house of colour

Why should I get a colour analysis?

Keira, our graphic designer, had her colours analysed with Gilly from House of Colour and discovered she was a Jewel Winter

I spend an awful lot of time on this blog chattering on about the ways to wear each palette, the endless variations of any given colour and ways to style my Kettlewell favourites, but it’s been a long time since I’ve given the how a rest and discussed the why. Why exactly should you get your colours analysed? What are the actual benefits to you, a human being with a passing interest in looking and feeling good but also a busy life and other things to worry about?

Picture me rubbing my hands together gleefully at the prospect of informing you. I have just the one blog post in which to do this, so I’ve had to condense my reasons into just six points which hopefully will help nudge you over the edge if you’ve been wondering if this colour analysis malarky is really for you…

Lizzi (Autumn) from Loved by Lizzi blog had her colours analysed with the Red Leopard ladies, Rachel, (Winter), Ilka (Autumn), Manina (Winter) and Annie (Autumn)

Look good

Oh, it’s so obvious, isn’t it? But it really is true. Wearing colours that suit you, whether they are light or dark, bright or neutral, will make your skin clearer, your eyes brighter and your teeth whiter. You’ll look younger and fresher and more put together, because your outfit won’t be working against you, and that’s before you apply a scrap of make up. Wearing clothes that suit you essentially gives you a head start on looking good, regardless of whether you walk out the door bare faced or with full hair and make up every single day.

Annabel from House of Colour in her Winter colours

Feel good

All that looking good naturally translates to feeling good. And it’s not just about feeling ‘pretty’ (or whatever your word of choice is to connote physical attractiveness). Wearing colours that are in harmony with your natural colouring and style will give you an inner boost, be it conscious or subconscious, and allow you to be more open and engaging, stand up for yourself, carry more authority, and feel more attractive – whatever your own personal little hang up is about your appearance and however it holds you back, colour analysis is one huge step towards overcoming it. Wearing the right colours just makes you feel like you, but better.

Sarah, from the Kettlewell team who is a Summer wearing her Tropical Teal Helena blouse

Mix ‘n’ match

My personal favourite. All that looking and feeling fabulous is all very well by itself, but actually the thing I find incredibly satisfying on top of it is having a wardrobe where everything works. The beauty of colour analysis is that everything in your wardrobe will not only suit you, it will suit everything else, so you can mix and match endlessly to create amazing outfits. And (this is it: as a lazy and busy person, my number one benefit) you can get dressed in about 8.3 seconds, without even looking at which top and which bottom you are pulling out of the wardrobe, add some red lipstick, and look like you’ve got it together. Genius.

Annie, one of the Red Leopard stylists with Vanessa from The Model Edit blog – both Autumns.

Go bright

When it comes down to it, most of us don’t wear much colour. It’s very rare that I open a client’s wardrobe doors and see a riot of colour, of any palette. We just don’t have the confidence to wear colour. But seriously, it can bring a whole lot of joy, to you and to others. Knowing that you can in fact wear, and look amazing in, hot pink, or cobalt blue or saffron yellow is a huge confidence boost and can finally give you permission to wear colours you’ve hankered after for years (and stop you continually trying then giving up on wearing a bright colour that your best friend loves but looks dire on you).

Mary (Spring) and Lisa (Summer), from House of Colour in their Striped Pocket dresses

Stay neutral

Of course, if you’re anything like me and actually have zero desire to wear a bright colour 95% of the time, then discovering your best neutrals is even more vital than discovering your best brights. Imagine being able to look and feel absolutely amazing simply by knowing which shade of grey to pick. It’s akin to witchcraft, but anyone can do it.

Sian from House of Colour a Jewel Winter adds a pop of colour to her Silver Sparkle Crossover with her pink glasses!

Be you

Imagine knowing your best palette, not the colours that the fashion industry, your mum, your best friend or your nearest clothes shop, think you should be wearing. It is simultaneously liberating, empowering, terrifying and exciting. Finally you get to wear the palette that you love, not the one you’ve been told to love. You get to embrace the colours that feel like they belong to you because, well, they do.

