I’ve been doing a deep dive into the science and art of dressing well using the body typing system developed by famed stylist, David Kibbe. I like this system because its approach to style is not corrective (as so many have been), it’s rather about highlighting each person’s natural lines.
The style recommendations mimic an individual’s natural lines to create a wardrobe that is cohesive with their body geometry and helps them communicate their true essence. This creates a style that is centered around making people look more like themselves, and encourages them to show up as the most authentic version of themselves.
In this way, it’s very inclusive and I think it’s the kindest system in how it makes space for each person’s beauty. I like it very much. That said, it is very (VERY!) confusing, and if you’ve ever tried to type yourself you may have found yourself in between two (or more) body types, I know I did. In this post, I try the recommended lines for each body type (with pictures) to find my most likely type through a process of elimination.
Aside from knowing your lines, another very important element of great personal style is knowing your colors. I would argue it’s even more important because even the most perfectly fitted dress in a clashing color will look terrible.
In this post, I’ll briefly discuss what the Seasonal Color System is and how I came to determine my type as Soft + Muted or Autumn.
Like the season Autumn, a person who falls into this category has an overall coloring that is rather muted, deep, earthy, and warm.
What Is Seasonal Color Theory?
There have been many color analysis systems and they can be quite overwhelming. The reason I lean toward this particular system is that it feels the most intuitive and simple.
The theory is that everybody’s natural coloring is either warm or cool, and bright or muted. Here bright or muted refers to the intensity of the person’s natural coloring or ‘chroma’, and warm or cool refers to their undertones.
What are the four seasons?
With the options of either warm or cool and bright or muted, there are four main categorizations that can form. These form the four seasons. A person can either be:
- Warm + Bright – Spring
- Warm + Muted – Autumn
- Cool + Bright – Winter
- Cool + Muted – Summer
Now, while this four-season model forms a great base for color analysis, it is also quite limited. For one, it doesn’t account for people of color, who just don’t fit neatly into these groups. Thankfully, over time, these four groups have been expanded to include a new category of ‘light and dark’ such that each season breaks into three, creating a total of 12 classifications.
That said, this is not what I’m here to discuss as it’s quite detailed and I’d much rather send you to (this great resource) that breaks it down beautifully.
How To Find Your Coloring
This analysis helped me to determine that I am Warm and Muted, which makes me an Autumn.
1. Determine If You Are Warm or Cool
Undertones are the subtle natural color below your skin’s surface. They can either be warm, cool, or neutral. There are a few tests that help you to determine which you are:
Vein Test– One quick way to determine a person’s undertones is to look at the color of their veins. Green veins indicate a warm undertone, whereas blue veins indicate a cool undertone.
Metals Test– Another quick test for undertones is to wear silver and gold jewelry to see which one looks better and more harmonious on you. If you have warm undertones, the gold jewelry will complement your skin tone, whereas the silver will highlight your imperfections. If you have cool undertones the silver jewelry will compliment you and the gold will look off. If both look equally good, then you have neutral undertones.
White Paper Test– If you hold a white sheet of paper to your face, you’ll be able to see what color comes through on your face. If your face looks yellow against the paper, you have warm undertones. If your face has a pinkish hue against the paper, you have cool undertones.
Am I Warm or Cool?
I have warm undertones. I look better in gold jewelry (rather than silver). I have green veins, and when I place a white piece of paper next to my face, I pick up clear yellowish pigment.
2. Determine If You Are Light or Dark
The best way to determine this is to take a facial photo and set it to greyscale.
I chose this picture because I’m wearing a white top (which is one end of the greyscale special), so I can see just how far my skin tone is from white.
Am I Light or Dark?
My overall coloring is dark, as can be seen in my greyscale photo. I have dark hair and dark eyes and, although my skin is relatively light when compared to my hair and eyes, my skin is also med-dark (this is clear when you compare it to the white of my shirt). My eyes and teeth are very light, which provides contrast. So I have an overall dark coloring.
b. Understanding My Level of Contrast
This is the contrast between the (natural) hair and skin, the pupil to the whites of their eyes, etc. The level of contrast that we have in our natural coloring determines the level of contrast that we can handle in our clothing. As stated, I have an overall deep/ dark coloring with medium to high contrast. This means that I can handle both light and dark colors, though I look my best in medium to dark colors since that‘s where my natural coloring falls.
Let’s take a look:
I think I look good in all of the different depths of colors, from the very light cream white, though the medium green to the dark navy. That said, I think the medium to dark colors are my best because they are closest to my coloring (so the least contrast).
The white is the furthest from my coloring and thus the most contrasted. I think the white looks the most separate from me. The value of these colors is easier to see when I set the image to grayscale:
This also means that I can easily handle medium to high contrast looks (so long as I stay within my palette).
Let’s take a look:
Again, the value or depth of these colors is easier to see when I set the image to grayscale:
While both outfits present contrast, the one to the left is made up of colors that are close together on the value scale, so the contrast is lower. The outfit on the right is made up of colors that are very far apart on the valley slate, so it has higher contrast.
