Thursday, December 22, 2011

I Got Draped! (Seasonal Color System)

I got up at 2:30 AM this past Monday and rode shotgun while my husband drove us 5.5 hours (one way) so I could get my colors done. As a special man-treat, he got his colors done, too.

With the highest recommendations possible, I had booked a PCA (personal color analysis) with Maytee Garza of Reveal Style Consultancy. Maytee, along with Amelia Butler—who designs the 12 Tone seasonal fans at her True Color studio in Australia (a palette you receive at the end of a color consultation)—are two of the four people that the late Kathryn Kalisz personally selected to teach others to become analysts in her system. It would not be a stretch to say that Maytee is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in the Northern Hemisphere using KK’s system; in fact, Maytee wrote the training manual.

The theory

After offering us coffee, Mr. Zuzu and I sat on comfortable sofas while Maytee gave us an overview of color theory and the system she uses, showing us charts and diagrams. Her system, 12-Tone SciART, pioneered by Kathryn Kalisz, is based on Munsell's scientific approach to color, where hues in each of the twelve tones (seasons) can be scientifically verified based on their respective position in their three-dimensional color space.

SciART 12-Tone is a true color system that can be explained by science. Though ultimately it is still subjective (the analyst evaluates what looks best), it can be measured, and decisions aren't made in a vacuum. You—the customer—are present, too. You see what she sees, and a good analyst will explain why something works or doesn't. If you don't see it, you should ask the analyst to point out the subtleties of how color affects your appearance.

A SciART color analysis is performed in a controlled environment where walls are painted a specific neutral grey. I sat in a chair facing a giant mirror under full-spectrum lighting (5500 kelvin, which approximates the color temperature of sun + sky). A neutral grey cape went over my clothing and a grey cap covered my hair to hide non-natural (e.g., dyed) color. Men also wear caps, probably to keep as much color away from the face as possible. Maytee also wore a grey smock to prevent her clothing from muddying the analysis.

The practice

After being seated in the spotlight, the process of elimination began. Maytee took a series of drapes that are about the size of a bath towel, which are grouped in trios. She draped them across my chest, and then pulled one away, revealing the one underneath. Sometimes she did this process in reverse. All the while, she watched my my face and under my chin. She never looked directly at the color of the drape. In other words, she looked at how my skin reacted to the color, rather than how the color looked on me. There's a difference.

A color was discarded if it:
  • Caused ruddiness
  • Deepened shadows, especially along the nasolabial fold
  • Brought out sallowness
  • Created unattractive highlights, like causing shiny yellow areas above the brow to appear
A color was put aside for further evaluation if it:
  • Enhanced/intensified the eyes
  • Cleared the skin
If my skin reacted negatively to any combination of the first four elements, Maytee moved on to different drapes until she found colors that cleared the skin—meaning my complexion smoothed out, looked calm and rested, and even younger.  Some of the drapes made me look as though I were wearing makeup, even though I'd been instructed to arrive with nothing on my face, not even sunscreen.

Colors that "intensified" my eyes (made them appear more vibrantly green or blue or grey) earned bonus points, but sometimes the wrong color can enhance the eyes while doing unflattering things to skin. We discovered this with Soft Summer's slightly warmer and more muted teals, which made my eyes look like exploding planets but turned my skin a pasty yellow-grey. Going by eye reaction alone (not to mention that my natural ash hair color contains warmth), an analyst in another system might start down the Soft Summer path—or even Autumn—but Maytee knew exactly what to look for. She was like a forensics detective, digging deeper until she found the perfect clue. The point here is that many colors can look good on all of us, but a 12-Tone SciART analyst's primary goal is to find her customer's best.  

Why look good when you can look great?

