light. a completely fitting name. Want your best skin? Shop wisely, shop at Ayla.
 dara ayla2
Dara Kennedy, founder of Ayla, with her Beauty Valued extended Flirt Palette. Knowing your best colors is one more strategy to looking fabulous! On the top are her hair colors (her best dark neutrals) and two swatches of her best metals (especially fun for evening clutches and sandals), then her eye color strips (imagine them in a glassy necklace!). Next is her skin tone strip (the lighter end for undergarments under sheer blouses, and the darker colors for nude shoes). The guavas, brandied melon, cinnamons and saffron thread reds – a softly spiced concoction of beauty- lend themselves to a variety of makeup option from natural and elegant to fun and flirty to Christmas party extravagance.  All the swatches I give clients can be used for clothing, accessories and makeup. To learn more about how the skintone strip can be used in makeup selection, see this post here.

Amazing, Affordable Custom Made Jewelry! (Mara’s Got Your Back!)

I’ve had a glimpse of what it would be like to have an entire house designed for myself; to have my needs and desires turned into a space I then inhabit; and to live in an environment, rich in self expression and nourishment.  What an absolutely amazing experience and process! And, yet, curiously, I’ve had this experience not from buying property and then working with an architect and interior decorator but from working with an Etsy jewelry designer, Mara Marlow, who makes custom fashion jewelry, as well as selling ready made pieces in her shop, Ambient Zebra.

I’ve bought many a thing from her. Recently I asked her to make me an item that wasn’t based on another in her shop. Nor was it like anything I’ve ever tried on or actually even seen in real life! I wanted a shoulder necklace, and it was this experience that was most extraordinary!


Do you own clothing or accessories that really make you feel like you’ve come home?

How about to a palace?

The steampunk festoon part I’ve had and worn as a necklace for a while now.  It’s a piece I commissioned from Mara. The arm and back piece (which turns the necklace into a shoulder necklace) is the new part. And, folks who appreciate slow fashion and versatility, take note: this is a convertible piece!  It GYBcloseprettyworks in many ways, producing a variety of looks, alone and with other pieces.  Sit tight, I’ll show you 8 different looks. (1, at right)




(2, at left)

First, know that Mara is a true artist. She is not someone who copies. You share your inspiration and needs with her and she goes from there. She improves on your and her own ideas as she works.


When I asked Mara if she’d ever made a shoulder necklace (she said no, but she was up for the challenge!), I sent her links to a few bridal shoulder necklaces with front views I liked – and for the back, I included this (non bridal) piece, below.


I also told her I wanted to use my steampunk necklace from her as the centerpiece. Then I let her work.  (Ok, maybe I sent her a few more images in my excitement.  But I try to behave and give her space.)

The chain link shrug image might look familiar.  Prompted by Andrea Siegel, in her mind bending book, Open and Clothed  (the review of which you can read here),  to consider clothing that I’d like the SOUND of  -literally the sound of- this was the winner. I could imagine the swishing sounds of the chains, but when I realized that a favorite necklace of mine could be on the front, I fell in love with the entire concept. 


To compare, here is what the back of my shoulder necklace looks like. And in case you were wondering, not only does my shoulder necklace sound lovely, quietly jingling with my every movement, it feels absolutely AMAZING on. The weight evenly distributed, I can scarcely feel it’s there, yet as I move, the chains caress and gently tickle my skin! (Who knew?!?!)  It’s incredibly soothing! That the piece hangs most best with back straight and shoulders down no doubt contributes to my sense of well-being when I wear it. (Standing properly feels SO much better than slouching! Thank you, lovely item of jewelry for teaching me this important lesson!)  

All in all, I feel extraordinary wearing it – as though I’m sporting a super hero cape flying behind me that captures magic and brings miracles and beauty my way all day.  Really, I do. This feeling shouldn’t be something we only achieve on our wedding day.  The right jewelry, with the right outfit, can transform you and any day!

With the steampunk centerpiece on the shoulder necklace, I keep the rest of my outfit simple, letting the necklace take center stage.

Here I’ve switched out the necklace on the front again. It’s actually a wooden bobble necklace Mara restrung and adapted to work with Got Your Back (the name of the arm/back piece).