While both looks work, I think the medium contrast (where both colors fall within the medium value range) look to the left is more harmonious.
Verdict: Low to Medium
3. Determine If You Are Muted or Bright
This refers to the chroma that your coloring can handle. Think of it as the brightness or clarity of a color that you can wear without it overpowering you. People with low contrast tend to not do well with bright colors and disappear behind them, whereas people with high contrast look great in bright colors as their own clear coloring can support it.
Am I Clear/ Bright or Muted?
I am overpowered by very bright colors and they leave me looking dull. Because they are not harmonious with my natural coloring, very bright colors compete with my skin for attention, and because they are brighter they always win. This means that you see the bright-colored dress first before you see me. Here’s an example:
See how I disappear into the background in this bright orange dress? You first see the dress, and then you see me. If you’re struggling to see this, try to look at my face and watch how your eye is automatically drawn to the dress instead.
Now, compare that to a person with Warm + Bright coloring, who is harmonious with this bright color dress, and see how beautifully it complements her. She does not look separate from it.
I see Meg and the dress together.
The orange complements her and her skin glows against it. She has Deep, Clear, and Bright coloring.
Now, let’s look at a similar color on Gigi Hadid:
On Gigi, I first see this outfit before I see her. The orange is too bright and overpowers her. She has muted coloring.
Now, let’s see what Meg looks like in a warm but muted tone:
Here, I see this dress and then I see Meg. It doesn’t overpower her as much as it looks separate from her and it drags her entire look down. This look is incredibly dull on her. She needs vibrant color.
Now, let’s try a similar muted color on Gigi:
Here, I see Gigi and her dress together. Her beautiful face comes to the forefront (because the dress doesn’t pull attention away from her). This muted, warm tone complements her and all her features (hair, skin) shine against it.
Let’s explore this on me again.
These colors are all warm (yellow being the warmest of all), but the yellow to the left is muted whereas on the right it’s clear and bright. We can see the separation principle again.
In the muted colors on the left, I perceive myself and my clothes altogether. In the bright colors to the right, the clothes pull away from me. I first see the outfit and then I see me. Even though these are good colors for me, their brightness stands out against my muted coloring.
Best Colors for Autumn | Warm + Muted Colors
As an Autumn, my overall coloring is rather muted, deep, earthy, and warm. As such, I’m best complemented by colors that can be described in the same way. It is important for me to choose colors that will echo my natural delicate coloring and low to medium contrast level. On me, muted and warm colors appear vibrant because they harmonize with my skin and glow against it.
Best Colors for Warm + Muted
The best colors for Warm and Muted are cream, camel, olive green, golden browns, chestnut, coral, tomato red, mellow yellows, beige, forest green, and peach. They are also complemented by navy blue, some shades of warm muted blue, purple, and teal.
A person who is Warm + Muted doesn’t need contrast as much as she needs glow. As such, bronze and gold are the metallics that compliment a Warm + Muted person best because it has the right glow for their coloring.
Worst Colors for Autumn | Cool + Light Colors
The worst colors for Warm + Muted are cool, very light, and overly bright colors. These will wash them out and make them look sick. True white and black are too harsh for this coloring, and they should rather opt for a cream white and a charcoal grey, or brown instead.
This makes sense right? If I’m Warm, Muted and Dark- the furthest colors from me are Cool, Bright, and Light. So these would be my worst colors that look the most separate from me.
Let’s see what happens when I wear cool and light colors:
I don’t own such colors (and for good reason), so I had to forage in Dear Husband’s wardrobe for this t-shirt.
Hahahahahaha- Wow this is so bad.
This blue color is light (especially compared to my skin) and it is cool- this blue reads as ‘icy’. It doesn’t work on me at all.
Now, let’s see what happens when I try blues with some warmth:
These are infinitely better on me. In these shades of blue (the dress leans almost violet), I don’t look sick and awful. They are warmer and darker as compared to the earlier blues. They are also less clear, or more muted. So, they work better with my natural coloring (which is warm, dark, and muted). I actually like both these outfits.
So, from a pretty intuitive process of trying everything and seeing what looks and feels better on me, I’ve concluded that I am: Muted, Warm, and Dark. This, in seasonal color theory, makes me an Autumn. I agree with this result. I think technically I’m either a True Autumn or a Dark Autumn but, for now, I’m just happy knowing which color season fits with me.
I think knowing your best colors is a vital piece of information that can easily transform your style for the better. I first became serious about understanding my coloring about a year ago, and in that time, I’ve gotten rid of colors that don’t work and started only buying colors that complement me. This has saved me time, money, and has made it easy to create a wardrobe that all works together. It’s still a work in progress, but I can attest to its value.
I hope this helps you find your coloring as well, or to better understand the principles behind it. Let me know if it does and what color season you are.