Saturday, November 28, 2009

Just Color Your World

Four days ago, I was in Pearl Paint, the arts and craft supply store, buying a birthday gift for an aspiring artist friend. A 20-something sales clerk helped me put together a ‘care package’ of art supplies. When I started to walk away from the young man, on my way to the check out, he said to me, “You look really good in red. Not everyone can wear red, but you can.” I’d run into Pearl after work, wearing a bright red Anne Klein cardigan, a black wool skirt with red pinstripes, black nylons and heels. Though I was more put-together than, say, I am after doing yard work, I never expected a stranger to compliment me. As a 50-something, I’ve gotten used to my invisibility, especially around men under 80. The sales clerk even added, “The whole outfit looks good.” Needless to say, I was shocked. I blurted out a “thank you” and a “wow, that’s really nice to hear” and scurried away.

Afterwards, I imagined the young sales clerk setting goals for each work shift to make the time pass. Sales clerks (especially in this economy) often look pretty bored in stores. I imagined the clerk standing in front of his bathroom mirror in the morning, choosing a new goal for that day. Four days ago, while brushing his teeth, he must have said to himself, “Today, my goal is to give a compliment to every old lady customer I see.” My alternative theory: He was from a galaxy far, far away.

The thing is…the sales clerk’s comment, delivered with a very heavy New York accent no less, actually seemed sincere. And it made me realize I haven’t thought much about the power of color since turning 50. Crazy, huh? Because now that I’m thinking about it, I realize the colors we wear do matter, maybe even matter more now that we’re a little older. The right color can give your 50-plus complexion a healthy glow; the wrong color can make you look haggard and 10 years older.

What Colors Flatter Your Skin Tone?
I assume most 50-something women know what colors are flattering to them. If you’re like me, it didn’t require any research—people let you know. Back in college, it suddenly dawned on me: People always tell me I look good when I wear red. Ever since, red has been my ‘go to’ color when I want to look my best. For those who need a recap on the color groups or “seasons” here are the basics:

'Winter’ colors flatter women with pale white, yellowish-olive, or dark skin. These women usually have brunette hair and dark colored eyes. Asian and African Americans often fall into this color group. ‘Winter’ women look good in white and dark colors. If you want to wear a lighter color, choose an icy tone. Avoid: subtle tones (ie, beige and all pastels) as well as yellowish tones (ie, orange, gold, and lime).
Colors to Wear…

'Spring' colors look best on women with white or peach complexions. These women usually have dark blonde or strawberry red hair, freckles, rosy cheeks, and blue or green eyes. They look great in warm colors. Avoid: dark, dull colors.
Colors to Wear…

‘Summer’ women have pale or pink skin. They are true blondes or brunettes with pale eyes.These women should hunt for pastels and soft neutral colors. Avoid: black and orange.
Colors to wear…

‘Fall' or 'Autumn’ women have golden undertones in their complexions. Lots of redheads and brunettes with golden brown eyes fall into this category. These women should look for garments with golden undertones. Avoid: all shades of blue, including navy.
Colors to wear…

Are you still unsure about your flattering colors? Then, ask yourself: What color makes me feel good when I wear it and generates the most compliments from others? It’s really that simple. Then, find the grouping with that color and you’ve got your ‘season.’ Or, if you have the time and inclination, try on a top in several different colors next time you’re out shopping. You’ll be amazed how fantastic some colors look on you and how dreary others look. Personally, if I—a ‘winter’ woman with yellowish undertones—try on a yellow T-shirt, I look like I’m on seconds away from liver failure.

Do Your Flattering Colors Change with Age?
Does your ‘season’ change as you get older? I admit it: I’ve lighted my natural hair color through the magic of chemicals. I was born with dark brunette, almost black, hair. In recent years, however, I’ve slowly lightened my coif to a medium brown. (Dark brunette hair is much too harsh for my aging, fading complexion.) Even so, as the anecdote above suggests, red remains a flattering color for me. Well, I did some research online and the color pundits all seem to feel your natural hair and complexion colors—the ones you had in childhood—are the colors that determine your ‘season,’ regardless of your current dye or makeup job.

Like everything else in fashion, colors are cyclical. Red, for instance, is usually only in vogue every 4 or 5 years. Luckily, I’m a post-50 woman and don’t have to worry about being trendy. I just worry about looking the best I can. So when red is the season’s ‘hot’ color, I stock up on red shirts and sweaters. I’ll wear them until red comes back into fashion and then look for replacements. In the meanwhile, I pair my red things with something stylish and I feel good. And as we all know, it’s all about feeling good. If you feel like a million bucks because you’re wearing a well-made garment that flatters your coloring and figure, people are going to think you look like a million bucks—regardless of your age.