I spent $130 to get my colors professionally analyzed, and learned I've been wearing the wrong shades my entire life

I spent $130 to get my colors professionally analyzed, and learned I've been wearing the wrong shades my entire life
  • I paid a color analyst to tell me which colors make me look my best and which make me look my worst.

  • With photos of me, she determined my undertone (warm) and season (autumn) — I was wrong about both.

  • The expert also shared tips and tricks for finding your season at home for free.

I had never given the colors I wear much thought until a recent TikTok effect made me reflect on my choices.

photos of the writer: wearing a blue dress, wearing black and a yellow cardigan, wearing black polka dots
White sneakers are probably the one consistent part of my wardrobe.Paige DiFiore

Like most people, there are a few colors I love to wear and some I don't like as much, but I've never thought about which ones flatter me.

That is until I discovered a TikTok effect — user @aida.creator's "ARMOCROMIA" — that brought me into the magical, somewhat confusing world of seasons and colors.

The idea is that each person has a "season" of colors that look best on them — winter, spring, summer, or autumn — based on their eye color, hair color, and skin tone.

I made many TikToks with the effect and solicited opinions from everyone in my life, but my "season" remained a mystery.

the writer using the color filters on tiktok
The filter made me think I was definitely not an autumn.TikTok

The TikTok effect left me confused — in my opinion, the autumn palette made me look sickly, while the winter and spring ones made me look my best.

I also wasn't sure how accurate the effect was. The person who created it appears to primarily be a TikTok effect creator, not a professional color analyst.

I played with the TikTok effect for hours, but I still couldn't figure out the colors I should be wearing.

A peek inside my closet also left me feeling confused.

the writer holding brown and pink clothes next to the writer with black, fuschia, and green eons.
On the left, I borrowed salmon, light brown, and beige shirts from my boyfriend and made the facial expression those colors make me feel when I wear them.Paige DiFiore

Like most people, there are colors you'll never find in my closet because I think they look terrible on me.

I don't think I look good in peach, salmon, or dusty pink. I also don't think beige, gold, or light orange are my colors.

One time I tried on a pair of shoes that was bone-colored and it made me genuinely sad. I'm fairly confident creams are not for me. In fact, most types of white are probably out.

On the other hand, I'm usually drawn to colors like emerald green, cobalt blue, bright purple, bright yellow, and black. They make me feel pretty confident.

But it's hard for me to decipher if those are my most flattering colors or if they're just what I'm used to wearing and typically buy.

The more I tried to think about my season, the more I realized how hard it is to be truly objective about yourself.

This got me researching the trend of finding your colors and seasons.

the writer holdig a color me beautiful book
I thrifted the book "Color Me Beautiful" for under $10.Paige DiFiore

This trend, like many on TikTok, is nothing new.

The concept of having your colors analyzed has roots in Carole Jackson's book from the 1980s, "Color Me Beautiful."

According to Jackson, seasonal color theory is inspired by studies from the German colorist and artist Johannes Itten. His studies were later adapted for fashion purposes.

In Jackson's book, she said knowing your season and wearing the colors within it can help you look better, shop easier, and feel more excited about your appearance. She said wearing the right colors for her season gave her a ton of confidence.

It's worth noting that parts of the book use dated language surrounding gender and race. Many of the examples also seemed to be specifically aimed at white people.



I gave up on the TikTok effect and tried Jackson's online quiz — but it was really dated — then photo-analyzing technology. I still couldn't figure out my season.

womens photos with their seasons on Carole Jackson's website
The quiz based on Jackson's book only showed examples of white women — not very helpful to people of color.

In another attempt to find my season, I turned to the test on Jackson's site. But my results were inconclusive and I wasn't sure about the methodology. I also don't think it would be useful for people of color to only see examples of white women.

The first question asked of me was which "colors you get the most compliments on when you wear them." But this was tricky: How could I be complimented on colors I never wear? Obviously, I'd mostly be complimented on wearing black if I usually wear black. So I ended up choosing winter colors, like emerald and black.

Taking another approach, I tried the site, which promised to let me color analyze myself "like a PRO," but after an hour of analyzing dozens of photos of myself, I was still lost.

