Mom Fashion

I Tried a Color Analysis Consultant—Here’s How It Helped Me Define My Style

Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider

Are you a “Twilight Winter” or “Moonlit Summer”? The question may sound like part of a particularly poetic personality test, but, in fact, they are terms developed by The Color Guru, one of many color consultants offering personalized style tips for a fee. Though the company has its own seasonal color analysis system, the idea of categorizing people based on season is adopted by many professionals in the field. You may have heard fashion influencers talking about their personal color palettes or which “season” they are.

I first learned about color consulting when visiting a friend on a trip to New York City and observed she looked different—somehow more awake or alert—in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. When I mentioned it, she said she’d had an in-person session with a color consultant who’d held up dozens of fabrics to her face. As it turned out, black wasn’t a good fit for her particular complexion, but peaches and pinks were a win.

The idea of a color analysis intrigued me. Somewhere between having my first child and shifting to remote work, I kind of lost my sense of style. I was also craving more fun looks in my closet (blame the ‘Barbie’ movie, maybe, or the ‘90s fashion revival). But adding color intimidates me a bit—I’ve always leaned heavily on neutrals and have spent money on bolder looks in the past that I later realized made me look washed out or odd. So, I gave The Color Guru a shot.

If you’re curious, here’s a basic guide to what color analysis is and what it’s like to hire a personal color consultant—and how I’m using the results from my own color analysis.

What is a color consultant?

Color consultants specialize in helping people choose colors that best complement them based on their skin, hair, and eye colors. Any personal stylist will likely advise on colors, but there are also professionals who specifically focus on color advice and wouldn’t, say, pick out specific outfits for you. Instead, they’d provide you with a personal palette to help guide you when you shop for yourself. They may also advise on makeup shades.

Many, but not all, consultants use a seasonal color analysis system, sorting people into winter, spring, summer, or fall based on the undertones in their skin. Within each season are sub-categories. The pro determines which category you fall into and recommends a personal color palette for you. (Note: There are also color specialists for interior design, but they have different training and expertise.)

color analysis
Source: Elevae Visuals

How to get a personal color analysis

There are two ways to get a color analysis—in-person or virtual—and they each have their own pros and cons.

In-person color analysis

At an in-person consultation, you can see real clothing and fabrics held up to your skin, which could help you get a better sense of how they bring out your complexion (or make you appear washed out). A personal stylist might offer in-person color consulting near you. There are also franchises such as House of Colour, a British company that has many trained stylists across the U.S. that you can search for on its website. They also offer advice on both clothing and makeup. Another pro is that you could go with a friend or a group.

One thing to keep in mind is that The House of Colour also has a robust training program to become a stylist, but it requires a fairly high upfront investment. So, if you come across a glowing description on a blog or TikTok, it could be coming from a stylist who has a direct incentive to sing its praises. 

Virtual color analysis

A virtual color analysis may not feel as personal or tactile. But, on the plus side, it is more convenient, since you don’t have to leave your house. You may be able to complete some or all of it on your own time. It may also be a bit less expensive.

I did the basic package at The Color Guru, which just required me to upload a handful of photos and answer a few questions online. I took one selfie specifically for this purpose; they said it’d work best if it was outside, on an overcast day, without makeup on. They got back to me a few days later with a beautifully designed 15-page PDF report that broke down my personal color palette.

color analysis
Source: Annie Atherton

How I’m using my virtual color analysis results

The report included the headshot I’d sent them throughout, showing my face against various hues and shades. The first recommendation was a “warm vs. cool” test (I look better with cool metals, like silver — bad news for the many gold earrings I’ve acquired over the years!). Then, they compared my photo to warm and cool colors. Pinks with cool (blue) undertones were a win; warm oranges with yellow undertones, not so much. Then, it compared light vs. deep/saturated colors. I’d kind of always known pastels weren’t my thing, but the side-by-side comparison confirmed it. Next, they compared my face against soft, muted colors vs. vivid, clear ones. The latter was a clear winner. 

warm vs cool colors color analysis
Source: Annie Atherton

From all of this, they determined that I am a Winter, meaning that bright, cool, deep colors work best. The final test showed that I have the “deepest” coloring of the winter variations, meaning that I am a Twilight Winter. I’ll be honest, I still don’t quite get what “deep” means, but luckily, since it’s all very visual, I have a general sense of what they mean by looking at the colors around my photo (navy, cobalt blue, and what looks like a sort of maroon.) In addition to the digital report, I was also sent a laminated color palette card in the mail so I can take it shopping with me.

The results confirmed some of the instincts I’d always had. But they also opened my mind to some new ideas. I’ve never gravitated toward bright blue, for instance, but they recommended it strongly, and I can see how they have a point. They also listed a few colors to avoid (for me, orange and brown). I’ve also never really avoided brown, but I have suspected that tan and beige are tough colors for me, so having someone tell me that brown is a straight-up “no” was interesting.

How much does a color consult cost?

The cost of color consulting varies a lot. Some companies don’t list costs very transparently, but The Color Guru offers packages with set rates: A simple color analysis of your photos is $169, which includes a PDF report and a card of your personal color palette (both a digital copy and a physical one sent to you in the mail—could be handy to take shopping). Adding makeup and hair consultation brings the price to $249, and all of these services plus a 45-minute chat with an expert is $795. Prices for professionals trained by House of Colour are generally more than $200 for a single session that might last a couple of hours.

color analysis closet
Source: Elevae Visuals

The limits of color consulting

Color analysis doesn’t take into account other factors that go into your style—for example, personal taste and the climate and culture where you live. Some of the colors suggested to me, like bright, bold pink and neon yellow, would make me stand out like a Florida tourist in the Pacific Northwest. I also associate navy with more of a preppy look that I generally choose. That said, maybe part of opening my mind is being willing to stand out a bit more.

Maybe part of opening my mind is being willing to stand out a bit more.

One thing the results helped me do is to let go of (AKA donate) some of the clothes I’ve just never loved without realizing why. And I’m definitely going to consider my color palette next time I shop for anything new. 

As a WFH Mom, These Are the 9 Items I'm Purging From My Closet This Year
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