A personal color analysis can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, and Maytee was extremely extremely thorough. If she has any doubt, she draped again and again and then did it again in reverse until she there was no doubt in her mind. It was just as important that I saw what she saw. She lives for that ah-ha moment when a customer's own unique coloring achieves harmony with the hue, chroma, and value in the test drapes.
  • Hue is a color's most obvious characteristic and is generally what we mean when we describe something's color, such as a red tulip. Hue in 12-Tone Sci/ART relates to the coolness or warmth of a color (as well as in our skin, which contains melanin, hemoglobin, and carotenes). Between each of the major hues lies an infinite number of possible hues. For example, you will find many different shades (hues) between red and blue. Just think of all those purples: lilac, orchid, magenta, mulberry, plum, violet, and so on.
    Munsell's five major hues (Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purples),
    along with the 5 intermediate hues in between
  • Chroma represents color purity and is the quality that distinguishes the difference between a pure hue and a grey shade. High-chroma colors are saturated and rich, whereas low-chroma colors appear muted and soft (grey), like a summer garden enveloped in morning fog. Chroma is often referred to as a color's saturation.

    The above chart shows red, magenta and blue hues in a range of chromas, all with medium value.
  • Value (lightness) represents the quality by which we distinguish a light color form a dark color, from white to black through various shades of grey. The neutral greys lie along the vertical axis between black and white.

    The above chart shows low-chroma red, magenta and blue in a range of values.

    Munsell's value scale, from Cleland (1921)
All colors can be described in terms of their hue, chroma, and value. For example, a dark brown color has a hue in the yellow-red region of the color wheel. It has a low value because it is dark, and its chroma is also low. A light brown color would differ from dark brown only in its value (lightness) because browns are soft and muted.

A couple decades ago, when Carole Jackson wrote Color Me Beautiful, there were only four seasons. For many, it was a revolutionary system, and it certainly opened my eyes to the potential of simplifying my life. For example, there was an entire range of colors I no longer looked at when shopping, and to this day my eyes automatically skip over the forest greens, mustards, and bricks. On the other hand, some readers of that book were still left wondering why we didn't fit neatly into one of those seasons where the concept of neutral (or seasons with a flow) had not yet been described. In later years, the four seasons were expanded, and many now have 12, some even 16.

In SciART's system, each primary season (Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall) has two neutral counterparts that flow into or are informed by its neighboring season, though none shares the same colors. The SciART system contains the following seasons:
  • Bright, True, and Light Spring
  • Light, True, and Soft Summer
  • Soft, True, and Dark Autumn
  • Dark, True, and Bright Winter
As example of 12 Tone SciART color theory, a Light Summer falls between Summer’s cool, soft blues and Spring’s warm, sunny clarity. Although Light Summer is still predominantly a cool season, Spring's sunlight flows into it, adding a tiny drop of yellow to some colors, tinting some cool pinks with a touch of coral or lending other colors a sun-bleached appearance. Light Summer is the lightest and brightest (most clear) of the Summer seasons. Soft Summer, at the other end, takes on the darker, rich, earthy, velvety, muted tones of Autumn. In the middle of the Summer trio stands True Summer, purely cool, slightly muted, and medium in value.

My result was TRUE SUMMER. Even though a couple friends had predicted exactly that outcome, I was very surprised. I had zero doubt I was cool-toned, and I had always strongly suspected Summer, but I  thought I might lean neutral because my dark ash blonde hair takes on red and gold highlights the minute I step into the sun, I get caramel-colored freckles, and my eyes are not the typical blue-eyed-blonde shade. They are navy with grey-blue rims and a yellow starburst around the pupils. But it's not about how a person appears to the rest of the world; it's about how the skin reacts to the color draped across you. Mr. Petals, who had his own draping, turned out to be the Light Summer I was so certain I was going to be.

At the end of the appointment, Maytee went through all my makeup, which she has asked me to bring. As a beauty blogger, I assume some of you know what this meant! She divided the lot into No, Maybe, and Yes piles by comparing each item to my palette. Items did not have to be a 100% match, as long as the color blended tonally and harmoniously with the palette overall. As human beings, we aren't just a dot of color, we're a blend of many.