My results ranged from "cool winter" to "soft autumn" to "soft summer." One result told me to avoid black; the next said it was one of my best colors.

At first, I assumed I was a "winter."

celebrities winter color seasons
Lucy Liu, Viola Davis, and Zoey Deschanel are some of the celebrities who color analysts say are "winters."David Livingston/Getty Images; Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Kering; Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

According to color experts, winters shine in black and rich, saturated colors like jade and fuchsia — colors I love to wear. They don't look great in soft, dusty pastels or earthy colors, which I don't really wear. They also have cool undertones, which I think I have, and look better in silver than gold.

Color analyzing pros say common examples of winters are celebrities Zooey Deschanel, Janelle Monáe, Megan Fox, Alexis Bledel, Lucy Liu, Jada Pinkett Smith, Viola Davis, and Angelina Jolie.

But my answer didn't feel perfect.

Some sources said winters don't look great in army green, which I think I look great in. Some said winters look best in coral and bubblegum, which I think look bad on me.

Finally, I turned to an expert who would analyze my colors for me.

the writer next to a checklist of things to have in the photo
I had to send the analyst photos of my face without makeup in natural lighting.Paige DiFiore

After a few more online quizzes left me confused, I finally caved and looked into having my colors analyzed by a pro.

Although there were in-person color-analysis options available in my area, they were a bit out of my budget, with many starting at $450 per session.

I ended up choosing a virtual color analysis with Dina Scherer, NYC wardrobe stylist of Modnitsa Styling. It cost $130 and came with a virtual assessment, 20-minute meeting, and a personalized color fan.

Before the meeting, Dina asked me for a list of photos that she'd base her assessment on. They had to be taken in natural light without a camera flash or makeup.

First, I needed a close-up photo of my face, like a headshot, and a picture of the side of my face that focused on my neck and ear. (Trying to snap a close-up photo of my side profile was humbling.)

In addition to selfies, I sent her photos of my palm and wrist, which would help her determine my undertone.

two photos of the authors hand with arrows pointing to wrist veins
I took both of these photos in front of the same window and I still don't know my vein color.Paige DiFiore

The picture of my wrist and the palm of my hand would be used to help determine my undertone.

Greenish-blue veins are a sign of warm undertones, which means you look best in gold jewelry, according to Dina. She said blueish-purple veins are a sign of cool undertones, which means you look best with silver jewelry.

The analyst also asked for photos of me wearing a few different colors.

the writer wearing blue, the writer wearing red, and the writer wearing yellow
Again, I took these photos in natural lighting without makeup.Paige DiFiore

Dina wanted to see me wearing any shade of red, green, blue, orange, and yellow to "help ensure the most accurate analysis."

I found a few colorful tank tops from high school and one dark-orange cardigan that I wrapped around myself like a top.

After snapping these photos, I was starting to wonder if that shade of yellow really looked as good on me as I'd previously thought.

After I sent my photos in, Dina took a week to give me my results.

Finally, I met with Dina to get my results.

cool vs warm silver and gold rings on hand
Silver is best on people with cool undertones and gold is best on those with warm undertones.Paige DiFiore

First, Dina explained that there are two "warm" seasons (spring and autumn) and two "cool" seasons (winter and summer).

Spring and autumn have more yellow mixed into their ideal shades. Summers and winters have more blue mixed into theirs.

With that in mind, the first key component of a color analysis is discovering your undertone.

Warm undertones are usually represented by yellow gold and cool ones by silver or white gold. Rose gold is often in the middle, though it swings cool, Dina said.

As she put it, "like enhances like" so if your undertone is warm, warm colors will make you shine.

According to Dina, I have warm undertones.

the writer wearing cool green next to writer wearing warm green
On the left, I'm wearing a cool blue-green. On the right, I'm wearing a warmer olive green.Paige DiFiore

This, dear reader, is part one of my world being absolutely rocked.

Based on the selfies I sent, Dina said I have warm undertones. She said she was most clearly able to determine my undertone by seeing how I looked wearing different colors.

