So many and varied are the tints and shades of colour now worn, it is wisest for the prospective wearer to choose them by artificial light, and also wear them at a dress rehearsal some evening should she wish to look her best on some special occasion. Allowing, then, for the action of artificial light upon colours, she can proceed to eliminate such colours from her choice as she finds unbecoming; that is to say, when by contrast or similarity they accentuate her bad points. Thus women with dull skins should avoid black, and yellow skins bright blue. Dead-white gives a brownish shade, and many bright greens will make a woman look ghastly pale. A woman with heart trouble or slow circulation looks her worst in purples and violets, since these call to the ugly tints in cheeks and lips caused by sluggish blood. And for this same reason heliotrope is unbecoming to many women, who by right of colouring should claim this pretty colour as their own.
In the same way grey is to be avoided by the woman who wants to grow old gracefully, since she must ignore the grey tints of hair and face yet awhile. When the time comes that they can be no longer ignored, she will in her wisdom give them contrasts. A white-haired woman can look indifferent in a fawn dress, and positively attractive in a violet velvet. She will probably look equally well in a rich terra-cotta silk made plainly, her only ornament being a black velvet neckband with pearl clasps. Her absence of colouring with the fawn dress appeared to her disadvantage; with the purple and terracotta it forms her beauty, especially as, under good conditions, the colour of her eyes will deepen. At the same time, so subtly do nuances play to one another, if the terracotta dress in this particular case be carried close up to the neck and face, it might prove the reverse of becoming. There is the value of the black velvet and the flesh tints of neck and shoulders to estimate.
Finally, here are a few general directions as to choice of colours, which are often useful to those who want an arbitrary basis to work upon - at least, until they gain confidence in their own ability to become their own colourists.
A brunette with black hair, dark eyes, and a pale complexion may wear bright and glossy blacks such as jet and satin provide, deep dull reds, flame colour, and black and white. If she possess a warm colouring, then scarlet and all bright yellows suit her. Such a type has to be "lived up to," and cold colours such as blue, black, and white are quite unsuitable. Brown should be avoided.
The dark-haired girl with grey or blue eyes has a wide choice, but greens and blues are her best colours, blue-greys suiting her to perfection if her skin is clear and she has a little colour. White, black, brown, purple, mauve, and lilac are all her colours, the bright delicate shades by preference.
The "nondescript" colouring so often seen amongst English girls requires careful dressing, and, after black velvet, pale cream is this girl's best colour. She must always take care to keep the colour of her dress a tone lower than that of her skin and hair.
For instance, suppose her to wear a warm brown dress with the idea of matching the suggestion of brown in her hair or eyes, probably her own light is extinguished by the borrowed one. Should she, on the other hand, choose grey with touches of blue, dark blue with touches of white, or the slightest soupcon of scarlet, and for evening wear sea-green or pale maize colour, she puts herself against cunning and helpful backgrounds.
This type of beauty should choose fine textured materials, half-tints, refined designs of ornamentation, and should always prefer delicate workmanship to originality when choosing her general surroundings. She often, however, mistakes "fluffiness" for artistry, the consequence being she often looks her worst and actually untidy when she has taken most pains with her appearance. Delicate simplicity is her note both of design and colour.
For colour has its characteristics, and a little study of them soon helps a woman to choose those by which she can best express herself, or, rather, those traits of her character which will be the better for expression. The lady who declared she could not feel pious in church unless she was well-dressed told that truth which lies in most jests.
As has been shown, the definite type of beauty can soon serve herself with suitable surroundings, but it is far different with the mixed type. She must proceed carefully, disdaining no suggestion of Nature's - or art's - "mixed" idea. Art, as a fact, serves the average woman better than primitive Nature, hence her wise adoption of half-tones, delicate shades of, for example, a cultivated rose rather than a wild flower, and of a finely wrought bit of embroidery rather than some barbaric jewel. These things suit her characteristics better.
This study of type is obviously necessary when one chooses the style of one's hat, and extends also to the colour of the materials used in the make-up of a hat. As a general rule, a hat or bonnet should, besides falling into its place as part of the whole "structure" of the personality, also blend with the wearer's colouring. Monsieur Chevreul adapted his law of colour to a regulation of the choice of a woman's headdress, and it is best to quote his series of rules as he gives them:
"In choosing a hat avoid heavy trimmings, as also square and other eccentric shapes. For these an original style of hairdressing is absolutely necessary, and this most women lack courage to adopt. The head should have that easy, that degage air that gives a certain elegance to the whole person.
"The largest hats covered with feathers and drapery, when trimmed with taste, preserve that appearance of lightness that is desirable and becoming. The large hats of Marie Antoinette's time, high and be-plumed though they were, did not lack grace. On the other hand, bonnets modelled on the toques worn in the reign of Henry III. of France should be large enough to frame the head."