(3, below)

polkadressGYB! - Edited

In this outfit, I balance the level of intricacy of the dress (in terms of texture changes, the print, and the embellishments) with the shoulder necklace, which also has texture changes and elements of different size.

tulipGYBpolkadetailsGYBlove how the arm chains drape out beneath the tulip hem sleeves of my bolero (left), and that the  ingredients of this outfit (right) remind me of the successful but unexpected combination of chocolate, sea salt and chile!

I don’t abide by the suggestions often made for a minimal necklace or just earrings when wearing a strapless garment: if I did my strapless tops and dresses would look like they were falling down! I have a long decolette which means lots of empty space.  Knowing your proportions and scale; understanding your facial feature; and realizing your overall vibe helps you to select the most flattering necklaces.  My best necklaces are delicate but not small in size, and they contain a range of various sized components and spaces within, with more small components than large.

Statement bib necklaces, I love, but 99% of the time they are too chunky and not long enough on me. Multiple layered chain necklaces I also ogle, but on me they are long and narrow, taking my face completely out of focus.   If you know what works on you and want to expand your repertoire, consider necklace styles that you admire from afar and brainstorm ways to adapt them to suit you!  GYB encompasses what appeals about each of these two styles.  I retain the delicacy and face framing aspects that I need AND enjoy the statement and long chain effect!  Win-win!  Play with your necklaces and anything jewelry-like (ribbons, zippers, etc) in the mirror. Take photos and keep tweaking and experimenting, with your most flattering necklines on please, until you like where you’re going with length, size, shape and scale.  Use this information to buy jewelry wisely. 

 On the left, below, I’m wearing a comparatively simple necklace, Mara made for me. On the right (and also shown above), I’ve turned the outer ends under and attached it to GYB for a really pretty look. 












My outfit is still a backdrop to the shoulder necklace but now I’ve changed the skirt for one that is more elegant, keeping in sync with the necklace used. The beads are silvery teal with purple highlights.


In the next couple of photos, I’m wearing  Got Your Back alone without additional necklaces. Here it’s turned back to front under my red cowl neck, barely peeking out.  It looks like it’s part of my sweater, and partially covered in cashmere, it flirts with the world in a coquettish sort of way.

 (4, left and right, below.)


peekcowlGYB2 - Edited (2)

The dangling chains  add delicate drama to my sweater and the darkness of the gunmetal connects the top half of my outfit to the brocade of my jeans. 


Here’s GYB is worn back to front and pulled forward, with the small extension chain (included with the purchase) so that the necklace can follow the dress’s neckline, again resulting in my clothing looking embellished rather than accessorized.


(5, above)

The vertical seams in the center part of the dress are enhanced by the verticals of the falling chains . 

Working with Mara, you will be part of the design process. You initiate the work; you see it as it’s progressing; you make further choices along the way: then you get your affordable custom-made one-of-a -kind-piece shortly thereafter!  

It’s fitting that her Etsy Shop’s name, AmbientZebra,  was inspired by Dr Seuss’ book On Beyond Zebra, a story in which wonderful but unknown animals are shown to exist, their names starting with letters of the alphabet that we’ve never heard of before.  My mom came by while I was taking photos of the shoulder necklace with bobbles on it and exclaimed – her attention clearly focused on the jewelry, “Oh, wow! How beautiful!!!” when I rather expected her to say, “So, what exactly is that thing you are wearing?”  She never even asked.

It’s been an unexpected surprise that I get compliments on my GYB renditions (creations?) from men and women, and from all generations. Don’t be afraid to be different.  Different can still have mass appeal.

Here is GYB worn with a pendant (one I already owned)  rather than a necklace, and pulled forward. For someone that wears crew necks this would be a be fun to spice them up!

(6, below)

OtherGYB1What item do you own that you currently wear in a multitude of ways? What item could you play with to explore new options? 

This is what it looks like worn back to front and spread out across shoulders:

GYB other 3

(7, above)

Don’t you love the different patterns that form on the back?

You could also wear it as a decorative trim to a strapless dress with the longer extension chain link piece (that comes with GYB)  in the back. Similarly it can also be worn as a belt, draped a little or held taut so it is belted straight across.  

(8 , below, and would be 9, if I’d taken a photo of it as a belt too!)

GYBother2 - Edited

I’m sure I haven’t even begun to exhaust all the ways to wear it! (Do tell me if you can think of a tenth!)

Mara is funny, talented, kind and FAST. Adaptable and resourceful, she’ll  happily incorporate beads and components you send her too.  

