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Colour Analysis

Colour Analysis


I don’t think anyone has ever declared apricot – that sickly, pinky-orange that calls to mind canned fruit and ’70s bathrooms – “their colour”. And yet, here I am in a light-filled west London room on a weekday afternoon being told by a woman I met an hour ago that it is one of mine.

“This is beautiful! Wow!” she says, holding a scarf that shade up to my face. And you know what? Bizarrely, I agree. It makes me look fresher, more awake. My cheekbones are defined, my eyes twinkly.

I am in the middle of having my “colours done”, and the woman I am speaking to is Michelle Marks. Warm, friendly and infectiously enthusiastic, she has been doing this for years. My make-up has been dutifully removed, my hair in a towelling hairband, as I am draped in scarf after scarf as Marks embarks on her detective work.

But what is colour analysis? Put simply: the process of finding out which “season” of shades work best for you. I am an “autumn” – naturally I’m thrilled as the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” is my favourite – but it doesn’t mean what I think it does. Indeed, the terminology is distracting – a “spring” is no more limited to pastels as a “winter” is to dark, icy shades. House of Colour’s consultants use a colour wheel created at the Bauhaus art school in the 1930s, each quarter containing a spectrum of complementary shades. Get it right and you sharpen; look more awake, Marks explains. Plus – and you’ll like this – “you naturally look more expensive just by wearing your colours”.


Sounds good. But colour analysis has had an image problem for quite some time – seen as fusty, prescriptive, a hangover from the years of makeover shows. The word flattering has fallen out of fashion, not least because we know that style and taste are much more emotional, more idiosyncratic than that.

In the last year however, the internet has taken this slice of nostalgia and rebooted it for now. Some experts (see The Color Analysis Queen or Carol Brailey) have tens of thousands of followers, while the hashtag #ColorAnalysis – along with filters which promise to “digitally drape” you – has totted up nearly 300,000 posts on TikTok at the time of writing.

So, yes, the interest is increasing and the demographic is changing. As well as more men coming in (and of their own accord) Marks says she’s noticed a younger clientele recently. Given the rise of personal style, perhaps people are now desperate for some rules to follow.

Could there be a sustainability element, too, enabled by finding the colours that actually suit you? I approach the idea with scepticism, not least because I can’t think of anything less sustainable than letting go of pieces I love and wear because they’re not “autumn”.

“You don’t have to chuck out everything that is not in your colours,” Marks reassures me. “Try and separate your wardrobe so that in one half you have everything that is definitely autumnal and you love, and on the other, clothes that you still love and want to wear but are not autumnal. The only thing to keep in mind is that when you’re shopping, you’re only filling up the correct side and don’t buy anything that’s not in your colours anymore.” If all the colours in your season harmonise, it arguably means you can do less with more. No more “I love it but it doesn’t go with anything”? Sounds good to me.

Something else Marks advises is to pay attention to what sits closest to the face: glasses and jewellery can make a difference, as can a scarf. And how’s this for nifty? Marks shows me a dress she loves in the “wrong” colour which she updated by adding trims to the necktie and cuffs in one of her shades.

The most compelling argument I can see, however, is how being equipped with this knowledge can potentially slow us down. It encourages intentionality in shopping. “We believe finding the colours that help you look your best and feel your most confident is based on scientific analysis, not following the latest trend,” says Marks, adding that when you do go shopping, “you cut out three quarters of the noise.”

Will I live by my swatches? I am more likely to take it as a guide than gospel, something to consider if not be rigidly confined by. It reminds me of returning from the Mayr Clinic in Austria: I’m not going to take Epsom salts and live off broth every day, but incorporate small changes into my real life instead.

What “suits” me has never been a driving force in how I get dressed. I am an emotional, inexplicable dresser who is driven by my heart. Here’s something interesting though: I looked at some of my wardrobe when I got home and realised that one of the pieces that reads tricky on paper – a fluid Victoria Beckham maxi dress in a zingy, eye-popping lime – but which I find (I thought) counter-intuitively a breeze to wear, is one of my shades. On the flipside, I have never got the mileage out of black that I always thought I should (black is not in my palette).

Perhaps I learnt more than I thought – and not just that I look great in apricot.

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