To finish up my appointment, Maytee selected items from the Yes pile and applied that makeup to me for the photos in my "reveal" session, which is where she draped me in all of my best colors using the SciART luxury drapes. She then revealed them to me one after the other, while Mr. Petals took pictures. A splendid eye opener. 

What's next?

Now that my analysis is over, how do I live the rest of my colorful life? As a True Summer out shopping, I must look for items with a cool hue (zero warmth for me in clothing, makeup, and jewelry). The value (lightness/darkness) must be light to medium, and the chroma (saturation) also medium. My color palette's predominant dimension is that of hue with an overt coolness whose chroma is softened by blue-pink (mauve) undertones. Cool and soft is my new mantra, not clear and bright or rich and deep or golden and warm.

"Mid-toned" is another new mantra, with my best colors flowing right up the middle, such as blues slightly softened by grey, as though enveloped in twilight: true and sky blue, Wedgwood, Chinese blue, periwinkle, greyed, mid-toned navy, and rich royal blue. My skin also lights up when I wear muted shades of lavender, mauve, thistle, and purple, but I must maintain a critical eye for the reddened purples (lilac, orchid, wisteria, grape, plum) because the red gives those colors warmth. My browns must be rosy, my greys blued or mauved, and my greens rich and blue based. Pastels look outstanding on me, which surprised me because I have not been drawn to them since I was a little girl. I can also wear many blue-based roses, pinks, and reds such as strawberry, briar rose, soft fuchsia, watermelon, and blue-red. I have always loved most blues, but I discovered that the right green is an outstanding color for me.

A True Summer's most flattering neutrals are pale yellow, mushroom, pebble, quartz, dove grey, soft (winter) white, all of which look stunning when worn in contrast with soft teal, jade, sage, turquoise, and cocoa. When I wear raspberry, rosewood, aubergine, burgundy, purple, navy, or charcoal, the softer edges of those darker shades, will look best when worn in contrast with their pastel counterparts. For example, mint with clover, dusty rose with cocoa, pearl white with morning grey, Wedgewood with navy. Contrasts must be soft and low-medium, as opposed to the high contrast of black worn with white. No more black for me, but I have always preferred navy, anyway.

My new True Summer palette contains no dark, bold, bright, or warm colors. That's great news to me because for what seems like eleventy billion years, every makeup artist I've encountered has insisted that my eyes require blue's complementary color: an orange-based or golden-brown. Pretty as those colors are in the pan I never liked how they looked on me, but I blamed myself for not being discerning enough at the makeup counter. I assumed I had not yet found the right brown, so I continued searching. No need. There are no golden browns, warm beiges, golden yellows, yellow-greens, oranges, rusts, orange-reds, warm pinks or corals in my True Summer palette.

My palette:

I could not be more happy and relieved. The PCA confirmed long-held suspicions, and it was fun that both my husband and I ended up as Summer seasons. Given our summer-ness, Mr. Petals won't have a leg to stand on when I begin redecorating the house in our colors. Because you just KNOW there are paint chips that go with every one of my palette's swatches, right? Check out Luminosity! Maybe I'll start by painting the front door Wedgwood blue.

Unlike many who are color analyzed and surprised by the result, I am not facing a major wardrobe overhaul. I have been instinctively drawn to soft cool colors since I was a child, though I will need to weed out items that are too dark or bright. As for makeup, I can finally abandon the search for the perfect taupe eyeshadow. It simply doesn't exist for me. Greys and greyed-purples are my taupe.

If you live in the greater NY metro area (or you don't mind a road trip or a flight) and you are interested in having a seasonal color analysis, I cannot recommend Maytee highly enough.You can also check out her Facebook page, Personal Color Communication.

UPDATE: Maytee has moved and is currently not practicing draping. 

See also Dain's articles on Color Theory I and Color Theory II at ARS Aromatica.