The orange looked great on me, she said, but the green shirt (left) wasn't quite right because it was cool-toned. A warm-toned green (right) would make me look better.

Because I'm warm-toned, she said, gold jewelry would flatter me much more than silver.

writer with silver and gold necklaces
Gold is most flattering on people with warm undertones, according to my color professional.Paige DiFiore

Dina told me my eye color (hazel with gold and green flecks) and my hair (with natural red streaks) are also both warm.

She said that about 90% of lighter-skinned people who are warm-toned tend to tan in the sun. I'm pretty sure this is where all of the quizzes led me astray. (In a lot of the quizzes I took, burning in the sun seemed synonymous with being cool-toned and I tend to burn easily.)

It's worth noting that the language around burning and tanning isn't super inclusive — it can be difficult to determine your undertone based on whether you tan or burn since that's not the case for many people.

Dina also explained how contrast and softness can come into play when determining someone's season.

The writer with medium contrast written on it next to alexis bledel with high contrast written
Actress Alexis Bledel also has dark hair, but her eyes are bright and cool-toned, making her contrast and clarity higher.Paige DiFiore; Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Hulu

Contrast is the second key component of the color analysis, according to Dina, and it looks at values — the lightness and darkness between your eyes, skin, and hair.

Contrast, she explained, is something people can change with things like makeup, hair dye, or colored contacts.

My hazel eyes match my dark brown hair pretty closely, but my skin is fair. Those factors make me medium-to-high contrast, according to my color pro.

If my eyes were icy blue, I could be higher contrast. If my skin was darker, I could be lower contrast.

The final key component of this analysis came down to softness versus clarity.

Dina said softness looks more at similarities, like brown hair and hazel eyes. Clarity looks more at a stark, defined contrast — like black hair and blue eyes.

Since my hair color is similar to my eye color, Dina said, I have a lot of softness.

At last, Dina narrowed me down to the two warm seasons.

Tessa thompson, taylor swift, victoria pedreddi, ana de armas
Tessa Thompson and Taylor Swift are springs. Victoria Pedretti and Ana de Armas are autumns.Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images; Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Netfilx; Amanda Edwards/WireImage via Getty Images; HENRY NICHOLLS/Reuters

Much to my surprise, my final judgment came down to the warm seasons — spring and autumn, a season I initially dismissed.

Both seasons are considered warm by color experts, but autumns look best in soft, refined colors, and springs shine in bright, energetic ones.

According to Jackson's book, one of the biggest differences between autumns and springs are that many springs tend to flush easily.

According to Dina, I am a "true autumn."

The writer in a warm orange color and the writer in a cool brown color
The warm brown definitely makes me pop more than the cool one does.Paige DiFiore

Remember when I said I didn't think beige, gold, and orange were my colors? Apparently, I was very, very wrong.

Dina said my best neutrals — colors that pair well with others — are brown, off-white, and olive green. She said I should avoid stark white and black, two colors that only shine on winters.

She also said some of my power colors — ones that flatter me the most and should be sprinkled throughout my wardrobe — are olive green, violet, orange, and navy.

As what Dina called a "true autumn," she said the brightest version of autumn colors will often look best on me.

She also said these colors apply to makeup, which got me thinking about how I already love wearing orange and gold eye shadow.

My undertone was a deciding factor in my season.

Navy shirt vs black shirt, writer wearing both
Navy (left) is my power color but black (right) is not.Paige DiFiore

Something Dina really emphasized is that if you love a color that's not "in your season" you can still find a way to rock it.

For example, instead of emerald green (winter) I should try olive green (autumn). Instead of sapphire (winter) or black (winter), I should try navy (autumn).

The difference can seem subtle and I don't know if it was a placebo effect, but my skeptical self was starting to board the "I am an autumn" train.

I started noticing a difference in my face when I wore a power color or one of my not-so-flattering ones.

Dina also explained why I'm not a winter like I'd initially suspected.

julia roberts, the writer, liv tyler.
Dina said Julia Roberts is an autumn and Liv Tyler is a winter.Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images; Paige DiFiore; Jeff Spicer/BFC / Contributor/Getty Images

Dina made it pretty clear that I was not a winter.

