Change Takes Time
The shops may not have a client’s best fit or style, but we have all bought things that weren’t ideal because of an urgent need. Colour is the same. Ideally we pass on poorer choices, but sometimes we need something that will do right now.
Most people didn’t build their pre-PCA wardrobe overnight. They might have pieces that fit well and feel great and if they’re in the right general ballpark (cool, warm,or warm or cool neutral) or just too beloved or otherwise “right” to pass up or pass on,then these shouldn’t be evicted in a hurry (and while we are assuming definitive tonal placement here, this caution is even more important if there is any doubt about it).
As the eye adjusts and the palette gives the client an internal “feel” for their colour space, experience may reveal tonal harmonies that weren’t obvious at first (owning adjacent and a 12-Tone Corporate fan can help in “seeing” these zones more clearly), and these “rescued” pieces may come to integrate better and make more sense than they seemed to at first blush post PCA. And as we shall see later, sometimes favourite pieces are kept for other reasons.
If on consideration the colour of a core item is really unflattering in the light of what is now known, it might be possible to over-dye the item, or a professional may be able to do so. If it’s very special, it might even be feasible to get it copied in a better colour if there is an affordable opportunity.
A change in colour home may still mean having to let go of quite a lot, and this is best done at an emotionally and financially affordable pace. Natural wear and tear, weight fluctuations and other changing needs all help make this process feel more inevitableand economical.
Colour in the shops goes through cycles. Everyone finds shopping easier at some times than others. There are boom and bust seasons and years for everyone’s palette, and yes, even winters can get sick of black and white – which are only two of their neutrals, after all – and struggle to find their tone elsewhere. If the client first starts using their palette in a “famine year” for their tone (or when their style is unfashionable, or both), it is good for them to be aware of this possibility and to stick to the essentials, save up, and keep a weather eye out for when better options “come around”. They might also try vintage, eBay, or thrift shops.
There is a lot of peer-to-peer advice on the web for coping with this transition. While this can sometimes cause some confusion, particularly if the uncertain client feels they “should” be able to wear their tone in exactly the same way they see other individuals using the palette (who may have completely different style priorities and preferences in respect of the swatches), this collective experience of “taking the tone on the road” can be extremely validating and valuable, especially for those in the same marketplace.
Polyvores and collages can help a client to see their new season translated into wardrobe combinations; individual selections may not be 100% tonally accurate or suitable for a given person’s clothing personality, but the overall impressions gained in this way can be an easy and convenient way to rapidly acquire valuable visual experience and hone the eye. In the long run this increased discernment will save the client a small fortune, and reduce mistakes and waste. PCA checks impulses (and some clients have commented that this increased discrimination and increased consumer awareness then extends to other areas of life).
We’re All Individuals
It cannot be stressed and repeated enough: different people prefer to wear the same tone very differently (see TCI PCA myth buster series “Every Colour in a Palette Can Successfully Be Warn Next to the Face” August 12th, 2012.) Each tone covers myriad personalities and styles, and although the tone itself supplies unifying characteristics (and loose generalizations about palette use can be very helpful to those very new to their new “fan”, which is why most analysts supply them), personality influences our style and also our colour choices. It can take time for a new client to work out these individual nuances to their own satisfaction.
Some like lighter colours, others may prefer depth, and both may push these to the outer edges of value and chroma of the palette, suiting themselves while still staying recognisably within the tone. No palette can show every option. While the first question is usually “Is this my tone’s colour”, sometimes it is more helpful to ask “Given the hue, chroma and value here, is it really likely that it could belong to anyone else?”
As already noted, some clients like to layer colour, while some like their fashion neutrals to form the bulk of their wardrobe. Some are most comfortable in monochromatic effects, some like to mix colour more freely. Some may relate strongly to some colours and prefer not to use others; some may use sheen and translucency to give their palette a more delicate feel, gloss and high shine for a glamorous or fun “party” effect, or plushness and pile to soften a soft effect still further.
A client may use blocks, patterns, subtle colour gradations and texture effects such as boucle, tapestry or leathers for interest and complexity, or matte and brushed finishes for an industrial feel, all of which result in a different impression of the same colour swatch. Silver, for example, may be polished to a high shine, matte, hammered, brushed, softened with wear, engraved, distressed, embossed, darkened, textured, andantiqued, and those who suit this cool-hued metal may find that they are flattered most by one or more of these variations.
A Light Spring palette, then, can be worn to look satiny and elegant, matte and striking, pearlescent and airy, gelati bright and lively, relaxed and natural, and so on,while Soft Summer (perhaps the most common tone) has a relatively lighter end and a darker, deeper side, and can look very different depending on fabrics used (and can achieve their own range of similar or equivalent impressions).