Photo credits and references:Great Reality, Wikipedia, and Encyclopedia Britannica


  1. Wow. Such an elaborate and comprehensive system. Congrats on confirming your Summer-ness!

  2. Fascinating! That first color wheel w/chroma and hue is one of the best visual explanations of color I have seen (and I've seen a lot). That spells it out really clearly in one diagram.

    Sounds like you're having fun!

  3. This sounds like such a great, fun experience! The illustrations really help explain the concepts behind Sci/ART, so thanks for including them.

  4. lovely you have any pics to share anywhere...I am such a visual learner :)
    Great that you and hubby are same season fab for when you decorate x tfs x

  5. Thank you for sharing this! You have done a wonderful job of sharing your experience and I truly enjoyed reading. Embrace your Summery self!


  6. Hi Janette, I realize this article would be more effective if I showed the results of my draping, but I am really private/shy and just can't bring myself to publish full-faced pictures of me on the internet. Or I haven't yet. Maybe I'll change my mind. I've been sitting on the pictures all week and haven't even sent any back to Maytee!

  7. Darin, thanks so much. It was a real treat, and I should tell you that your YouTube vidoes helped point me toward a SciART PCA.

  8. I found this so interesting. I'd love to know the cost of having this done.

  9. Whew on not having to give up your clothes! As for the makeup, many - including myself - will be willing to take it off your hands:) Thanks for a great post and Happy Holidays!

  10. WOW- she did a great job and so did you with your report on how it all went.

  11. Fascinating! I've always wanted to get a color analysis, and now I REALLY want to do it. I've always been drawn to reds, black, brown and grey. Red is the color I always wear when I need to feel good, and when I wear it I invariably get compliments from people. And let's not even go into my collection of red lipsticks, lol. But I'd love to know if I'm hitting the nail on the head with the other colors, and if there are shades I can wear other than red to bring some brightness to my life.

    Thanks for the great review! Too bad I don't live in NY (and Atlanta is kind of a haul)...maybe there are similar magicians down south!

  12. Shannon, there are two SciART-trained analysts in Georgia. Not sure how far they are from you. Take a look here:

  13. Do you mind letting your readers know how much was the service? I'm kind of shy to ask.

    1. Not at all, X.

      I imagine each analyst has slightly different costs based on their location and cost of living (LA would likely cost more than Conway NH) but that's just a guess.

      I had my analysis done in northern NJ, and it was $250 for a personal color analysis. That might sound like a lot, but I left with my personal fan deck, which would cost up to $75 on its own, and I had up to 3 hours of my analyst's undivided attention. She also went through my makeup at the end and we got rid of all the wrong colors.

      It was the best money I spent last year, especially when I think of all the money I will no longer waste on the wrong-colored makeup and clothing.

      I felt rather lucky that I didn't have too big a makeup/wardrobe overhaul; I already knew my season in my heart (I figured I was at lease one of the Summers or maybe a Light Spring), but I did not know I was a true season, so I was still making mistakes by purchasing clothing and makeup that was too muted for me or leaned too neutral, which for me meant too warm. I'd pay all over again just for the experience! Hope that helps.

    2. Thank you! I guess I might make an appointment with Maytee since I live around the tri-state area.

    3. Oh! You are very fortunate to leave near her, as I cannot recommend her highly enough. If you end up being a true season, your session will go much more quickly. Mine lasted less than an hour, but with the makeup and makeover and reveal, it was more like 90 minutes. My husband's analysis sucked up an entire three hours because he was a border season. He actually looked good in all of the summer drapes.

      How fun! Oh, to be a Sci\ART-draping virgin again. :^)

  14. Yay!!! I was matched as a True Summer too! Makes shopping so much easier : ) So excited to read about your reccs now!

    1. It's slow going! True seasons, I think, have the most challenging time with makeup, especially the softer Summer season. (Winter will always have plenty of choices.) In fact, I read recently that someone hadn't draped a True season in a long time, maybe it was Christine Scaman.


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