‘Love Colour Tee’ worn by House of Colour Stylists Kristine (Autumn), Jennie (Autumn), Judy (Spring), Harry (Winter), Elisa (Summer), Catherine (Summer) and Lara (Winter)

Some of these images are taken from our Real Women Gallery on the website. We love to see how you wear your Kettlewell styles (old and new!) so visit here to upload a photo. We are awarding a Florence Infinity Scarf to our favourite image posted before midnight on 31st August 2017.

Tonal directions or seasonal analysis? Translation 101

When I write the Kettlewell blog, I talk almost exclusively in seasonal terms (i.e. referring to the colour palettes as Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter), and within that the different ‘types’ of each season. However, the palettes can also be divided up according to ‘tonal directions’ rather than seasons.

In the interests of keeping things clear for all of Kettlewell’s customers, not just those who have had a seasonal analysis, a translation guide seemed in order.

Most modern colour analysis systems – including the two UK big names, House of Colour and Colour me Beautiful – use a 12 season analysis system. The difference is not so much in the palettes as in the different names of those palettes. I have dealt with the different seasonal types used by House of Colour in depth in four posts (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter), and today it’s the turn of the Colour me Beautiful system to get a little in depth attention, and a translation to the seasonal system.

In the Colour me Beautiful analysis process, the client is assigned a dominant and a secondary tonal direction. These two tonal directions together determine the palette that the client is given. So a client may, for instance, be given ‘Clear and Warm’, meaning that their dominant tonal direction is Clear, with Warm being the secondary palette signifier.

So what do each of these tonal directions mean? Please note that the translations from tonal to seasonal below may not be exact – every analysis system is slightly different.  However, it should give you a good starting point for finding your colours.


A Cool dominant skin tone is one in which the primary, most important descriptor of the client is that they have a cool (blue) undertone to their skin and need cool toned colours to look their best. A Cool dominant person might be a Winter or a Summer in seasonal terms.

Cool + Clear roughly translates to a Cool/Sultry Winter, at the coolest, deepest end of the Winter palette, whereas Cool + Soft translates to a Cool/Deep/Dark Summer, which is the deepest, most saturated end of the Summer – the most ‘Winter’ end of Summer.


A Warm dominant skin tone is one in which the most important descriptor of the client is that they have a warm (yellow) undertone to their skin, and need similarly warm toned colours to look their best. A warm toned person might be a Spring or an Autumn in seasonal terms.

Warm + Clear translates to a True/Warm Spring, at the warmest, most vibrantly yellow/golden end of the Spring palette, while Warm + Soft equates to a Warm/True/Vibrant Autumn which, like the Spring equivalent, is the most golden, warmest end of the Autumn palette.


Rather than being predominantly warm or cool, the defining characteristic of the Light dominant palette is, well, light. Often fair of skin, hair and eye colour, the lightness of the colour is more crucial than whether the colour falls just to the warm or to the cool side. A Light dominant person might be a Spring or a Summer in seasonal terms.

Light + Cool equates to a Pastel/Light/Cotton Wool Ball Summer, the lightest and brightest summer colours – these colours are the least ‘greyed’ of the summer palette, and seem to be softened by white more than by grey. Light + Warm translates most closely to a Light/Pastel Spring, containing the lightest and most pastel end of the Spring Colours.


As with the Light palettes, the dominant characteristic of the Deep palette is not warmth or coolness, but depth of colour – tending towards the dark and saturated, and the more neutral end of the spectrum rather than overly warm or cool. A Deep dominant person might be an Autumn or a Winter in seasonal terms.

Deep + Cool translates as a Deep/Dark/Burnished Winter, the Winter palette containing the most neutral (in terms of warmth and coolness) tones, seen as the ‘softest’ in the Winter palette, as much as any Winter colour can be soft. Deep + Warm is a Deep Autumn, again tending towards the darkest, most neutral (in terms of warmth and coolness) end of the palette.