Here are other necklaces that Mara made.  Bear in mind that her designs come in a wider range than what I wear. Treat what you see in her Etsy shop as a starting point if nothing screams BUY ME JUST AS I AM!  You won’t find a lovelier, wiser or more dedicated fashion jewelry designer. 

dragononme - Edited

 Mythical beast necklace, above, inspired by a piece she had for sale.

Wooden earrings varnished and turned into a necklace, below.


Mara’s inspiration and ideas come from books, colors, words (!), and stories (!!!).  “One of the most influential books was of the jewelry of Miriam Haskell,” she said.  “What I saw in those extravagant creations gave me the courage to go ahead and make things just because I wanted to, and not to worry that they were too weird or big or unconventional because SOMEBODY will like them!” (Me! Me! Me! And what a great attitude for us all to have about what we wear, and what we create, each day!)


My earliest Ambient Zebra pieces! The one on the left I bought straight from her shop, the one on the right was custom made, inspired by a necklace she had for sale.

Friends near Seattle: Mara works at two markets in Washington State: the Federal Way Farmers Market,, and the Des Moines Waterfront Market Look for a woman with a long braid down her back, selling jewelry that’s just a little bit different. You can also message her through Etsy to get her schedule. When she’s not making or selling jewelry (fulfilling her childhood fantasy of being surrounded by boxes of jewels and treasures), she’s outside working on her edible garden, or inside cooking something spicy.  In addition to knowing how to make your everyday jewelry dreams come true, she also appears to have the art of living figured out!

Necklaces from Ambient Zebra range from $39 to $79. A gunmetal GYB like mine sells for $120. (Message Mara through her Etsy Shop, here, if you’d like to have one made, or about any of your other fashion jewelry related heart’s desires…I just did! Twice.)

Photographic Proof You’re Gorgeous

Shamelesspostcard - Edited

I recently discovered the most wonderful business just a short walk from where I live. It’s called Shameless and their name connects to their mission, which is what first caught my attention when I read about them.  Tell me if you aren’t utterly captivated after reading this:

“In a world full of fantasy images of models and movie stars, Shameless is working to create a space for women to feel safe, beautiful, and empowered. The tools of makeup, lighting, and photography can create images that are part fantasy, part reality.  It is a powerful thing to enter the realm of fantasy, and to know that you can do so whenever you choose.  No model or movie star owns the realm of fantasy — we all do.  In some small way, we hope that  our business can help women to feel more empowered and embodied — and to see femininity as a space of play and possibility rather than shame.

We’re in this to prove that YOU can be a bombshell, no matter what shape, size, age, color, or ability. We’re here to help every step of the way — from wardrobe to makeup to hairstyling to pose & expression coaching — so that you can see your own beauty more clearly.”  (Words from their website,  bold emphasis my own.)

I  went to look at their photos on their site and was BLOWN AWAY. They were doing exactly what they set out to do over and over again, shot after shot. Yes!!! What a celebration of the female form!  I had to meet the women who made this happen. They capture a woman’s beauty; they make her a star; and, then, they present proof in photo after photo, so that she is sure to see it too.

Sophie Swinelle, founder and photographer of Shameless NY and SF,  opened the first Shameless studio in NY in 2009 and two quick years later expanded to SF. Corey Lynn is the principal photographer for the SF studio.

Sophie and Carrie of Shameless - Edited

They showed me how they make women beautiful and I showed them my methods with personal colors.  Sophie is on the left, and Carey, on the right.

Both are women with poise and grace, and completely approachable, too (perfect for those who want to do this but who are also camera shy).  Their studio is neatly organized with clothes (vintage and vintage inspired recreations), jewelry and props on one side. Clothes are pinned to fit: shoes they have in all sizes.

Finished Mini Palettes incorporating hair, eye, blush and lipstick type colors:

Shameless Flirts

Perhaps even more fabulous than the clothes to choose from at the start and the photos to see at the end, is the depth of the process.  When a new client calls (or a repeat client calls back), the Shameless staff work with the client to come up with an idea to execute. Sophie asks women about secret dreams because, after all, this is part make believe!  Why not make it all real, briefly, and then photograph it to cherish for ever?  She gives, as an example, someone who always wanted to sing but stage fright kept her back. They’ll get her a vintage microphone and shine a spotlight on her!  The shoot they were just about to do when I was there involved a science lab theme and they’ve even done Outer Space.  They can magic anything up!

