The Reluctant Bright Winter

Frightened by Bright Winter?
You are not alone.
And, you do not have to have Iris Apfel as a style icon (although I do think she is rather cool).

iris_apfelI see quite a few Bright Winters. Their reactions when their colour tone is revealed can roughly be divided into two categories. The first category is the client who exuberantly embraces her colours, squeals with glee at finally being able to unchain all her favourite colours, and hops out the door with her fan held like a beacon, giggling as she skips to her car. The other category is the client who squints suspiciously at her face in the drapes, grudgingly admitting that although she hates the colour, she can see what good it does to her face, and stares at me like a deer in headlights after we have concluded that Bright Winter she is, and quietly slips her Bright Winter colour fan into her handbag as if it was contaminated nuclear waste, timidly assuring me that she is ok, she just needs some time to let it sink, and yes, she will appreciate some advice on how to work these colours into her wardrobe. OK so I am exaggerating, as usual. However, there is some truth in this crudely simplified description. And I understand. I have been that client, the second category, the reluctant Bright Winter. Not wanting to let go of the safe, dark, sensible colours I had been calling my own, but on the other hand grudgingly admitting that the brighter colours made me look younger, fresher, more approachable. One such client emailed me asking if I could write something about this, and went on to say how she really wished to not use the “screaming” Bright Winter colours, but “simple” colours. Others use the description “circus” colours. Now, we could go on to make the point that it is about being afraid. Fear of colour is often going hand in hand with fear of being noticed. But I think, the longing for wearing simple colours is not as simple as that (pun intended). We cannot cure a simplistic, minimalist Scandinavian by simply saying “Snap out of it, don’t be afraid of showing who you are”. It is not everybody’s true authentic expression to be jubilantly colourful. There are many ways to invent your unique version of your colour tone, but the trick is to do it while staying within the boundaries of the colour tone, and without compromising the essence of it.

Bright Winter is neutral/cool, bright colours, and high contrast, a little bit like this:

Trees covered with snow, Lapland, Finland

Well, maybe the picture above is more like a True Winter landscape, but the contrast level is definitely Bright Winter. Or, we can say Bright Winter can be like this:


So, back to simple colours. What are simple colours? In Norway, being simple is a complement. When you say simple it is not derogatory, or in any way used to describe something less than par, it is an honour badge, more like “simplistic” than simple.

I am thinking of simple more along the lines of the shaker tune Simple Gifts:

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

(Shaker dancing tune by Joshua Brackett)

So let us see if we can find the place just right for the reluctant Bright Winter, and see if that may lead us to the valley of love and delight in our colours.

Using myself as an example, these are the steps I have used to create my minimalist version of Bright Winter:

Screenshot 2015-01-28 22.58.06

Embrace the neutrals. Really get to know your best neutral colours and use them. Bright Winter neutrals are charcoal grey, ebony, silver grey (often found in the silver of the grey haired Bright Winter), cool taupe, dark espresso brown (often found in the deepest hair colour of the dark haired Bright Winter), bright navy, white. Yes, navy can be used as a neutral. The neutrals are neutral, not too warm or too cool. With the taupes, it is better to lean cool than to choose a warm beige version. The Bright Winter neutrals are clear, not muddy.

Next step: combine the neutrals, with highest possible contrast level. Ebony with silver grey, bright navy with cool taupe, charcoal with silver, black and white, dark espresso brown with light grey. If the neutrals are clear, this will already lend a clarity and brightness to your features. Avoid combining dark with dark.

Now, makeup. It is really, truly worth your while to wear makeup in your colours. Get a blush that is perfect for Bright Winter. Invest in a perfect lipstick (and use it). It is amazing what the right makeup colours can do to lift an outfit in neutral colours. For a while, leave it at this. And also, go for a sheer lipstick, it is easier to ease into your bright colours if the formula is sheer, not opaque. If you should happen to be a nail polish person, use nail polish in your best Bright Winter red and watch that neutral outfit make you shine. It will happen quietly and subtly, but the magic will be present.

Screenshot 2015-01-28 22.58.37

Next step: Introduce one bright accent to your neutral outfit. This is where the true magic happens. When you look at your fan and see all those colours exploding in energetic intensity, it can be intimidating. However, nobody says that you have to wear them all at once. One is enough, and in a very small portion. But you do need this one, in order to sparkle like a true Bright Winter: A necklace. A belt. A scarf. Earrings. A zipper in a jacket. A little sparkle. Something shiny. Shoes. Personally, I have found red shoes to be the best ever brightening trick. I can wear an outfit consisting of all grey and black, and adding a pair of bright red ballerina shoes just adds that little extra brightness. One Bright Winter I visited with lately was wearing dark jeans with little sparkly blue dots all over. It added that little sparkle that lifted the outfit nicely into Bright Winter territory.

When starting with your colours in larger blocks in outfits, start with colurs that you are comfortable with. It seems, for instance, that blues and greens are less scary than, say, pinks and reds. So start within your comfort zone.

Screenshot 2015-01-28 22.57.47

So do not fall into the trap of compromising the brightness level of your colours just because you want to simplify them. It is better to have an outfit built of neutrals with ONE little accent of a Bright Winter colour, than to compromise your season and wear muted, toned down, watered out colours in your clothing. That is not being simple. That is being off the mark.

These were my tips on how to adjust Bright Winter to my Scandinavian minimalist simple self. Please write to me and tell me what you have found to be your secret formula for adapting to your Bright Winter colour tone, to find that “place just right”.