A little while ago I was informed by a colour consultant that I shouldn’t wear black! I wasn’t particularly shocked because I’ve noticed that whenever my clients have had their “colours done” the majority can’t wear black either! I actually asked her: “Out of a room of 25 ladies, how many could wear black” and she answered, “Probably one”. “Probably one who can’t?” I responded. “No,” she replied, “Only one who can!”
This stunned me! Were all we “fashion” people who often wear black head-to-toe wrong? Surely not! To me, black is the colour of fashion – think about the iconic image of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in her “Little Black Dress”. And something tells me that Karl Lagerfeld wouldn’t be too concerned if someone told him black wasn’t in his colour palette… it’s his trade mark look! It’s what makes him dramatic and I found this quote by him:
“There’s no Chanel collection without black. (It) will never exist. Who can live without some black clothes?” (Karl Lagerfeld).
Good question! Now don’t get me wrong – I see completely that dark brown (apparently the colour I should be wearing instead of black) is a much “softer” colour for my skin tone and it does give me more of a warmth in my face that black may not. However the problem is that the majority of my clients who have had their “colours done” are terrified of wearing anything that isn’t in their colour swatch pouch (a mini book you are given with all your “colours” in). And it’s SO limiting. I know that it’s simply meant to serve as a guide as to which colours are most flattering for the individual – but more often than not people don’t take it that way… they treat it as gospel!
For example, I had a client a couple of weeks ago and she couldn’t remember the last time she’d bought either black, grey or navy blue because her colouring was “Spring”. Not surprisingly, as it’s Autumn/Winter she was really struggling to find anything to buy in the shops. She didn’t have one dark colour in her swatches apart from a purple that wasn’t actually flattering at all when she tried it on, as she suited a much warmer shade. We had a long chat about fashion and colours… I asked her to let me pretend that I didn’t know what “season” she was and if I could put her in what I thought – without the constraint of only choosing specific shades on her colour cards.
Well you know what I’m going to say don’t you… I pulled out black, dark grey, purple, teal, red – we had a play around with accessories too. She tried on a 3/4 sleeved slightly tulip skirted-black dress and black cardigan. This was very scary for her at first so I quickly added a purple patent belt and necklace… And she looked fantastic! So polished and put together – and elegant and slim… She bought the outfit even though it was a huge step for her but she knew she looked good – you could see she was holding herself differently and she looked more confident. It was amazing! I had a wonderful email from her a few days later saying how pleased she was with her new items – and I was thrilled.
We decided that at the end of the day it’s how you feel in something that counts. I believe most women can wear black and look elegant and striking instantly… but it’s how you wear it that counts. Lots of people (like myself) love black and I think when you’re younger it’s much easier just to throw dark colours on and not think about it (even though the last time I had my hair coloured/high-lighted it was so dark I looked like a full on“goth” when wearing black, which wasn’t really a good look for me – thank the Lord it faded somewhat after a month or so!). However as you get older, black sometimes needs to be softened with a brighter necklace or scarf near the face – as it’s that colour that will reflect against the skin and be more flattering.
I also started thinking about the trends this season – I don’t think the “glunge” look (glamorous grunge) would be quite so punchy in chocolate brown and sequins and embellishment only really work with black as a background. There are highlight colours around – lots of purples and berry shades, midnight blues and reds. But essentially this season is about black and grey – pretty much the same as last year and the one before that!
Basically knowing your “colours” is fine if you’re going to have something made so you can pick the fabric but not so great if you’re hoping to pop into M&S for a sweater – as you can of course only choose from the colours they have. I can visualize my clients clutching their colour swatches on a desperate hunt to find the perfect shade and finding it hard to make a decision, leaving empty-handed. The most important thing for me is that my clients feel confident to experiment with fashion and happy to try different styles and colours. Personally, I will always try something even if I don’t think it’s the best colour on me; if it fits and it’s fun or unusual I’ll buy it and just add more bronzer or eye make-up for example (I find this makes less flattering colours work better – any excuse for more eye-liner!). However, not everyone has the confidence to do this and they are more cautious. For those of you still undecided I will leave you with another quote, this time from Coco Chanel:
“Really, they are so badly dressed…I will put them all in black to teach them good taste.” Coco Chanel
P.S. I have a hilarious story to tell about Karl Lagerfeld and a family member of mine… but I think I’ll save that for another week!