For as long as I can remember, my mother has recoiled at the mere thought of wearing olive green. “It does nothing for me,” she’d say. Why? “I’m a winter.” 

She is a disciple of Carole Jackson, who published Color Me Beautiful more than 40 years ago. The quasi-self-help book sorts people into “seasons” based on the tone of their hair, skin, and eyes. Depending on your season, you’re assigned a color palette that promises to “make you look great and feel fabulous.” Early editions of the book included a tear sheet prompting readers to send in $25 to receive a wallet-size bundle of swatches for easy reference while shopping for clothing and makeup.

Jackson, now 81, didn’t invent the method — and even she isn’t sure who did. But after getting her own colors analyzed (and being amazed by how wearing a certain shade of blue could make her look less tired), she had an idea: Commercialize the concept. In addition to selling the aforementioned swatches (and some four million copies of the book), Jackson inked international licensing agreements, including in South Africa and Japan.

Now, color consultations are a thing once again — this time, on TikTok, where videos tagged #coloranalysis have generated more than 631 million views. There’s even a filter that projects users’ faces against different-colored backdrops, so they can assess which hues are most complementary.

The resurgence may be linked to the world’s beauty-trend capital, South Korea. Junghae Lee, a senior beauty editor at Allure Korea, tells me that pre-pandemic, shops staffed by “personal color specialists” were popping up left and right. During consultations, clients are asked to remove their makeup and a white sheet is draped over their clothes. This creates a neutral background against which various shades are held up to the face; the shades that are most flattering determine one’s “season.”

Ginger Burr, an image consultant in Boston, works much the same way, but she’s abandoned the notion of seasons in favor of creating custom palettes for each of her clients. And instead of
telling someone they can’t wear a certain color, Burr says it’s a matter of finding a variation of a shade that jibes best with their features. Except for yellow: “That one’s really hard to wear.”

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