Why Color Analysis Quizzes Are Back — And Could Be Your Key to a More Minimalist Closet

published Apr 3, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Shutterstock; Design: Apartment Therapy

Have you ever stumbled upon a vintage copy of “Color Me Beautiful?” Maybe it sat on your parents’ nightstand or maybe your great aunt tried to drape you in colors as a teenager to find your “season.” This book, which hit the shelves in the 1980s, was a classic among people of a certain generation, all of them dedicated to building a wardrobe (largely for women) out of the colors that best suited them as a spring, summer, fall, or winter. 

I first came across the idea at some point as a kid in the ’90s, flipping through my mom’s old issues of Redbook. As I grew convincingly more sophisticated with each page, I recall coming across the seasons, deciding I was an autumn and promptly filing that memory away for a couple decades.

Now, the seasons are back. Color me intrigued, but I was excited to talk to Jeannie Stith, the founder of Color Guru to get her story and learn why this system is becoming relevant and useful again in 2022.

Stith got her colors done 15 years ago at the urging of an older aunt. The practice had fallen out of trend at that point, but she found it was a game changer — even with an ’80s vintage color palette. She looked better and felt better in her clothes but also found a surprising benefit, “All my colors started to coordinate together and everything seemed to match. A capsule wardrobe started to come together naturally, without having to resort to all neutrals.” 

Stith was hooked and set out to recreate the colors in a modern way. When she spent a year researching every existing color analysis system to determine what worked and what didn’t, she immediately noticed previous systems lacked inclusivity. With the help of a master colorist and master stylist, and a couple years of trial and error working with friends, she recognized there were segments within each season that revealed the nuances and similarities between 12 different palettes that include Autumn Twilight, Vivid Winter, Sunlit Spring, and Calm Summer.

Color Guru bases their color palettes on the original seasons: Springs and autumns are warm, while summers and winters are cool. But they go further with light and deep, which speaks to the contrast between your skin, hair, and eyes, and muted and clear, which refers to whether you look best in vibrant, clear colors or softer, muted tones. After determining your season, they send an explanation document that shows warm and cool tones side-by-side with your photos, along with light, deep, clear, and muted colors. The palette of colors and makeup shades are, in theory, the hues that will help you glow.

Credit: Heather Bien

Looking at my warm, clear, and light Copper Spring colors, I immediately spot a few of my favorite shades to wear, including royal blue, brown, and berry pink. Maybe this quiz is on to something. And, as I think about my closet… if I wasn’t planning on doing a purge this weekend, I’m now considering it. It’s a little too coincidental that some of the sweaters I never wear, because they make me look tired or blah, fall into my “colors to avoid” list. This seems like a simple guide to both pare down my wardrobe and stop impulsive clothing purchases.

I ask Stith how she’s seen business grow over the past few years — particularly as people dive headfirst into minimizing their wardrobes while also staring at themselves for hours each day on zoom. She says, “We had our big explosion in business since 2020. Color Guru is a self-care practice you could still do even when salons were closed.”

She continues, “There’s also the increased popularity of a simplified wardrobe or a capsule wardrobe. People are more intentional about what they’re buying.” But how many times have you seen a capsule wardrobe that’s all shades of ivory, white, and black? Stith believes knowing your season is the key to maintaining a minimal, intentional wardrobe, while also embracing vibrant shades. “Neutral is great, but people love color!” she says. “They want less in their closet, but they want to be able to have color in their wardrobe.”