Go like them on Facebook, here. They post photos frequently and have awesome competitions, like writing a love letter to your body – to win a photo shoot (as well as increasing your own self appreciation!).  And check out their galleries (Classic Pin up, Old Hollywood and Retro Boudoir) on their site, here.

With studios on both coasts and packages starting at $495, they are very reasonably priced and accessible.  So, I hope that some of you will continue your ‘studies’ (shall we say) in looking great and go get your beautiful selves photographed  by these whizzes.  Maybe you’ll even share the photographic results?  No worries, if not.  It’s for you to find and KNOW your beauty.  I just wanted to show you another path – one that commemorates your beauty in the most fantastic way.

Shamelesspostcard back - Edited

Their NY photographer, who I did not meet is Maxine Neinow.  And, if you want to see/read more, this is a great interview with Sophie, here.


Open and Clothed : Case closed, you need this book!

Browsing books, I never start at the beginning.  I want to know if the entire book will fascinate me not just the first page. Can I be drawn in from reading a snippet here and there?  Is what I am reading so compelling that I will want to cancel my plans for the day? (Assume it’s a good day, not one I already wanted to avoid.)   If yes, I buy the book.  Occasionally I find a book so different and so captivating I want to clear from a few days to a week off my calendar.  And then I blog about it.  But, let’s go back to the bookstore:

First of all, I was in the Style section of the bookstore and LAUGHING. That hasn’t happened before. I’d opened the book to:


“…wearing linen implies a relationship with an iron that I just don’t have.”

Next I was being asked questions I’ve never thought to ask my clients or even myself:

“What sounds do your clothes make? What cloth sounds do you like best?”

I reflected. I only knew clothing sounds I disliked (velcro! high heels!). Then I realized I loved the sound of beaded garments where the beads are free to sway with movement, as in two of my Halloween costumes from the past. Yet I’d never thought to look for that experience in pieces I’d wear more often.


Yes, this would do nicely! To wear with my strapless top and dress!

What other delights have I been missing from my wardrobe?, I wondered, How else can I understand the beauty?

On the third random page I turned to, I was moved by a dialogue between clothing and owner (in the form of the author’s body) . When asked “What do you want to wear?” the body replies, “Well, there’s this. I like protection from unkind eyes, I like to hide behind pillars of clothes. I am not safe in this world, I am hunted and lusted for, I inspire extremes of emotion.  I do not feel safe. And I do not know how to see and find safety. So what I need is protection. Clothes that reveal nothing, clothes that obscure, clothes that dissemble my shape, my femaleness. I need to look like a modern eunuch. I need protection from hard eyes. This female needs a break from her intensity.”

I cannot even begin to find a photograph to illustrate that…but you can see why i bought the book!  It’s called Open and Clothed (Amazon link) and it’s written by Andrea Siegel.

I love the amusing quips and the great quotes scattered through out the book for the instant gratification they offer. “You must think of your clothes as if they were people. You introduce them to each other. If there is no bond between them, they simply won’t mix. “ Margaretta Byers

I appreciate the practical tips for actually being based on reality not theory : “Every clothing book I’ve seen provides a list of what to buy…so that four garments can provide you with 756 outfits. Don’t make yourself nuts trying to make everything into six different outfits. Finish unfinished outfits you love. Satisfy yourself.”   Furthermore, she is so thorough with advice: Test a fabric you’re not sure about for comfort by holding it to your neck for five minutes; cover a window in a closet so that clothing isn’t bleached by the sun; test new shoes out walking fast on hard surfaces. (Agreed. By law, all shoe stores should have some hard flooring!)

I thought I was up on eco-fashion but I learned about naturally colored cotton from her book.


The cotton grows colored and is boiled to further intensify the color. Washing the cotton later also causes brightening of it! Imagine: naturally brightening clothes!

However, it is the many anecdotes offering different mindsets,  the deeper questions posed and writing exercises suggested that will cause me to revisit this book time and time again.  In particular, the book will help me with “stuck” clients:  Clients that are scared to go try on clothes or scared to scared to buy them.  Clients that hoard or shop compulsively.  Clients that never feel beautiful.  (And of course if you relate to any of those, get this book for yourself!)  If my client is armed with color and style information, has time and money to shop and they’re not enjoying clothing more, then I want a better understanding of why.

And it might not be emotional support they need.  It may be these clients want their clothes to work a different kind of magic  than color and style harmony – from subtlety different to very different.  Thinking in terms of magic helps me understand a lot (thanks, Andrea!) though I still have lot to learn.  My own personal conclusions thus far are:


Magic might be passed along genetically.  (Or be imposed on the very young, as above.)

