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!!!

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.


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. 


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!

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.


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!




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!


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.


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.

Hand Painted Custom Palettes and More!

“Working” on my weekends has become so much more fun since I started doing custom color.  Saturday, I spent the morning learning about how custom palettes are hand painted and the afternoon finding out more about Suzanne Caygill.  I have lots to share!

Rochele HC Hirsch, who organized the Suzanne Caygill Legacy Event  I attended in August, also organized and led this day.  Rochele began her studies with Suzanne Caygill in 1987.  Two years later, Suzanne moved out to Atlanta, Georgia and Rochele served as her agent.  They were close until Suzanne died in 1994.  (Suzanne even decorated two of Rochele’s homes – really fun to hear about!)

Since her training, Rochele has ALWAYS hand painted palettes for her clients.  And, to date, she has created over 1100.  Yup, over 1100.  

Rochele  uses acrylic paints and Strathmore drawing paper.

rochele setting up

She begins by painting light, medium and dark skin tones, looking at the clients’ arm and hand, and comparing what she has painted to the client’s face.

rochele painting

(Skin tone swatches are not always painted to be exact matches – sometimes she lifts the color.)

As she works, Rochele makes tiny tapping motions with her brush above the deposits of paint on her own palette, and quietly murmurs questions and also answers as she feels and intuits her way to the colors that best work to create the client’s palette.  

She tells us which pigments she is using and when she needs to make adjustments. 

Next, Rochele paints the reds (shown below).  She goes on to look closely at her client’s eyes.

rochele reds

rochele eye chart

She tells her client what she learns about them looking at their eyes’ structures using  Denny’ Johnson’s Rayid Model.  (She passes around a guide to the Rayid Model, shown in the photo at right.)

rochele eye colorsAbove you can see the swatches painted based on eye colors.

Rochele’s early discovery that the client needs Burnt Sienna added to colors to make them work for her continues to hold true.  Rochele says that Autumns tend to need Burnt Sienna in their best colors.


No one is suprised that the teal of the client’s sweater is included in the palette.

Rochele then pulls out a very large binder of neatly organized fabric swatches. They are allrochelechoosingprintsprints.  ( I tease her, saying, “You don’t paint the prints too? ”  She says that painting more than plain color swatches that doesn’t interest her.  Fair enough!  I’m plenty impressed!)

rochele first cut

As folks head out to lunch, out comes a mini-paper cutter.  Rochele cuts and glues the paper she has painted to create three separate palettes.

The client receives a larger and a smaller (purse friendly) palette; the third palette is for Rochele’s own records, with information about the client noted on the back.

There are also “extra” pieces – the ends of the painted swatches and these go in a plastic bag for the client to take home.  These extra bits of color swatches can be manipulated – moved around – to try out different color combinations made possible in the palette.

three plettes rochele


Here is the client with her “Metallic Autumn” palette.

The swatches are laid out in the traditional Caygill manner, shown also in this palette which was created by Suzanne, herself:


It is for a “Renaissance Autumn,” a sub-type not included in Suzanne’s book, Color, The Essence of You.  (Please note the diagonal lines seen in the darker blues on the right are reflections of the wallpaper – those are not prints.)

In the afternoon, we watched the video that Suzanne Caygill’s clients saw while waiting to have their colors done.  In it, Suzanne, seated at a table decorated with flowers and lit candles,  is talking, describing her understanding of colors and their connection to the seasons.  She holds up photo collages of of people with images from nature to illustrate what she is saying.

We heard a funny story of a man in Suzanne’s waiting room horrified to discover that all the eyes had been cut out of the magazines! (Oh, Pinterest and Polyvore, where were you when Suzanne needed you?)

And we see lots of photos from Rochele’s time with Suzanne.  My favorite photo was of Suzanne, Rochele and two other women  wearing dresses that Suzanne had designed for an event, and named “Nothing Dresses.”  They were in metals not skin tones, for those wondering!

Color analysis is only part of Rochele’s field of expertise.   She studies relationship dynamics and their connection to inherited beliefs, and she’s written a book about it.

Rochele travels the world making hand painted palettes (and sharing intuition with her clients about what is going on within them and within their relationships).   Her travel schedule can be found here.  Palettes by Rochele are $350 and include the larger and smaller size and also the bag of extras.  It is sure to be a memorable experience and I can’t wait to see which readers consult with her first!  (Anyone in Singapore?  She is headed there soon.) Recommended for those of you curious to see hand painted intuited colors!

