In this age of riotous fashion color, the woman with a well-trained color sence has an advantage. She intuitively knows which of the season's new colors combine with those already in her wardrobe and can make wise, money-saving choices. Her instincts tell her what colors blend best with her own coloring.
But what of the person without this sharpened sense of color? Can this faculty be acquired? "Definitely yes," say personal color consultants, who perform a relatively new service that is proliferating across the country. The service ranges from $50 to $275.
These color experts will carefully analyze the colors in your hair, eyes, and skin pigment. They will recommend a personal chart of colors to complement your own coloring. This chart will often be presented in form of a "palette" or "fan" of fabric swatches.
If a woman has always felt that white was white and anybody could wear it, she might be surprised to learn from her consultant that her whites should all be ivory tones. Or perhaps her shade of red should have a lot of brown in it to bring out the best in her skin.
Long gone are the old reliable color rules such as "redheads should wear green and neverm red," and "people with blue eyes should wear lots of blue." But without the old rules many people feel the need of somem guidelines.
Suzanne Caygill, a pioneer in color harmony, has been meeting this need, mainly in California, for over 30 years. In her San Francisco-penthouse-based Color and Fashion Clinic she has worked with not only women but men and children to determine their best color, texture, and line.
Ms. Caygil begins by considering a client's personal coloration and general outline. This information is then summed up up in a seasonal, nature-keyed designation of summer, winter, autumn, or spring (with explicit varietal designations) which determines "her" colors. A palette will show the varying hues, values, intensity, and textures she should wear for her personal color harmony.
Winter, for example, generally indicates black or gray hair and ivory skin color. Elizabeth Taylor is one example. Red tones in hair and peach or apricot-toned skin like Greer Garson's usually means autumn. Doris Day should be spring and Grace Kelly summer by this system.
(Please note that we can give only a bsic, simplified explanation of the seasonal categorizing system which is used by a large number of color experts.)
Some colorists feel that categorizing into seasons is limiting. "What if you have autumn hair, spring eyes, and summer skin?" they ask.
Ms. Caygill might say you need her all the more. Others say you have the whole spectrum to work with and can learn to be your own analyst.
Is it actually possible to learn this technique without person-to-person contact, without eye-to-eye consultation and draping of fabrics? There are several books to help people. Ms. Caygill just published one titled "Color, The Essence of You" (Celestial Arts, 231 Adrian Road, Millbrae, Calif. 94030, $65). Carole Jackson is the author of "Color Me Beautiful," (Acropolis Books, Washington, D.C. 20009, $14.95).
Donna Harris of California Custom Color, San Jose, helps clients by mail. She sends questionnaires with fabric samples indicating skin tones to choose from. When she receives the answers (sometime with a snip of hair), she'll analyze the color type, and send a fan.
In the absence of personal service, however, all experts agree that women must learn really to see the colors in her skin and eyes.
"Few people would ordinarily look for three colors in their eyes, for example ," says Dona Le Moin of Sunnyvale, Calif. She feels a palette should be used as a guide and not as the absolute ultimate.
One of Le Moin's clients says that her palette made shopping for clothes a lot more fun. "When you're thoroughly familiar with you colors you can go down a rack of dresses in a hurry to ascertain if there's anything there for you," she says.
Some women are so enthusiastic over their fans or palettes that they have had the whole family "done."
"It has saved fights among my children over whose socks are whose, since they have their own colors now," says one satisfied client of California Custom Color.