Magical powers exist for us all in varying degrees.

And, magical powers may grow stronger with age.


All photos link to their source. They are not in the book.

When I told Andrea her ‘Rate My Professor’ online reviews helped me find her (she teaches sociology these days) and that I saw her students ADORE her, she replied:

” I tell my students that I wrote all those rave reviews.  They give me a look of bafflement.  Actually, periodically I try to get Rate My Professor to delete all that stuff.  Students expect me to be hilarious, easy and nice.  I’d much rather they start out a little afraid of me.”

Her other job is to “turn the inside of an inner city Community College into an educational art museum.  Toward that end we have acquired over 500 works of art in the past three years. Many of the students have never seen art before, and they feel what comes from something new and wonderful.  This has inspired people to broaden their lives and their interests, and live with greater awareness. This gives them what’s called Cultural Capital, which is knowledge of a broader culture which will support them as they want to grow in their lives and careers.”

“I’ve always been interested in joy,” she says.  This hit home. Yes, of course. In her chapter Body  Acceptance she writes:  “The portion of this book is to help you escape the obsessive rut of feeling fat or yearning to be thin. Learn an alternative: feeling alive and good in your own skin. The goal is not “burning away fat”; the goal is uncovering your essence.”  “OOooooh,” I can hear you say.  “Mmmmmmm,” you hear me reply. It’s all about our essence.  Even the reason to exercise.  Essence and joy. Essence and joy.  Essence and joy. What a winning combination, even if it takes some exploration to be found.

Andrea’s masters thesis was about the Social History of Discount Shopping(!).  She taught Textiles and Fashion Buying at a college level and added, “I really should not have been teaching Fashion Buying simply because that isn’t an area of expertise, but when they said, “Teach it or else,” I chose to teach it.”  How can you not LOVE this woman?!?

In addition, to teaching and curating, she continues to write.  She’s on books number 4 and 5 now. One is a romantic comedy destined for Broadway or Hollywood (in my opinion) and the other is a nonfiction book to help children afraid of water learn to swim. I’m ready to buy both. I admire her Renaissance woman approach to doing it all. Did I mention she is also a lifeguard?

A bit more about Open and Clothed: There is a chapter called Help! My Body Keeps Changing! (Told you she was practical.) My favorite chapter is What Makes You Feel Beautiful?  because the answers have much less to do with clothes than you’d think.  This is not a how-to-get-dressed book, though her work would help those torn between different advice and get newbies off to the most interesting start.  This is a how-to-rethink-getting-dressed book.  It is funny, it is serious, it is historical, it is current, it is sad in places and bizarre in others, but mostly, I am writing this because it is eye-opening.

What does Andrea like to wear?  “Mostly jeans, pearls, black shoes, and sweaters, and sometimes a hat that makes me feel like Holden Caulfield.  But as a curator I can get away with anything:  they expect quirky.  I don’t disappoint,” and “one of the great things about being a teacher is they expect you to have bad hair and be, as one colleague put it, “endearingly disheveled.””

if you’ve enjoyed this book review with words from the author, check out my post about Joan Callaway, and her book The Color Connection, here and also my post about mother daughter team Arielle and Joanne Eckstut and their book the The Secret Language of Color, here. The only list of ten items I think every woman should own is here. I think Andrea would approve, with exceptions made for those performing acts of magic.


Note taking is inevitable!

 If you’d like a signed new but but slightly discolored with age copy of her book (isn’t it comforting that books age too?) or want to thank Andrea for helping us think outside the box, you can email her at Note: she only checks this email every few days AND (see comment following) she insists we buy copies we can find online cheaply first (and a bouquet of flowers with what’s left over!). If copies online sell out she has more for $24 plus shipping.

EDITED 4/4/14 TO ADD: 1) Wow, copies have sky rocketd in price on Amazon. Andrea will put copies on ebay as she can/is asked. 2) There is now a Facebook “Open and Clothed Book Discussion” group (which you can find here) should you wish to join in the conversation! (Thank you, kind Polly, for setting that group up!)

Do you have eyes? Eye brows? Hair? No way! ME TOO!

Know what? They matter! Sure, when you’re testing out a color to see if it’s good on you, you hold it up to your face to see how the effect. But your hair color and your eyes matter too. Forget them and you are only looking at part of the equation.

