As a business consultant specializing in strategic risk, I discuss all areas where a company can be vulnerable to failing long-term.
One area that I believe affects a lot of business owners—but that we don’t often talk about—is how we present ourselves professionally, which includes the colors we wear.
In this post, I share my story of meeting with a professional color consultant, what I have learned, and why I believe it is a very helpful tool in reducing business risk.
Watch the video, or keep reading for the transcript and special bonus content.
Two years ago, I decided to invest in a professional color consultation (which runs between $500 to $1000, depending on the specialist’s expertise and the value they provide).
Since getting my personalized palette, I have removed everything from my wardrobe that doesn’t complement the natural tones of my skin, eyes, and hair.
I have also decided to “go gray,” which means I’ve stopped coloring my hair artificially and have instead allowed my natural hair shade to grow out.
(For more info on this, check out beauty expert Elsa McAlonan’s great article in the Daily Mail called “Be Brave – Ditch the Dye!”, and one by my color stylist, Joy Overstreet, called Going Gray Gracefully.)
Why Use a Color Consultant?
Many color consultants are certified and receive extensive training. You have to be careful that you’re getting advice from someone who has really understand color theory.
For me, the results of a color analysis have been amazing. I’ve always been really interested in the theory of how color can affect our mood and why certain shades and hues complement each other. But after getting this consult done, it has completely changed the way that I look at clothes and presenting a professional look.
In my video, I share some items from my personal collection of clothes that match the color palette I got from my consult with Joy Overstreet, who is my color expert based in Portland Oregon.
As part of her service, she provided a packet with a “fan” of 19 strips containing fabrics that complement my natural features. During our 2 hours together, she reviewed a worksheet I’d filled out, observed my gait as I walked down a hallway, and draped a variety of fabrics against my skin and eyes and hair to find the ones that perfectly match my features. All of these elements should be included in a high-value color evaluation.
By the end of our time together, Joy had selected a set of palette colors that are the best fit for my features.
Joy actually features me on her website:
- http://www.colorstylepdx.com/happy-palette-owners/ and
You can find Joy at Color Style PDX.
A Long Search for the Right Colors
As a young teen, I researched color theory a lot.
I often rode my bicycle the eight blocks to our local Public Library and checked out books on decorating, makeup, and style such as Color Me Beautiful: Discover Your Natural Beauty Through the Colors That Make You Look Great by Carole Jackson, and Color Me Beautiful’s Looking Your Best by Mary Spillane and Christine Sherlock.
I tried really hard to determine my “season,” and eventually I self-diagnosed as a Spring. So for all of my teen-age and young adult years, I wore colors like these:
Unfortunately, self-diagnosing does not work when it comes to finding the right shades. Our eyes play tricks on us, and we are often emotionally attached to certain shades and hues.
Instead of seeing our own features objectively, we tend to gravitate toward colors that may not enhance our natural skin, eyes, and hair tones.
I eventually got so confused about my color palette that I got rid of everything in my wardrobe except gray.
Comparison: Then and Now
Now that I know my actual color matches, the shades are far from the Peach, Salmon, Coral, Periwinkle, and Aqua that had predominated my wardrobe for years. I had been wearing clothes that I thought looked really good on me, but which were actually detracting from my natural features.
So rather than presenting a professional and well-composed look, I looked washed out and tired.
The colors I wore included colors that did not look great against my skin tone.
My clothes, accessories, and makeup clashed with my skin tone, eyes, and hair.
People sometimes complimented my outfit, but rarely how I looked.
If you wear colors that don’t match your natural tones, it tends to draw attention AWAY from your features.
The right shades and tones will draw attention to your face, and to your whole look.
Growing up, I got so confused about which colors were right that I ended up collecting a lot of gray and gray-toned clothes. My closet looked super boring.
I have learned that…
when a color is not the right shade for your complexion (like bright yellow did for me in the video), it makes your skin look pale, ashen, or yellowish.
I often wore colors that I LIKED, even if they didn’t look great on me.
But since getting my personalized color set and working with Joy, I have learned how to pick out the right shades. I take the fan with me every time I shop.
Joy created set of shades that were specific to me. She did quite a bit of research and testing with fabric swatches against my skin. Joy, like all great color stylists, has a lot of training and a background in design, which helps her decide which colors complement her clients. Because I have a unique combination of skin, eyes, and hair, Joy spent some time to mix and match colors from a variety of seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall). I ended up being what she called a “Classic Winter,” since I have some cooler tones but warm hues as well.
On the back of each fabric fan, there is a label with the name of the color set (like “Vivid Teal”), why to use the color (“Dramatic with an Exciting Effect) and a suggestion of when to use it (“Coat/Garments/Accessory/Evening Wear).”
In the video, I demonstrate how this shade complements and bounces the light off my features. I really enjoy how this has helped me understand and choose shades that give me a cohesive and professional look.
Another example is purple. I used to think that all purples were flattering, but my palette now contains an Eggplant/Aubergine combination that is a great complement to my complexion.
