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What are Your Colors?

Color Me Beautiful book coverI have become recently obsessed with colors (naturally, since we’ve been working on the Palette Builder app that Anne blogged about) and in particular, the notion that people have a color palette that suits them best. This isn’t a new idea. When I was growing up there was this idea that people had a season that represented them, and that if you wore the colors of your season, you could enhance your natural skin and hair tones.

One of the earliest proponents of the “seasons” theory of personal color management (I totally just made up that term but it suits, non?) was Carole Jackson with her book, Color Me Beautiful. It was a best-seller and it launched the color craze of the 80’s. I mean just look at that amazingly 80’s cover. The 80’s, if you remember, were super-colorful years with a lot of vibrant hues (including neons, which, I’m sorry to say, I wore gleefully) so it’s completely culturally appropriate that people were really into color and the meanings of colors.

I took the tests and read a lot about it but I’m really no closer to figuring out what colors I am. There are colors I like that unfortunately look awful on me (hello, yellow); there are also certain shades of colors that look fabulous while another shade of the same color family looks blah. I would love an app that helps me understand how colors interact with each other and with me so I can figure out what to wear!

And then there are all the moods associated with colors, which play into what colors you choose for your environment. I’ve always loved strong colors in a room, but lately have gravitated towards neutrals. My bedroom is basically all white, unrelieved by any spot of color. (I used to have dove-grey curtains but took them down.) I think I like the serenity and simplicity of monotone for a place that is supposed to be restful. But then my kitchen is kind of a mish-mash. I have a colorful Amy Butler tablecloth, dish cloths that are orange, green, blue, and yellow, fuchsia place mats, a red Hello Kitty apron… it’s a mess. But I love it, because a kitchen is all about warmth and energy and I like a little chaos while cooking!

The Virgin Mary painting in LapisI also think about the symbolic power of color, and how that can change with cultural contexts. In the west, black is the color of mourning; but in Japan, it’s white — white symbolizes the purity of sacred rites associated with funerals. Red is a celebratory color in many cultures and in China it’s especially lucky. Gold of course symbolizes wealth. Purple since the Roman times has marked royalty or aristocracy — largely because the dyes used to produce it were prohibitively expensive. That gorgeous shade of deep, vibrant blue you see in Renaissance paintings, often used to color the Virgin Mary’s robes, was the most expensive color a painter could have in his palette, because it was made of crushed lapis lazuli which was more costly than gold. When you see it inperson, the blue fairly glows off the canvas. It was reserved for the most important bits of a painting (or to show off how wealthy the patron who commissioned the painting was!)

What you wear, what you choose for your surroundings, and what colors you love are reflective of so many different things. And of course there’s a deeply personal side to it too. I love a certain shade of blue-green because it reminds me of the ocean around my favorite Hawaiian island. I also love a certain shade of tangerine-y orange because it reminds me of the delicious Satsuma mandarins we’d eat with my grandparents.

What are your favorite colors?

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