Things are going to get a little bit slow here in Selfish Seamstress Land (not officially a country, but it should be!) as the (future) in-laws have arrived in town for a weeklong visit. Fortunately for me, I adore my in-laws. I realize this must come as a shock since after all 1) they’re in-laws and 2) the Selfish Seamstress doesn’t really have the capacity to adore anyone but herself and her cat. So perhaps I just adore them to frustrate you with my contrariness. In fact, there may even be a chance that I’m halfway through knitting a handbag for my wonderful (future) mother-in-law just to disappoint you. Maybe.
Anyway, readers, sewing time is scarce now, and progress on the Vogue 1051 alice + olivia pants is temporarily on hold. But they are just inches from being done and looking gooooood so far. They’re lending credence to my theory that short women can indeed wear wide leg pants if they are proportioned correctly. So fellow munchkin-sized ladies, listen to ME and not your silly fashion magazines that try to tell you otherwise!
Speaking of long-held but shaky conventional fashion wisdom, I have a gripe that’s been simmering in my mind for a while now about seasonal color analysis and I want to gripe it all over you. Seasonal color analysis, for those of you who haven’t run into it yet, is based on the idea that you can determine what colors are most flattering on you based on your coloring- usually some combination of hair color, skin tone, and eye color, with hair color being the most mandatory across different ways of doing the analysis. Based on your coloring, you fall into one of four categories – Spring, Summer, Autumn, or Winter. Each category has recommended colors or color families that supposedly flatter you and, either explicitly or implicitly, colors that should be avoided.
Now, I completely buy the UNDERLYING CONCEPT. Certain skin tones and hair colors work well with certain garment colors and poorly with others (particularly when worn near the face) – I’m on board with this much. What gets me steamed, however, is the way in which most of the analyses and categorizations are done. I’ve looked at several websites for color analysis and they get detailed and subtle about some skin and hair tones- are you cool ash blonde? Honey blonde? Strawberry blonde? Is your hair light brown? Medium brown? Dark brown? Cool or warm brown? Is your skin porcelain? Ivory? Peach? Warm beige? Olive?
Well, guess what. If your hair is black, according to any analysis that I have seen, you are a winter. Now, let’s think about this for a second. Based on black hair alone (winter also includes some other hair colors), that winter category is going to contain the vast majority of people of Asian descent, the vast majority of people of ethnic African descent, the majority of Middle Easterners, the majority of Latinos, most Native Americans, most Australian aboriginals, a large number of European caucasians from countries such as Greece, Italy, Russia, and Spain, and a whole slew of other people besides. Now, I’m no expert on global demographics or population statistics, but I’m going guess very conservatively that people with black hair constitute more than half the world’s population. (And yes, I know there are exceptions, but don’t go bringing up the fact that you know an Indian woman who has beautiful natural red hair or a lovely blonde Puerto Rican as some sort of counterexample intended to prove that black hair isn’t actually that common. That would be what we call “flawed logic.”) So basically we’re talking about the majority of the world’s population supposedly only looking good in one quadrant of the color season spectrum, and the remaining cool blond/honey blond/light brown/chestnut brown/redhead folks sharing the other three quarters (not to mention that some of them also fall into the winter category)? I DON’T THINK SO.
The Selfish Seamstress has been labeled a “winter” more times than she can count by ladies who caution her not to wear off-white or brown in slavish adherence to a color categorization that is clearly flawed when it comes to her more-than-half of the population. (And besides, that’s obviously a load of crap because as we all know, the Selfish Seamstress looks awesome in EVERYTHING.) To take it to a point of extreme skepticism, I even suspect that the black-haired “winters” that the originators of color season analysis had in mind were not the beautiful ebony haired women of Ethiopia, Korea, Columbia, or Pakistan, but rather the raven-tressed Snow White type, with the rest of us tossed into that bin as an afterthought.
If you haven’t already figured out the rather sensitive point that I’m trying to make, I’ll just put it out there baldly- this system fails for women of color because it fails to acknowledge that women of color themselves are a spectrum, rather than a bunch of people who can be easily lumped into a single point on the spectrum. And I’m not just being pouty and pulling some “oppressed minority” BS. Even if I look at my own cousins, all of whom, like me, are of Asian descent, I can tell you that we all have black hair and we all look good in different colors. Some of them look lovely in pastels and some can really pull off brights. Some of us look good in rich, deep colors, and *gasp* some of us DON’T look good in black. What can possibly account for this variation? The fact that not all black-haired women have the same skin color.
And if it seems silly to suggest that any sort of system intended to offer generalizations should account for the comparatively small variations in skin tone among one Asian-American woman’s cousins, then let bump it up a notch and ask you this- what analysis method worth its salt would take women as varied in coloring and appearance as me, Reethi, Erica, Tany, Cidell, Susan, Meli88a, Ariel, Angela, and Carolyn and try to tell us that we all should stick to the same colors simply because we all have black hair? And meanwhile the analysis methods very considerately acknowledge the differences between Ms. Light Chestnut and Ms. Medium Chestnut by suggesting entirely different palettes for each? Pfffffffffffffffft. Let alone the social and racial implications of a system that puts me and most of the rest of the world into a box labeled “Other,” the system simply doesn’t work.
Like I said, I think there’s merit to the underlying idea that one can systematically provide useful color guidelines based on variation in skin tone and hair color. But seasonal color analysis is seriously weak if you aren’t Ms. Strawberry Blonde & Co., and I can’t take an analysis seriously if it doesn’t take me seriously. After all, I look fabulous in brown.
So don’t call me a winter.