Conversely, different tonal versions of fashion neutrals, blues and greens can allow very different palettes to achieve similar effects while still respecting the client’s colouring. Further, it can be difficult for the inexperienced eye to recognise the core palette behind these nuanced effects (most analysts eventually field questions like “I don’t think this best colour of mine fits anywhere in SciART.” Not so – an individual colour always will, but few lay observers are intimately familiar with all gamuts).
Others can suggest how swatches might be worn, but only the client can truly establish and edit these preferences to suit their personal style. As the saying goes,“You will never please everyone, so you might as well please yourself.”
However, at some point just about everyone needs to –
Accept that not everything has to be “on fan”
Because it doesn’t.
Is this startling given the emphasis placed on accuracy in this system? But surely this contradicts everything said thus far? Is lack of tonal fidelity not the source ofall problems in SciART/Twelve-Tone philosophy?
Well, it depends. Reality means compromise. A single photograph of an online item can be altered with software for a complete change in hue, chroma and value, but realgarments aren’t so easily changed, no matter how good the dyer is.
A client may have a uniform at work, or for recreational groups/volunteering. A formal workplace dress code may be expensive to satisfy in the first instance, and if someone needs affordable suiting, they will do their best with what there is and with what fits or can be made to do so (the 12-Tone Corporate fans exist to help with this – they were designed with corporate compromises in mind, going darker and lighter than the classic fan will, as well as adding a few more options for accents.)
Speciality shops and speciality items (such as active wear) may be even less accommodating in the range of options initially offered. Budgets and time can be very limited indeed.
If the client is a Light Spring, loves surfing, and a perfectly fitting black neoprene wetsuit is on sale (or isn’t!) then common sense suggests that they make anunhesitant purchase of great equipment and get on with living life.
If they’re a winter and in the army, or a reservist, then they won’t look their best in fatigues, but this, too, is beside the point.
A soft autumn might never find the perfect winter down jacket that comes in on time and on budget for their snow trip, but the “wrong” colour might stand out better when their friends look for them on the slopes – and if they can always pull out their scarf for the close-ups.
Borrowing and wearing a colour that is not strictly our best is simply that. No more, no less. To an untutored eye, a sub-optimal choice may look pretty good, and certainly not actively bad. It may be more saturated or slightly too cool or too warm, but it will get the job done, and in the absence of immediate comparison with a better colour it will be completely acceptable in the moment. The value of accurate PCA with client education is that it makes these choices informed rather than accidental. The client knows exactly what is going on rather than hitting the mark by chance, and can better account for what they see.
Life goes on. The first responsibility of PCA is to help the client do the very best they can for themselves. It is generally hoped that in the longer term it will simplify and streamline dressing, though as with all things there is a learning curve. Most clients want to use the results to serve themselves, not the other way around. Which brings us to –
Breaking bad – pushing the envelope for a given effect
As noted previously (see previous TCI article “Is Disharmony Ever Desirable”), sometimes complete colour harmony isn’t what the client is after, or at least not all the time.
Sometimes a piece of clothing, jewellery or accent is worn for its own sake. It may not be harmonious, in fact it may “wear” the wearer pretty stridently to a SciART/Twelve-Tone accustomed eye, but the client may love it not just in spite of this but because of it. Some people have a natural preference for dissonance and visual tension beyond the potential effects built in to the complements and contrasts in the palettes, and they may feel fenced-in without this sense of adventure anddeliberate incongruity.
They may exercise these effects with great subtlety, or they might seek animated, outrageous or chaotic mixtures, but such choices can be knowing, sophisticated, witty, informed (perhaps by life or cultural experiences or value systems) and very rewarding. These decisions result from the quirks of individual instinct and eye, andare probably best when individually chosen rather than prescribed. Life has edges, and the surprises make it interesting and real. They make us stop, blink and think. We value the dissonance, and then we value the harmony more because of it.
As noted in the earlier article, a client may want to disappear into a role, or appear a little older, a little harder-edged or otherwise “uniformed” than their most natural colouring allows: a summer may want to try on winter’s stronger definition or be looking for the wan, gothic effect these colours have on non-winters, a soft may use true or dark colours to look older or edgier or to fit an imagined ideal or simply because they miss doing so, or a bright may want to take it down a little into lowerchroma alternatives. In the corporate world, a warm-toned spring or autumn client in a deeply conservative setting may feel too bound by convention to discard the black or navy suiting, while other jobs may require that the non-winter client wears all black or white or whatever. Sometimes not only uniform colour is specified, but lipstick colours as well! As we have seen, a lifelong attachment to a different tonal hair colour (sometimes of drastically different value to the original) may be very hard to discard.