One of my favorite colors is green, but I learned that not all green is equal. A Kelly green or Evergreen shade has too much saturation, and it’s not the right shade. You can see the difference between a Portland Timbers shirt, and an Emerald green sweater that complements my skin tone.
On the left (below) you can see examples of my old collection of clothes with Orchid, Lavender, Lilac, Heather Navy, Coral, Fuchsia, and Yellow-Green.
And on the right are pieces from my current clothing collection with Dusty Jade, Storm Blue, Deep Teal, Mediterranean Blue, Vivid Teal, Crimson, Brandied Melon, Apricot Ice, Dried Sage, Chestnut, Oyster White, Mushroom, Alabaster, Dark Olive, Jungle Green, Eggplant, Aubergine, Dark Purple, Nightshade Blue, and Brown Black.
It can be really hard to find the exact match when you’re shopping (and I hate shopping). So when I go into a store, I bring the fan with me and try to find something that is similar. I recommend doing this in natural sunlight so you can see whether the shade brings out your features or not. Fluorescent light is not a good light source when you’re comparing colors.
This journey to discover what colors can do professionally has been really fun. By choosing colors that match your natural skin, eyes, and hair, you can present an image that looks more polished and appealing.
And while you are free to enjoy every color, even those that are not in your palette, understanding the difference gives you the knowledge to choose shades that maximize your features.
Recently, I drew a self-portrait… and it turns out that without even looking, I’d picked colors that were on my color fan.
View this post on Instagram
A #selfportrait using colored pencils. Notice how perfectly the colors match my personalized palette by @colorstylepdx. #colorpalette #colorstylist #coloredpencil #drawing @crayola Colors I used: #khaki #antiquebrass #lightbrown #brown #darkbrown #red #coralreef #peach #almond #greenblue #pinegreen
Business Benefits of a Personal Color Consultation
I believe there are a lot of benefits to knowing which colors best match your features.
- You know which clothes look best on you
- It takes less time to shop
- You can get rid of things that are taking up room in your closet (minimize!)
- You’re confident with how you look
- You don’t waste money on the wrong clothes, makeup, and hair coloring
- It takes seconds to pick out an outfit (because everything looks great on you!)
- You feel comfortable in your own skin
If you are an owner, this confidence and cohesiveness will immediately translate into your business. When you present a fabulous version of yourself, the image that potential customers see is one that has been carefully designed.
If you use your personal color palette as the foundation, then everything else in your company—branding, design elements, images, presentations, and products— will match perfectly. You can use the basic colors of your palette as a springboard for added creativity.
And as a bonus, you will constantly be surrounded by things that enhance your natural beauty.
Using a structured approach with colors that bring out your features can save a lot of time and headaches. You won’t be wondering which shades and hues to pick in a variety of business choices. The right colors will be immediately clear.
Qualified Personal Color Consultants
If you are interested in hiring a color consultant, I recommend finding someone who:
- has extensive training in color theory
- communicates their knowledge clearly
- is considerate of your feelings and experiences (this can be an emotional process)
- provides a comprehensive service (not just a color selection, but also an assessment of your likes & dislikes, style choices, wardrobe, etc.)
- demonstrates how to use the service (choosing the right fabrics and shades)
There are countless “color analysis” methods and fabric swatch systems out there. Here is one by the ever-popular Color Me Beautiful:
But most of the time, these systems are not very useful. The shades and hues are too broad and generalized.
A good color system utilizes the skill of someone who can pick the exact shades for YOUR skin tone, eye color, and hair. That’s also why it is nearly impossible to do this analysis on your own.
I strongly prefer and recommend the precise and useful fabric fan system developed by Image and Color Institute with Mary Lou Manlove (owner of ColorInsight), which is the one used by my stylist Joy Overstreet. These techniques were created by Suzanne Caygill with Color Designers International (CDI).
Although Image and Color Institute does not provide a list of their color experts, here are the locations of CDI’s members who are certified color designers:
West Coast, USA
- San Francisco Bay Area, CA
- Novato, CA
- Pebble Beach, CA
- Cupertino, CA
- Atherton, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Saratoga, CA
- Ben Lomond, CA
- Palo Alto, CA
- San Rafael, CA
- Eugene, OR
- Portland, OR
- Carson City, NV
- Las Vegas, NV
East Coast, USA
- Atlanta, GA and Los Angeles, CA
- Alpharetta, GA
- Southport, NC
- Wilmington, DE
To contact a color designer, take a look at CDI’s list of members and connect with them directly.
If you are in the Portland, Oregon area, consider scheduling a personalized color appointment with Joy of Color Style PDX.
And if you don’t see your location above, look for a qualified color analyst in your area. Although I have not personally used it, the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) provides training and has shared a list of its trained color stylists—158 members in the US and over 1000 worldwide. Check out AICI’s membership list to find a consultant near you.
Before hiring a color consultant, find out what system they use, and make sure you feel comfortable with their methods. Since this process can dredge up a lifetime of color choices, it can be quite an emotional experience. But the results can be both personally fulfilling and professionally rewarding.
I hope this information has been helpful! If you are looking for ways to minimize risks in your company, I invite you to find out more so we can discuss your unique needs.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.