PCA Light Summer, One Month In

Judging by the comments, you all are up for more posts as I transition into a Light Summer season. (That’s SciArt/12 Blueprints parlance – if none of that makes sense, start here. Read more about SciArt here).

I had my Personal Color Analysis (PCA) appointment one month ago (details in that first linked post above). Since then I’ve been practicing swatching my colors at the thrift store and I’ve started swapping out some of my warmer, darker, and/or brighter clothes for Light Summer’s cool, soft, and light hues.

As a reminder, here’s a decent-ish picture of my season’s colors as depicted in my swatch book:
The swatches aren’t used to find exact matches; rather the swatchbook helps you see whether a particular color harmonizes with your season. If the color and the swatchbook light each other up, if they both seem more vibrant put next to each other, you’ve got a match. If the color in question looks too dark, dull, or muted next to the swatchbook, or if it overwhelms the swatchbook with brightness or clashes in terms of hue (warm vs. cool), you’re looking at different seasons.

As you can probably imagine, it takes time to develop swatching skills. I need to train my brain to filter for the right hue (warm vs. cool), value (light vs. dark), and saturation/chroma (greyed out vs. pure color), which is more difficult in the thrift racks where you’re never looking at a color in isolation. I need to ignore colors I’ve previously gravitated toward and say “no” to colors that seem so close but are just a shade too dull/bright/intense etc. I’ve already thrifted things that, as I keep refining my (rather rough) swatching skills, no longer seem like real Light Summer colors.

Case in point: this pink sweater photographs brighter than it is in real life, but it still feels a tad too bright for my face:

IMG_20180110_091617366 (1)

Why does this matter? If I love a color, shouldn’t I just wear it?

Yes! But while some of my “new” colors are old favorites, others are reallllly new to my wardrobe (pretty much all the pinks, yellows, and purples), and if I’m going to grow to love new colors, I want to grow to love the ones that really light my face up. I don’t particularly want to hold on to a bright pink sweater that isn’t doing it for my complexion.

My original reason for getting a PCA was to avoid buying stuff I don’t wear because the colors feel off. So I’ve also been flexing my willpower by saying no to stuff that I otherwise like but that’s not in my colors. I have plenty of clothes I love regardless of their color; I don’t need to buy anything else not in my season even if it’s a great find. (Whoops; should have said no to this oatmeal-y gray sweater, the cut and neckline of which I love but that is too warm for Light Summer.)

So let’s start off with a bunch of misses that might give you a sense of how it feels to develop your eye/willpower.


The Seasonal Misses

A Light Summer yellow? Nope. The right mutedness but too warm. Too bad, because I loved the fit!


These pants were too grayed out (and too small! odd sizes indicate Juniors sizing, which is not forgiving to grown up hips/thighs), but they planted the seed for purple pants…so much personality!


This Ann Taylor dress is totally in my former color wheelhouse, and some of the individual colors work; but per Hope, my analyst, in a mixed-season pattern you’re looking for 80% of the colors being in your season and this one had too much dark navy. It looked too stark:


This floral caught my eye because the yellow, blues, the pink, and the richer purple looked like they might work; swatching revealed the colors to be a little too cool and muted. I’m no expert but I’d guess True Summer:


Speaking of which, I’ve really enjoyed the mental game of trying to guess the seasons of random clothes I meet. (Slightly distracting if the clothes are on somebody you’re supposed to be talking to!)

This plaid sleeveless shirt dress is totally my style, but the pastels were sooooo grayed out (not saturated enough) that it looked faded and old on me:

(Maybe this is Dark Winter?? Now I’m just getting reckless!)

This cherry blossom fitted sweatshirt by H&M (I think) was super cute, but the red was too red – Light Summer “reds” are all pretty pink – plus I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would for a floral print:


I was hopeful for this dress – I could deal with the pink and it was fun and summery – but I’d venture that’s some Bright Winter coloring going on, aka too bright for me:


Two gloriously piped trousers to which I said “no,” for they were not my colors:

IMG_20171228_115137659 IMG_20171228_120336090


Now for some clothes that matched, season-wise, but that I didn’t thrift for other reasons.


Light Summer finds that didn’t work

This sweater is pretty close, maybe a bit too muted, but we all know how I feel about straight up cable knit sweaters…


Plus it felt worn, and not in a pleasantly broken-in way.

Cable knit sweaters, unfortunately, seem to be designers’ favorite vehicle for Light Summer sweaters.

I featured this one previously as a good Light Summer yellow but too big…and cable knit. I kind of wish I had thrifted it anyway because it turns out Light Summer yellows are hard to find and it would have been a good reference point. Plus it looks halfway decent as an oversized top with fitted pants:


You know what else is hard to find? Light Summer pinks. Most are too bright, too purply, too muted, or for the corals, too yellow. I didn’t feel like I’d found a real ringer until I saw this post by Edmonton thrifter Adina of Blue Collar Red Lipstick. I’m completely lusting over this Zara blazer/coat thing she thrifted:

A post shared by Adina J (@bcrladinaj) on

Colors being different in photographs, this could look quite different in real life – but the fact that she captioned it with a watermelon emoji makes me think it can’t be too far off. That shade of pink with a hint of translucence looks delicious.