For example, she said, Julia Roberts is an autumn and Liv Tyler is a total winter.

She said winters tend to have high contrast (mine is medium) and shine in intense colors, like black and stark white or sapphire and other jewel tones.

When I said I thought I looked great in jewel tones, Dina made an excellent point: "Do those colors pop on you, or do they make you pop?"

I'd never thought about it that way — were these colors actually making me pop? Looking back, I'm not sure they were.

After a week, I started to really embrace that I was an autumn.

The writer wearing olive green and gold
Me, wearing my power colors — olive green (shirt) and gold (eyes).Paige DiFiore

When I started this story, I thought someone would tell me I was wearing the right things and that maybe I could add a few other colors to my wardrobe.

Instead, I left feeling like I'd been lying to myself for years. Almost all of my jewelry is silver and black is the most common color in my closet.

Knowing that a color expert thinks I'm an autumn has made me reflect on my wardrobe and built my confidence when it comes to wearing orange and brown, two colors that were out of my comfort zone.

I also feel like I can now pull off gold jewelry, which I always admired but didn't think looked good on me.

After our meeting, Dina sent me an autumn color fan where she marked colors I would look best in.

The writer holding an autumn color wheel
Dina marked my most flattering colors on the back of the wheel.Paige DiFiore

The week after my analysis, I began wearing more gold eyeshadow, gold earrings, and warm colors. I found myself reaching for all of the oranges and olives in my closet and skipping the black.

It's certainly not for everyone, but the personalized color analysis was really helpful and it's led to some major changes in my personal style and confidence.

It is pricey, but it might be an awesome gift for someone in your life who loves fashion or feels like they're in a style rut.

That said, you can certainly try to figure out your season at home.

Here are some of the best tips I've gathered about finding your season.

the autumn page of color me beautiful
Most of the examples in Jackson's book are white women with very '80s style.Paige DiFiore

Throughout this process, I read a lot about seasons. I took notes from Dina and read Jackson's book, which went into more depth about each season and had interesting tips and advice.

But not only did Jackson's book use dated language and imagery, there were also some suggestions that contradicted my own color analysis. It reiterated to me that a lot of this stuff is rarely one size fits all and, as Dina put it, "There aren't really any hard and fast rules."

The book also didn't provide many tips or examples for people with darker skin. There are other, better resources, like the videos from Cocoa Styling on YouTube, where stylists thoroughly break down how individuals with darker skin can best discover their season.

Today, there are also more nuanced systems that break down the four seasons into 12 distinct sub-seasonal palettes to more thoroughly evaluate what colors look good on you.

At the end of the day, all of this is just for fun, so take the following with a grain of salt. And don't toss out your wardrobe just yet.

If you want to find your season, there are a few experiments you can try, including the fuchsia-versus-orange test.

the writer fuschia next to the writer in orange
Even though I love it, the cool fuchsia kind of makes me look sickly.Paige DiFiore

To try to figure out your season at home, Dina said you should buy or borrow shirts in a few different colors and undertones to battle them out. For example, olive green (warm) vs. emerald green (cool) or pastel pink (cool) vs. coral pink (warm).

Try to be as objective as possible and, without makeup on, prop a mirror in front of some natural light. Your job is to figure out which colors look better.

Since there are no warm versions of fuchsia or cool versions of orange, those are two of the best colors to try on. If orange gives you a glow, you're likely warm-toned. If fuchsia makes you shine, you're likely cool-toned.

It can be hard to be objective, so it helps to get some outside opinions — especially from people who don't know which colors you prefer.

As Dina said, there's also a difference between the color popping and the color making you pop.

Before, I believed fuchsia was one of my colors because I thought it had a "wow" factor. Now, I've realized I just like the color. When I look at photos of myself wearing fuchsia now, I seem washed out — especially compared to myself in orange.

Here's a final breakdown of the seasons and some of their main traits: 

Winters have a cool undertone and are the only season that shines in black and stark white.

Jameela Jamil and Selena Gomez over winter colors
Jameela Jamil and Selena Gomez are likely winters.Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP; Steve Granitz/WireImage
  • Winters shine in clear, vivid colors, like emerald and royal blue.

