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The Genetics of Personal Colour Analysis: How We Are Physically and Psychologically Programmed to Select the Right Colour of Clothes and Make-Up

05/12/2014 13:29 GMT | Updated 04/02/2015 10:59 GMT

In the Colour Analysis module in Gail Morgan's Personal Stylist 'Study in Style' Course, it was extraordinary to learn that humans are largely predisposed to a specific colour palette both on psychological and physical levels.

The first known observer of genetically-based personal colour selection was Johannes Itten (1888 - 1967) of the Bauhaus group in Germany. He discovered that when his students painted identical scenes, some would choose warm colours, whereas others would favour cool colours. This was of enormous interest to him and his research revealed that those using mostly warm colours had gold-toned skin and hair with warm coloured eyes, and the students who painted mostly in cool colours had a blue-pink skin tone, ash coloured hair and mostly blue or grey eyes. In fact this research formed the basis of his famous work 'The Art of Colour' which was published in 1961. And Gail was keen to explain that we do tend to pick the right colours 50% of the time and if we weren't influenced by fashion, friends and family members then we'd probably choose the right colours 100% of the time.

Initially, I must say I was a little skeptical of the theory, but when I reflected on my own life, I was amazed to discover that I had subconsciously built a chronological mental model based on the deep colours of autumn. For instance, my favourite childhood outfit was a deep red and green matching cardigan and dress, which I insisted on wearing on my first day at play school. In fact, I think the only childhood garments I clearly remember are those in this deep, warm colour range. Furthermore, I can clearly recall my Mother grasping a deep purple jumper on a shopping trip in Guildford in her late 70s and declaring that she'd suddenly become aware that she and I both suited and tended to favour strong colours (I believe she was also an autumn). And thinking about the men I am attracted to, although I've never had a specific 'looks type' - probably because there is a mixture of the French jet black and Irish fair/red hair across the males in my family - I must admit I've always found men attractive in deep coloured pullovers and brown suede jackets!

My mental model of colour isn't restricted to clothing - the dining room in the house in which I grew up was furnished in gold and browns and it was always my favourite room. And I have a special affection for the memory of a deep red family Volvo, as well as our old red brick early family home in the North. On the other hand, I have always been vaguely irritated by girly bedroom-type colours, which I felt weren't 'quite me' and fought with my natural tastes and disposition.

I believe my sister is a winter and needless to say is drawn to these deep, cool colours. In fact, I have a clear recollection of her tiny figure wrapping and rewrapping itself in the deep burgundy velvet curtains of my parents' bedroom and hearing her squeal with glee as she examined the shade. I was also astonished to recall that I'd once meticulously planned an entire flat refurbishment in exactly my colours.

It also seems my psychological colour scheme extends to my emotions in respect of nature, landscapes and public interiors. For instance, I am extremely moved by the likes of very deep orange summer sunsets, scenes of the New Forest or New England in autumn, holly and berries at Christmas and the liturgical purple and golds of Easter.

The list goes on and on, but what is clear is that this sense of 'right colour' is in the bones and is pervasive. And maybe it has to be visceral in this way because primitive man will have had to make swift navigational choices in order to locate his own and survive. And presumably small babies of all eras have derived a measure of security and comfort from this innate sense of knowing.