Here is a great Light Summer teal, but either Eddie Bauer was making crop sweaters long before it was cool or somebody shrunk this:


I was psyched to find a pattern that was decently Light Summer in these Old Navy pants; but they were too small despite being my regular size. I’ll just have to keep an eye out for them in the right size in the world of online thrift:


Which, by the way, is going to be a good tool going forward. If I find something in my season on the thrift rack but it’s the wrong size, I can search for it online without worrying about whether the color on my monitor matches up with the actual color of the fabric. This could be dangerous….!

For example, here are a couple things I’d like to find online:

Great leopard print in cool, light, not-too-dark colors; a size too big:
(Does anyone know whether Cynthia Rowley holds up well? The version in the thrift store was starting to look faded, but one in my size on Poshmark looks quite crisp.)

It’s a little too moto for my taste, but I like the tailored details on this jacket by Zenergy by Chico’s. It is the perfect “koala grey” for Light Summer – nice and clear/fresh in color, but also too big:


(That dress was also a great Light Summer, but a size or two too big; baggy in the arms and hips.)

Here’s another good fresh, light grey that was too small for me:


I love slightly worn in, soft cotton twill, but that fabric seems to lend itself to more muted colors (see purple pants below), while the fresh colors I’m looking for have a little shine, like these pants.  A pair of silk-blend Ann Taylor trousers in a cool champagne had the same effect, but they were also too small. (I imagine the shimmer of silk is going to be my friend here.)


Light Summer finds that worked

Part of Hope’s analysis services include a season-specific guide for makeup/clothing/hair, and all the nature-based images she used to talk about Light Summer’s coloring have a bit of luminescence to them. I’m carrying similar images (e.g. the “watermelon pink” I just thought of) in my head to help me flag my colors while thrifting. While Hope’s guide is a proprietary product that comes with the analysis, the 12 Blueprints Light Summer Pinterest board has some good examples – particularly that pink men’s shirt.

I find women’s clothing with that inner glow Hope spoke of to look a little…fancy? Cocktail party-esque? But with the clean, tailored lines of menswear’s, it looks simply divine. So my current goal is to find menswear-inspired pieces with some crispness that will balance out the luminescence. (You know me; I’m 45% Ines de la Fressange / Gentlewoman Chic.)

I’ve been looking for a blazer in Light Summer’s glowing teal to hit just that spot, and found one (that wouldn’t photograph well) but that was also oversized and from the 80s. The tailored pants I shared previously also find the sweet spot of reigning in the overly feminine (to my eyes) glowiness:


Apparently I have the easiest time finding teals/turquoises; here’s a scarf in a similar color that is 100% nailing Light Summer. It’s got a little shine to it, but I can deal with the glow because it’s not also covered in sequins or drapes or bows:

Bonus points if you can spot the dinosaur on the bathroom floor.

Here’s my second try with purple pants, by Clavin Klein. I think they are in the right purple family but probably a bit too grayed out. I don’t care, though, because will be far enough from my face to fudge it and they fit like a dream:


And then, in a fit of sensibility inspired by Kim’s comment, I got myself some neutral bottoms. While purple, green, and yellow pants get me super excited, and I’m even more excited for colored blazers, there are only going to be so many times I’ll want to wear yellow pants with a watermelon blazer and a blue shirt.

Here are some Elie Tahari pants in a stoney taupe that fit like a dream (my only qualm is all the pockets are fake):


A pair of bleached driftwood (making up color names as I go…) Bandolino capris in the ugliest length possible – just covering the knees…why?! – that I have chopped off and will probably chop more to make into non-Bermuda-length shorts:


Returning to color, here’s a blue that works really well for Light Summer; it’s a little more cornflower than this picture shows. Check out that sassy bias cut and split hem!

Once the wrinkles are steamed out, this will feel utterly sexy yet super comfortable. It will be interesting to figure out where I’ll wear it…it’s a bit nightdress-adjacent but I’d love to wear it out of the house, too.

Although I like women’s take on menswear, I haven’t done too many button-downs (I prefer popover tunics) because it’s so hard to find a good fit. But here’s an F by Façonnable button down that fits great; like my new (to me) Land’s End flannel, I plan to wear it under sweaters:


It has two different shades of blue in the fabric, both of which are plausibly Light Summer, but which combined give an almost 3D intensity that might skate into Spring:


We’ll see how that wears.

A brief report from the makeup front: I’m waiting on a cooler foundation before I start trying to find a good lipstick match. (In the makeup portion of my PCA, Hope said my current warm-ish foundation works fine because it blends into the skin. But using it more in certain areas to cover breakouts leaves me looking a bit orange.)  I go for natural beauty products that don’t use toxic ingredients, which narrows down the options considerably and often means it’s more difficult to test in person. But I’m hopeful that a cooler foundation will make it easier to spot Light Summer clothes that make my complexion pop.