If you’d like to have her come to your town, contact her.  Typically you need five to six clients and if you provide her with accommodation and assistance (assembling the palettes), you get a great deal on your own palette!

Decoding Color Exquisitely

The only kind of high that I like is a color high.  I’m coming down off one now and it’s a dreamy, soft descent.  It started with a gentle glow at a book reading on Sunday afternoon, amid an eager crowd, hearing women whispering of paint and clothing colors as I found a seat.  Then mother and daughter authors, Joann and Arielle Eckstut, took to the podium and filled the room with laughter, delight and many a gasp, as they shared favorite snippets from their their visually stunning book, The Secret Language of Color (officially on sale October 22nd but available for preorder here ).

With slides to accompany their talk, they confounded the audience with optical illusions; bookreadingwowed us with nature’s beauty and challenged our brains with the physics of color.  (For the record, that tree that fell in the forest without a sound?  It was colorless too.)  Our magical journey through the rainbow involved leaps through history, trips over seas and reflections on the sky; we put on robes of the aristocracy and the eyes of bees.

And, then just as I was getting the hang of flying through time and space, and inhabiting other species minds’, the color ride and indeed Q&A time was over and the pot of gold – the book itself – was at the cash register.  Legs moved fast and for a short while the vibe turned tense as there appeared to be a shortage of copies of books for sale. “That one is mine! But, yes, you can look!” I heard several times.

Outside, sitting in the sun (Book Passage in Corte Madera has the nicest set up), I dived into the book, then splashed around like a dolphin, frolicking in the sea.  I delved deeper at home.  The book  tantalizes, but more importantly, it satisfies.  It’s the kind of book you can enjoy for a minute here and there just as much as an hour now and then. The photos are glorious and seemingly never-ending, the graphics flawless and the writing is charming. And, for those of you who often feel cheated of intellectual depth in coffee table books, you can rejoice!  There is real substance here.  Spare yourself three years of color related research and read this.  (With the saved time, you might like to try out the recipe for tyrian purple (purple made the old fashioned way).  Warning: you need 1000 mollusks and good aim.)

Obsessed with color as it relates to the human body, my own favorite morsels include:

  • learning that humans are better able to discern shades of yellow than any other hue.
  • seeing Pierre David’s Human Pantone rainbow collage, comprised of (photos of) human skin.  (It is beautiful not macabre!) Enjoy that artistry here.
  • discovering that plants have small amounts of melanin too, evident in fruits that bruise!

Speaking of which, I knew that our color vision was thought to have developed to allow us to find the ripest fruits. But there is a new theory, did YOU know?  

  • Our vision may have evolved to being more complex  (though not as complex as a butterfly’s) to better understand other people around us! That leg is a bit blue, that face is turning green, that person’s chest and now neck and now face is going RED!  Respond!!!

No one, the Eckstuts will tell you, is an expert in color, yet you certainly feel a lot smarter with words from these women at your fingertips.  In addition to being authors, Joann Eckstut, founder of The Roomworks, is an interior designer and color consultant; her daughter, Arielle Eckstut is a professional Book Doctor and co-founder of LittleMissMatched.  Both predict annual color trends for the Color Association of the United States, Joann for interiors/environment and and Arielle for young fashion.

My hour at the reading was fabulous enough but then I had the additional pleasure (hence the sustained color high) to chat with these woman again the next day as I showed them how I find personal colors.  It was quite a treat.

. joann and arielle

Almost done…joannfinalfan


Joann’s also has shiny silvers, some plums and more warm reds.

Arielle’s also has nearly stark whites, lucky-in-the-East yellows and a few more orange-reds. 

The black and silver in the middle are shared.  

Now, go and get this book.  You can’t, in all seriousness, call yourself a Colorista, a Color Freak or a Color Nerd without it.  It’s also a great  gift for any of your friends who fancy themselves part scientist/social scientist/artist or trivial pursuit master.  Even a color blind, mathematician friend would probably love it.  It’s that good.  Really.  (Buy it hereor, support your local bookseller.)

The beautiful fabric swatches I use are part of Debra Lindquist‘s Color Profiles System.