The Clear dominant palette has as its most defining feature an absence of greying or muted tones to its colours – all the Clear colours are ‘true’ shades rather than softened versions. A Clear dominant person might be a Spring or a Winter in seasonal terms.

Clear + Cool translates to a Clear/Bright/Sprinter Winter, which falls at the lightest and brightest end of the Winter palette, whereas Clear and Warm equates to a Bright/Clear/Blue Spring, at the brightest and most ‘Winter’ end of the Spring palette.


The predominant feature of the soft palette is an element of muting, or greying, to the colours, rather than a dominance of warmth or coolness. None of the colours appear at full saturation. A Soft dominant person might be a Summer or an Autumn in seasonal terms.

Soft + Cool equates to a Soft/Brown Summer in seasonal terms, featuring the least cool Summer colours, such as the jade greens and rose browns. Soft + Warm is a Soft Autumn, at the lightest and most muted end of the Autumn palette.

Hit colour refresh

What a month March is turning out to be. Not only have we been busy putting the finishing touches to our A/W17 collection, but we’ve been zipping between location recces in Bath, high summer brochure photo shoots in London and filming in Henley-upon-Thames. Added to that, Kettlewell has had the best start to a season ever, for which I must say a huge thank you for all your continued support.

Anyway, there’s nothing like the shift from winter to spring to get everyone talking about colour, and that’s what we were doing last week in Henley with our good friends at Country Wives . For those of you who may not have heard of it, Country Wives is an online magazine, set up by Annabel, Grace and Ellie, three friends from their London days, who have come together to share tips and ideas about everything from food to fashion. We’ve been lucky enough to team up with them once before , but this time we were videoing Grace having a colour refresh  with Helen Venables, MD at House of Colour.

It turns out that 25 years after she first had her colours analysed, Grace’s wow colours have shifted in her seasonal palette and she is now a vibrant autumn, which, I have to say, is a perfect match for her personality. Enthusiastic, vivacious and ever open to suggestion, Grace embraced Helen’s wonderful bright colour drapes with an open-mindedness that was refreshing to see, and loved our Acid Lime, Fiesta Orange, Saffron and Mallard tops, which I highlighted in the second of the vlogs, How to (successfully) wear bright colours .

Back at Kettlewell HQ, we’ve been busy doing some filming of our own this month, and the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted a number of short Style Guide video clips dotted around the website, as I talk through a range of styles, including the Striped Boat Neck, Silky Tee, Print Daphne blouse and Butterfly Print Tee. We’ve had some really positive feedback so far, with one customer telling us that the style clips give her a good idea of “whether I’ll like it on myself… It makes outfit ideas come alive when you can see them in real life.” Look out for more as they pop up over the next couple of months, as well as some longer ones where I’ll be sharing my favourite pieces for Spring/Summer 17, and do let us know what you think. After all, it’s because of you that we’re here!


A brief history of colour analysis

Whether colour analysis is a ‘real thing’ is a debate often thrown my way by people who think it’s a waste of time, money and energy. Obviously I believe it’s a real thing because I see it, and my clients see it, on a daily basis, but when I trained in colour analysis I was also surprised by how much of a lineage of science and philosophy colour analysis has.

The history of colour analysis is (if you ask me) an endlessly fascinating subject. Not just for those of us who are passionate about it as a process, but also to help those who doubt its worth to understand that yes, it is in fact a real thing.

Colour has been viewed over the centuries by physicists, philosophers, mathematicians and artists and all have come up with their own theories about how colours interact with each other, with our senses and with the world around us. Light and sound both have frequency and wavelength. We have known for centuries that when we hear two notes played in harmony, it sounds pleasant, but when we hear discordant notes the sounds jars and makes us feel uncomfortable. The same applies to light and, therefore, colour. When a colour combination is harmonious, whether that is with another colour or with someone’s skin tone, it is pleasing to view, making a person look healthy and clear skinned. But when that colour is a ‘discordant note’, it makes for something that is visually uncomfortable, which in the context of someone’s complexion means a person looking unhealthy, tired or even a bit jaundiced. Artists began to research this effect long before colour analysts, knowing that painting a portrait was far more successful if the palette was in harmony, with the subject’s surroundings and outfit complementing their skin and hair tones.