Unable to find their desired or imposed “look” in their colour tone, or unable to seehow to achieve a reasonable substitute, a client may move into another season and live there, accepting that they will dye their hair and wear makeup daily and that they can live with any compromise. They may simply not wish or feel able to appear astheir most natural tone for any number of reasons. Sometimes love of a particular tone or of styles that in reality are hard to find outside of it will drive the client’s choices.
For many people, a desire for open-ended options and unlimited choices does not stop when they are thinking about colour.
It is acknowledged as well that a small minority of clients are serious PCA enthusiasts, collecting palettes from different systems and enjoying the journey – their own and others’ – as much as any destination. They may have a curatorial/archivalapproach to their own and other tonal areas, valuing the exploration for its own sakeand for what they learn.
All of this is exercising the personal power of colour, however the situation can get confusing (and promote scepticism) if these decisions are subconsciously driven or ifthe client and/or anyone observing their choices (whether online or off) isn’t clear about exactly what is happening and why.
A draping may be correct, therefore, but a client may very deliberately choose to set aside or re-interpret the findings based on acknowledged or unacknowledged needs or priorities. They may have a different philosophy about the use of colour, or a different personal aesthetic. They may not wish to be the person they see revealed. They may not want their choices constrained. They may not accept or are not drawn to the SciART/Twelve-Tone philosophy itself.
Alternatively, the client may find their draping a revelation and enjoy knowing their SciART/Twelve-Tone tone as a known base for communication but might chose to use it more or less loosely, borrowing from other tones out of preference and pragmatism. They may enjoy the process, benefit from the theory and make use ofthe experience but may not live in their tone “by the book” for any of the reasons discussed.
In all of these cases the SciART/Twelve-Tone based palette is neither incorrect (assuming accuracy of tonal placement) nor inadequate nor is it limited in any way: it simply is what it is, a statement of the most harmonious parameters of a given tone,and it cannot be asked to be something it is fundamentally is not or accommodate circumstances at odds with 12-Tone tonal harmony, and it is helpful to everyone if this is recognised.
We end where we began: with what SciART/Twelve-Tone harmony is and what it gives us. Natural colour harmony is a place where the eye finds relief. It is where we go to be soothed and energized, rather than to be stimulated by dissonance. For the majority of clients this discovery, their true tone, is a wonderful “coming home”.
The myth that one tone will satisfy at all times and for all aspects of life
It is often said that we will feel best if we live surrounded by our native tones, and indeed this idea, the idea of “a native colour home/natural timbre”, is even older than PCA. It is true that people are often drawn to colours that are close to their naturalSciART/Twelve-Tone placement, and many people enjoy this approach, choosing wall colours, carpets and furnishings to harmonise with their palette. Here the fan canhelp simplify and ease choices and contribute to a satisfying result.
However, this “total immersion” approach is not for everyone. Most clients also live with other people, who may be most at home in a very different tone, and who mayhave very different preferences.
A true autumn or true summer person may like having a cool winter study, a light spring bedroom and a dark autumn dining area, and why not? Variety is the spice of life – are winters to stay out of the tropics, and springs to avoid the snow? Should we choose our partner based on tonal compatibility? Of course not!
Just there is nothing wrong with living in one tonal area, there is also great pleasure inenjoying colour from all over the map, something analysts do daily. All tonal areasare beautiful – it is up to each of us how we respond to and use them. An individual might not look their best in a given colour not of their tone, but may love it no less –and indulge it anyway, in furnishings or otherwise vicariously, or wear it anyway, as we have seen above, and enjoy the sense of personalizing their space or having a colour holiday (see TCA article: “Is Disharmony ever Desirable” March 16th, 2013.)
When we know our best colours they will make life more harmonious, simpler and less expensive, but they are still our tools, and we are in charge. Expect to keep it real. Knowing their tone doesn’t mean a person won’t explore and otherwise improvise (most clients, especially in smaller markets, have no choice), but the client will have a precise understanding of the hue, chroma and value parameters of theirhome key, however they then chose to use it, and since the TCI 12-Tone palette is accurately reproduced, annotated and stable it is also a point of connection,communication and advice with and between others in the same tonal group.
Kathryn Kalisz’s tonal structures are the industry gold standard. When we have seen and lived with real harmony, it is hard to be truly satisfied with anything else. The goal of SciART/Twelve-Tone PCA is to establish the tonal centre and give the client an accurate and coherent base to work from, and from there the scope for intelligent and creative individual interpretation is truly endless.