Let me tell you a little story. For some of you it may be very familiar.

A woman whose interest in finding her best colors has been peaked joins a forum or a facebook group, or multiples of both. She's hoping they can help her save a few pennies on a color analysis, or maybe she just lives pretty far away from an analyst and wants to see what she can accomplish on her own before one comes to town. Inevitably if she wants their help, the ladies in these groups tell her she's going to need to post some pictures of herself, usually in a variety of colors. Here's what they see:

My colleague Cate's Dark Winter client, A

My colleague Cate's Dark Winter client, A

My Dark Winter client, K

My Dark Winter client, K

My colleague Gabi's Dark Winter client, L

My colleague Gabi's Dark Winter client, L

My colleague Jorunn's Dark Winter client, S

My colleague Jorunn's Dark Winter client, S

Thank you so much to the clients willing to share their pictures! Gorgeous women, all.

  • A woman who has a lighter hazel or darker blue-green eye color. She may have fairly light hair, often of the sort that sits right on the line between blonde and brown, but may tip in favor of the former. Sometimes, she might have red hair instead. It might be cooler looking (in which case she has typically considered it mousey), or a warmer looking, golden color. Her skin might range from very fair indeed to a light tan. The skin might have some apparent heat to it, but it might not.
  • A woman who looks decently convincing in black, but not totally.
  • A woman who obviously seems to need some darkness. Light, chalky pastels are possibly the worst thing she could do.
  • A woman who can be upstaged by some very intense colors. Put her in BW's most vibrant, cherry reds for example, and definitely if that red happens to be a lipstick, and there's something obviously not right there. Someone might come along and insist it's too cool as well. It certainly might feel that way. Because of what she looks like, and also because black, pure white, and bright red seem too much for her, Winter is more or less ruled out.
  • Speaking of color temperature, this woman seems to need some heat. People are generally not agreed on how much, but most agree she is neutral. Silver and gold both seem to work. Sometimes, gold might even seem to be better. Because Winter seems too much, and Summer is draining and not good at all, it is presumed she must be warm neutral.
  • A woman next to whom rust and camel look like food or dirt. She may have come in liking and wearing these colors to begin with. She very quickly gets the "Honey, no." from girls on the group. She may or may not keep trying to convince them otherwise. Still, Autumn lipsticks look really muddy.
  • A woman on whom, compared to the aforementioned rust and camel, coral and turquoise seem pretty effective. Her eyes brighten, her skin clears, she seems somewhat healthier.  She may tell them this is a Bright Spring trial, or they might tell her that based on what seem in the picture to be those colors. Lipsticks may look better than Autumn as well. Some will continue to argue that they are too bright, but compared to the Autumn ones, they might still look better, because after all it is true she need some brightness. Because Autumn is the comparison presented, and because hue effects are some of the ones most poorly represented in photos, no one notices that her face has turned yellow the minute she put the lipstick on.

So the group decides after extensive trials that this woman is a Bright Spring. Except she isn't. They weren't totally wrong though. Here's what they missed:

  • Hue reactions. Unless it was very extreme, they really couldn't tell how much heat was too much. It's pretty hard, if not impossible in a photo to make much of that. They used other factors to rule out cool neutral, and her appearance was a major sticking point there. Basically, they thought she was so light looking that if she was cool or cool neutral she'd have to be a Summer, which did not end up working at all. If they could see that warm neutral was separating the pigments in her skin, they thought that was just her skin. Which it partially might have been, just not as much as they think. Or potentially not at all. (No, we are not putting you in extreme colors to "fix your problem skin". You might not really have problem skin, or not half so much as you think. We just remove the simultaneous contrast effect making it look that way.)
  • Value reactions. They couldn't tell that Bright Spring was too light to define her. They forgot to check and see if she had edges to her features and to her face, or more likely they didn't know they were supposed to. Or, they could see that but they just assumed she was kind of a darker leaning one.
  • Chroma reactions. The major points of argument for her being Bright Spring were basically her appearance, and the fact that everyone could see that the brightness of that season over Dark Autumn helped her considerably. Surely it would have been impossible to notice the greasiness of her skin in Bright Spring in a photo, if anyone had been checking. And again, because they have already decided that Bright Winter is too Bright (true), and True Winter is too cool (true), and she can't really be a Dark anyhow because she is too light looking (false), the group arrives at what seems to be the only logical conclusion.
  • This probably was not lost on those trying to help online, but it's pretty hard to tell what looks good when colors in the photograph change with every shift of light, and on each persons different screen, etc, even as a trained analyst who knows what to look for. You really need to be in the room with the person, and in controlled lighting. 
  • The possibility they were never looking at Bright Spring colors to begin with. That is still true if she eventually went out and bought the fan. She doesn't know how to use it really, and even if she did it's easy to make this mistake sometimes.