Picking a start point for the history of colour analysis itself is almost impossible – we have been considering colour almost as long as we have been a civilised species, from war paint and royal robes to interior design and workplace uniforms. However, the generally accepted ‘year dot’ figurehead for colour analysis is a chap called Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who researched and wrote extensively about colour with particular reference to perceptions of colour and how we interact with it, rather than from a purely scientific viewpoint (as previous researchers, notably Sir Isaac Newton, had done. I’m not going to start talking about Newton’s research into colour because we’ll be here for the rest of the week working our way forwards from the seventeenth century).

Goethe, born a mere two hundred and fifty years ago, wrote extensively on colour from a philosophical and subjective viewpoint, considering colour not from a purely scientific perspective as Newton did, but from a philosophical one, looking at how we interact with colour, how our perception shifts depending on combinations, relative light or darkness and a million and one other human factors that affect colour.geothe_text

Our next player is a more scientific one; Michael Chevreul, born in 1786, was a chemist who examined at length the effect of putting different colours alongside one another. His work formed the scientific basis that many artists used in the coming century. In the US, the Albert Munsell, born in 1858, began to define colours using three characteristics – hue (cool/warm), value (dark/lightness) and chroma (clear/muted). These two strands of colour theory – the scientific and the philosophical, were running alongside each other for centuries, until….chevreul_text

munsell_textJohannes Itten developed and refined the colour theory that had come before. Itten was, as part of a long and varied career, a pivotal member of the influential Bauhaus school of art in Germany in the 1920s. He taught a foundation course in the study of colour and form which all students were required to take. The theories he expounded and taught as part of this course are still used by artists today, and made up and developed his colour theories.itten_text

As well as deepening our understanding of how colours interact with each other, and with light and dark, we also have Itten to thank for beginning to describe colours as ‘warm’ and ‘cool’ and for dividing up palettes of colours into seasons. Although he did not translate this to colour analysis, Itten did note that when asked to paint a ‘season’, each student chose a palette of colours that was easily recognisable as belonging to the season in question, such as a light, bright, warm toned palette for spring. He also noted that when asked to paint harmonious colours, his students would tend to paint with colours that matched themselves (such as a blonde, blue eyed student painting with very clear, light tones). Itten really fused both the scientific (objective) and more philosophical (subjective) historical views of colour theory and perception, which paved the way perfectly for our next key player.

The man we really have to thank for translating colour theory into a workable colour analysis system is yet another artist, an American this time, by the name of Robert Dorr. Working in a time when colour film was on the rise and people were more aware of the impact of colour, he used Itten’s theories on seasonal groupings to divide people up into Key I (cool) and Key II (warm) skin tones, each of which were assigned a palette of colours. The deciding colours to establish whether an individual fell into a Key I or a Key II skin tone were orange (which didn’t appear in Key I, so if a person looked good in it, signified a Key II skin tone) and magenta (which didn’t appear in Key II).

In the 1980s, all of this research and development, combined with the ability to precision dye analysis drapes, garments and make up colours, led to the launch of several colour analysis companies, including the largest two in the UK today – Colour Me Beautiful and House of Colour. Both of these companies are based on the theories expounded by Dorr and Itten and those who came before them, but use differing systems of analysis and classification to establish which palette (seasonal, in the case of House of Colour, or tonal in the case of Colour Me Beautiful) an individual falls into.colourconsultants

The process has been refined and developed since the 1980s, but the principles of the actual analysis process really haven’t changed an awful lot, developed as they are from a three hundred year old lineage of colour theory. Although the scary 1980s make up has, I’m pleased to report, gone the same way as the dodo.