That’s all for now, folks! Let me know what you think of my finds and whether you’d like more in this vein.

PS The Winter 10×10 starts tomorrow! Go here for details and let me know if you plan to play along.

7 thoughts on “PCA Light Summer, One Month In

  1. You look GREAT in the Light Summer colors – very flattering to you! Since your first PCA blog, I’ve also done some “research” into seasonal colors and (without benefit of professional analysis!) am trying to find Light or Soft Winter tones which I feel very comfortable wearing. Thanks for introducing this topic!

    1. Thanks Carol! Good luck in your search – if you can figure out your season without outside help, you may end up finding other colors that work for you that you haven’t tried before. Have fun!

  2. I’m a light summer too! At least I think I am. I am very blonde and when I swatched myself,with clothes from everyone’s closets, medium pinks, lavenders and blues looked the best. Have you noticed that there are differing light summer palettes? Some include a red, some a baby yellow, some allow corals. Some are very pastel (Kettlewellcolours). I like the blue dress on you. When I tried on a pashmina, similar to the one you show, it was too much. Too shiny and too saturated of a color maybe?

    I also love thrifting. My favorite find is a black leather jacket in new condition. Not my season, I guess, but it is totally my style and makes my hair look fantastic.

    1. High fives for Light Summer! You’re right, different systems/approaches have somewhat different palettes. Some people wear different colors within a particular season more comfortably than others, so I think it probably boils down to exactly what you talked about – figuring out which particular version of Light Summer palettes work best for you. Here’s an interesting article on that: https://12blueprints.com/are-all-60-colours-really-my-best/

      Re: the black leather jacket, it sounds awesome! A few different articles on Light Summer talk about how our hair often looks great against black, charcoal, etc. even though it’s not one of our best colors. Who cares! I have a charcoal dress I love that isn’t going anywhere, in part because of how my hair looks with it :)

  3. Congratulations on obtaining a color analysis, and making the effort to be the best version of yourself. It is a long and winding road, but making the correct color decisions will be life changing! I have to totally disagree on the color black for any seasons but winter. 12 Blueprints article, “When Does Wearing Black Harm Your Brand,” completely sums it up. In general, Summer colors are tranquil hazy, greyed pastel colors. Autumns are warm earthly, golden, rich, harvest colors. Springs are warm, happy, buttery yellow, bright colors. Black sucks the life out of these color schemes. The name Light Summer is telling you, first, you are light. That means light to look at in every way. You are wrong about black making your hair stand out for the better. It’s garish. Now your face is greyed with shadows. Your “light” has been taken away, and your low value contrast is now totally out of balance. Blonde hair and black is high contrast. Light summer is serene, it’s airy, peaceful. Black is harsh. There’s nothing dark about you. Your head looks like it got sucked into a black hole. Black leather has a heavy feeling. You don’t look dark and heavy. Personally, I feel unsettled around around anyone wearing black but winters. I simply know something is off. I don’t feel comfortable, because your essence is not in harmony with nature. Black is a cheap shot for much better choices. Reconsider black. Black totally cancels out color harmony on anyone but winters. It’s not sexy, it’s depressing and boring. Everyone wears black. Do I want to look like everyone else, or look like me? You are not standing out in the crowd wearing black, you are blending in. Sorry if I sound harsh, but it is a big pet peeve of mine. All I see is black everywhere. Black absorbs light/color. It says nothing. Whereas, color tells me something about you. If as a Light Summer, you crave darker color, wear the darkest colors on your color fan. They will look dark enough on you. I understand sometimes wanting more “authoritative” colors. Wear your darker colors, but keep the value contrast low. Light summers are blended, mutating colors. Check out 12 Blueprints article, “City Looks for the Three Summers.” It’s really dark enough for a Light Summer. Don’t cheapen your look with overpowering black. You probably wouldn’t wear the other strong colors of the winter palettes, why would you think black was an exception? Exploit your best features, be your best self. I am passionate about color analysis and have researched it for years. I am giving you my best, honest opinion. I don’t want to sound pushy, hurt feelings, or be argumentative. Because ultimately, like you say, it’s your choice. Oh, this is advice coming from a fellow Light Summer!

    1. Long and winding is right – but I’m enjoying it so far!
      I agree black isn’t a great color for most seasons – I haven’t worn it in years because although I wasn’t sure what season I was, I *knew* black was a no-go for me.
      As I dig more into my own season, I’ve started “making over” people in my mind’s eye, wondering what colors would really make their skin sing – so I can appreciate that having really immersed yourself in this makes you passionate about it. Thanks for sharing!
      My approach to PCA is a bit more laid back – I think wearing what makes you feel great, regardless of color, is important, and that PCA is one of many tools at your disposal to get you there. If Lily loves the way she feels in her black leather jacket, I think she should wear it – and while she’s doing it she might as well appreciate the contrast with her lighter color hair! :)

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