I hope what you are starting to see is how complex PCA truly is. Even if you followed all that perfectly, hopefully you begin to understand why we need to be together in the same room, in controlled lighting, looking at very calculated and specific drape comparisons in order to come to an accurate conclusion. And one of us should probably be a trained color analyst, who knows what to look for and how to know when a color is working or not, and if not, what might be wrong with it. (Oh, and, you can change a few minor things up here and have this same story with either Dark and with either Bright or True Spring)

Ok, so the story continues. This woman eventually senses something is not right, and she shows up at my door for a PCA. She's pretty sure she's wasting her money and she's just going to be what everyone says, but she just wants to know for sure. When we reach the Dark Winter conclusion, her mind is blown. She's seen it all happen of course, she knows exactly how we got there and can see with her own eyes that it does work. Sooner or later though, whether right away or after a week of looking through Dark Winter pinterest boards, she becomes upset. "How can my colors be so heavy, dark, and sad?" she asks me. The simplest answer, one that happens to be true, is that they aren't. Of course everyone idea of what colors are depressing is different, but the main thing here is, when she asks this question, she inevitably thinks she has nothing but mulberry, aubergine, and blackened navy (not that there's anything wrong with those colors!). She's come to love the color she discovered in Bright Spring, and for good reason. Let me show you what I mean.

Often, this woman has walked into her analysis telling me how well she suits coral and turquoise. Quite so, she does. Coral and turquoise can be some of the most surprising and flattering colors in the Dark Winter pallet. While, for this woman, the draping will reveal that these colors really have to be gotten right (meaning that they need to be precisely in her season and not any other sort of coral or turquoise) the effect can be excellent. Add to that list teal, a color which is extremely flattering on any of the 5 Autumn blends, and hot pink, a color that all 3 winters have some version of, and you start to see why it can be easy to mistake a light looking DW for BSp and why it is simply untrue that one is all happy and bright and the other dark depression. 

Please note that polyvores were created on my screen, using digital palette representations for harmony. Many of the actual items may be different seasons in reality, and the images of them may look very different on your screen. I hope that some of the general concepts will come through.

It is certainly true that the overall look and feel of the Dark Winter colors here as a group is deeper richer and yes *a bit* duller compared with the light, bright airy, feeling of the Bright Spring group. Usually, regardless of her feeling about Bright Spring's light tangerines or palest aquas and yellow greens, she knows that those colors are not particularly flattering on her. Bright Spring on the other hand wears these colors very naturally as lightness and warmth at the same time her very much and her wheelhouse. What about the purse in the middle? Is it Bright Spring? Is it Dark Winter? Is it neither, perhaps? Does it really matter if this could be a logical part of either of these wardrobes? Especially of she loves it, probably not.

Worth mentioning, it's totally okay to find another season more beautiful to look at than your own. What I see often is women who discount their own season without really knowing what it looks like, usually because of the name and/or what they see on Pinterest. Spend time with your pallete, see what you can make it do. 

How about purple and blue? Many, many Dark Winters, as well as Bright Springs both love and look good in their blues and purples.  Many of them are not all that dissimilar, because of the inherent darkness of blue and purple. I've tried to expand these examples to include both the "Dark Winter would never" (the merlot dress in the corner) and "Bright Spring would never" (the light purple coat with the flowers) sides of the seasons. If someone didn't particularly care for either of those extreme, I think they could easily work with the tones that are neither. But ideally the colors they did choose would harmonize to those other colors, whether or not they actually chose to wear them. That's how we tested you, and how we know the difference between seasons when eyeballing it is hard to do.

One more, though I could do several. Yellows and warmer greens. Though these colors are perhaps more readily associated with Bright Spring, Dark Winter is quite vibrant and exciting here, ranging to a very punchy icy acid green we use in analysis as a proof against Dark Autumn (who does not wear icy color well at all, or anything that close to white for that matter). Again notice how key it is that Dark Winter has a maximum darkness point which by far exceeds that of Bright Spring, and vice versa that Bright Spring can tolerate much more lightness, even near-pastels (which are kryptonite to the DW). Yet many, even most of the colors exist in a sort of overlapping midrange; the main apparent difference becomes heat level and a bit of saturation. Bright Spring would never wear the olive blouse. The amount of black in the two patterned dresses could get heavy on her. Dark Winter would never wear the light yellow purse, even as an accessory, or the dark yellow hat and scarf, especially next to the face. These are the extremes that  are often not pushed in testing the seasons at home (some of these colors are not that easy to find!).

I hope that this article has served to expand your notion of what Dark Winter can be, both colors and people, and also, perhaps most importantly, your understanding of PCA in general.

P.S. If you've had a PCA from me, or one of my 12 Blueprints/Your Natural Design trained colleagues, reach out to me if you'd like to be added to our new private Facebook group. It's a great place to ask questions and share information.

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