For instance, sometimes bright color works with someone’s skin…but their eye coloring is soft and their hair too. Their eyes and their hair temper this person’s best colors: they don’t support the brightness.   An example of the opposite: a person’s eyes are dazzling blue and her hair and brows are brilliant silver. There is a strong connection with bright colors held up near the face BUT…actually, the person’s skin is not nearly so bright.  It’s just hard to see that because even with hair up out of the way, her brows and eyes effortlessly steal the show.

Our best colors do not work with only some parts or aspects of our coloring: our best colors work with our coloring in its entirety.

These examples of body colors “pulling” a palette in different directions are big. There are countless other, more subtle combinations and interactions between body colors that exist and must be considered in a personal color analysis. For example, myself: I can wear medium to dark reds really well – dark blues, dark emerald greens, dark purples, and dark grays too. Yup, I fit fairly well into Dark Winter in 12 Seasons. But my blush tones (shown in the photo below in my nail polish) are Soft Autumn. Dark Winter has pinks (and other colors) I cannot wear well at all.  My blush tone can’t be overlooked.  Human coloring is crazy complex: this is what makes it so fascinating!


I’m connecting the dots when I do a person’s colors,  but I’m not connecting them with lines, but with colors themselves. Everything needs to work with everything else.  Or else it isn’t really a best color.

Another example:  Let’s pretend you’re in a contest to decorate a living room.  You are told that the walls have just been painted: the floor has an area rug on it,  and there is a new couch in the room.  The judges chose these features. They felt they were captivating colors and PERFECT together, though admit they may be challenging to work with. Your job is to finish decorating the room. You have unlimited access to anything you might desire including: bookshelves, ottomans, throws and throw pillows,  curtains, lamps, wall decor, candles, even bouquets of flowers.  You have three days to complete your challenge and can bring anything you want over to try out in the room  – only rules: no altering the walls, rug or couch.  Judges are looking for great use of color and a style that is in harmony with the room itself.  The most fabulously dressed – oops, I mean –  decorated room wins!

While you are running around and considering options, an eager assistant comes up and asks you if you’d like to have the rug or the rug and couch covered with a drop cloth. “But I’m not painting, you say.”

“Oh I know, I just thought it’d help you really focus on the paint color while you’re making your choices,” replies the assistant.

Would any of you NOT want to see the rug and couch colors while you are adding more  colors into the mix, trying to make the room look as spectacular as possible???  If you are decorating a room you need to  consider ALL the colors involved and likewise, if  you’re dressing a body you need to factor in ALL the colors involved too.

Any colors that I can see in a person play a role in determining that person’s best colors. Actually, it’s more than that. Any colors that I can see in, on or supporting a person play a role in determining their best colors.  A client who is in a wheelchair has the wheelchair colors used as part of his/her body colors in a personal palette. A client whose eye colors cannot really be seen behind their glasses (sunglasses worn all the time for health reasons or other), then the color of their glasses become extra important to me. They are now a body color, like the wheelchair (but more easily changed for another color!).  A client can have vitiligo (patches of skin lacking pigmentation, cafe au lait or strawberry marks, port wine stains or any other kind of birthmark  on their face/neck and I’m not phased.  I simply take all the colors I see into the equation.

An approach to color analysis that does not consider all these body colors (and the variation within them) misses the opportunity to create consistently great beauty.  Body coloring is complex.  I’m so glad it is. I love my journey of discovery.  

Incidentally, when I select colors for a client, I don’t think in words so much as feelings. My heart grows bigger and my cheeks feel warmer when there is color harmony in front of me. My sensory system is flooded when colors are too bright. My body feels weak when colors are not supportive enough for a person.  I’m always looking at the gestalt in my work, not one body color and then another. It’s all at once. But, if you’ve enjoyed reading this, and want more posts breaking down the interactions between body colors, let me know and I’ll do my best to study people with that in mind.

Meanwhile, if you’re new to my blog and want too see photos that quickly illustrate why it’s not just skin color that matters see my earlier blog post here.  And, actually, if you’ve only heard of custom analysis based on skin tones, check out my earlier Elmo post demonstrating a simplified version of how I do color analysis.   Finally if you want to know what if feels like to get your own custom palette made just for you, then read this post.