  • Winters do not look their best in oranges and can looked washed out in pastels.

  • They look wonderful in jewel tones, black, and white.

  • Most winters have dark hair without any red highlights or undertones.

  • If your hair is blueish black, you're likely a winter.

  • Winters typically don't have rosy cheeks.

  • Oftentimes, their eyes have white flecks in the iris.

  • It's common for winters with olive skin to think they have a warm undertone, so pay close attention to your vein color (or the fus chia vs. orange test).

  • Some famous examples of winters, according to color experts and websites, are Selena Gomez, Lucy Liu, Michael B. Jordan, Jameela Jamil, Viola Davis, and Anne Hathaway.

Summers look best in cool-toned, muted colors.

Leona Lewis and Olivia Wilde on Spring colors
Leona Lewis and Olivia Wilde are likely summers.Courtesy of Dina Scherer; Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images for La Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco; Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP
  • Summers look best in cool, muted colors or grayish pastels, like powder blue or mauve.

  • They do not look their best in orange or most yellows (the only exception is lemon yellow).

  • Summers have hair that is cool-toned without any warmth, which can range from gray and dark blonde to medium brown.

  • Some summers are blonde as children (though they may grow out of it).

  • Summers can have blue, green, aqua, gray, cool black, or soft-hazel eyes.

  • Many summers have a pinkish, reddish, or grayish undertone to their skin.

  • Some famous examples of summers, according to color experts and websites, are Olivia Wilde, Kate Middleton, Leona Lewis, Rami Malek, Emily Blunt, Vanessa Williams, and Jesse Williams.

Autumns have warm undertones and look best in orange and gold.

Rihanna and Ana de Armas over an autumn palette
Rihanna and Ana de Armas are likely autumns.REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni; Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images
  • Autumns look best in orange and brown.

  • They do not look their best in black, white, or pastels.

  • Many autumns have a warm, golden undertone.

  • Most autumns have hair with red or gold streaks or undertones.

  • Many autumns have hair that is naturally chestnut, chocolate, caramel, or copper.

  • Most autumns have hazel eyes or eyes with flecks of brown, black, or gold.

  • If you have freckles, check their undertone — a warmer, more golden freckle could be a sign you are an autumn. (A more charcoal-colored freckle means you're likely a cool-toned season.)

  • Some famous examples of autumns, according to color experts and websites, are Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, Debra Messing, Beyoncé, Ana de Armas, Elizabeth Olsen, Victoria Pedretti, and Rihanna.

Springs have a warm undertone and look best in exciting, vivid colors.

springs kerry washington and jamie chung over spring c olors
Kerry Washington and Jamie Chung are likely springs.David Livingston/Getty; Getty Images
  • Springs look great in lively colors, like bright coral or bright aqua.

  • They do not look their best in black, muted, or very dark colors.

  • Springs look good in ivory and golden browns.

  • Many get freckles and some light springs have a clear "peaches and cream" complexion.

  • Springs of every complexion have an unmistakable golden or orange tone.

  • Of the seasons, springs are most likely to flush easily.

  • Springs typically have warm undertones in their hair.

  • A lot of springs have blue or green eyes. If they have brown eyes, they tend to be more golden or orange-y.

  • Some famous examples of springs, according to color experts and websites, are Kerry Washington, Taylor Swift, Jamie Chung, Brittany Snow, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Hudson, and Rebel Wilson.

But don't let your season (or the season you think you might be) stop you from wearing what you love.

the write in sapphire, light blue, pale purple, and reddish brown
I think we can all agree I am NOT a summer — I look so washed out.Paige DiFiore

I'm definitely going to keep my season in mind as I build my wardrobe, but I'm not going to stop wearing the colors I love. And you shouldn't, either.

After all, the colors you wear don't matter if you don't have the confidence to back them up.

Sure, I might hesitate before I add more cool-toned sweaters to my closet. But you can pry my beloved black-and-white polka dots from my cold, dead hands.

This story was originally published on August 2, 2022, and most recently updated on March 11, 2024.

Read the original article on Business Insider