Polished to Perfection

Even as a custom color analyst, I still end up with colored products that aren’t quite right.  Case in point: a few months ago I bought a dusky pink polish that seemed amazing in the store when I tested it (near a big window with a few regular light bulbs on a high ceiling).  But at home in full daylight, it was the teensiest bit too cool and it bugged me. I was so so SO close!  I almost owned a pink nail polish I’d wear!!!  For those of you who don’t know, pink is a really tricky color on me to get right.

Then, out the other day, I saw a brownish-golden-plum metallic and instantaneously knew it would perfect that pink.  At home, I added a few drops and…MY DESIRED PINK!!!  But now I had practically that whole bottle of the newly purchased color.  What could I do with it?  It was rather blah on me alone.  At the time of impulse buy, I hadn’t thought beyond righting the pink but now I had practically the whole bottle left.  I despise clutter and excess, and it suddenly weighed down on me that while i had corrected an earlier polish to a state of TRUE LOVE, now I had another bottle that was just going to sit there, in my medicine cabinet, with three other imperfect polishes.  Wait, wait, wait: IDEA!!!  I ran to get two of those three. They beckoned for experimentation.

One was a very light, neutral pink.  It was, I thought, a nice shade for a nude nail on me, until I actually applied the three coats needed to get this runny formula looking smooth and then, fully opaque, it was far too light for my eyes to stand.  The other was a dark purple that I bought assuming it’d be fine (dark purple is an area I have lots of wiggle room in) but applied it was actually dark magenta which- agh- was too pink!  Morals of this paragraph: test nail polish not just for color but also for viscosity and don’t leap to ANY assumptions about color in a bottle.


The middle golden brown plum is the bottle I purchased to tweak the pink polish.  The two bottles that flank it are the earlier mistakes.

I was really, really happy with my results, which is why I’m writing this now.  It turns out you don’t actually need to hunt and hunt and hunt for the perfect nail polish color, you can mix your own!!!


See how nicely my new colors match the fabric swatches in my personal palette?

To do this, working in daylight hours, in a room with REALLY good ventilation, you’ll need:

  • your unloved nail polishes (not including those with chunky glitter of an offending color – the glitter can’t change color)
  • small paper cups for mixing – the smaller they are the less polish you’ll lose coating the cups
  • aluminum foil to cover your work area, and to test tiny mixtures out on
  • nail polish remover and cotton pads – to wipe the necks of bottles and clean off your fingernails as you test out potential colors
  • something for mixing – I used the blunt end of bamboo skewers (not the pointy end which might rip the foil)
  • your personal palette nearby but out of harm’s way (or if you don’t yet have a palette, have some idea of if the color needs to be warmed up, lightened, darkened, cooled down, etc)
  • possibly some of your loved nail polish colors

As you mix small amounts of  colors on the foil, figure out approximate ratios of how much of one color you want with another. If it’s just the tiniest of amounts, pour that directly into the bottle with the almost perfect color to minimize wastage.  If you need to mix colors in larger quantities, use the cups but play around on the foil for a while first to come up with a basic game plan.  You’ll want to ensure the textures meld nicely and the result is of good viscosity.   Mix really, really well.

Test potential mixtures out on your nails.  Next, compare to your palette!  If the color doesn’t look like it blends in, ask yourself, what does this color need more of?  You may find you want to add a bit of color that you have in your loved polishes.

Speaking of love, If you’re thrilled with a new formula you’ve created be sure to use a sharpie and write on the bottle’s label what you mixed in!  Also, if your nail polishes have those tiny metal balls in them,  spread them between final polishes rather than letting all fall back into one bottle. They’re great for helping you really mix the color in the bottle with the polish that’s still sticking to the sides.

Enjoy your collection of nail polishes that perfectly harmonize with YOU!  To learn more about choosing makeup once you have a personal palette (that includes your skin tones) read this post, here, where I give my mom a makeover for her 70th.

nailpolish3My nail polish collection including the ‘corrected’ colors with my personal palette. I have one more polish not shown – my perfect blush tone color, which I found at the same time as the golden brown plum color, and which needs no tinkering whatsoever. It hid off camera behind the perfected pink and I didn’t notice it when taking photos. Sorry!  My  collection, with these new additions, is complete! 

Now my only remaining unloved polish is a gorgeous teal blue glitter.  The color is great, the texture is fine…but the thing STAINS my nails even with two base coats.  Unless any of you lovely readers have a better idea (do you?),  I’m going to use it to paint dried out pine cones for holiday decor later this year!!!