Elementary, my dear …


 “I hope you don’t mind me mentioning it,” says Elaine, “but you’re air.”

At this, the freshly-permed and tinted Julie becomes very defensive. “My hair?” she splutters (a trifle brusquely, I thought).  “What’s wrong with it?”

So Elaine explains that no, her hair’s fine; it’s Julie’s element she’d meant.  We look completely blank.  Elaine, it transpires, has just had her colours analysed at Strike Me Pink, a local beauty salon, and is bursting to impart her newly-acquired wisdom.  Assuming this will be the quickest way to shut her up, we assume intrigued expressions and beg her to tell us more.

long scarves

So she does. All women, Pink’s theory goes, belong to one of four basic colour groups – earth, air, fire or water.  And to look “stunning” (the word “stunning” crops up a lot) you simply need to identify yours. This, evidently, involves paying quite a lot of money to a colour analyst, who then spends three hours draping you in swathes of different coloured fabric while bombarding you with jargon.

Eventually you’re released, head spinning, clutching a complimentary wallet of elemental colour swatches which you are apparently never to leave home without. Then, using these to match shades when clothes-shopping, not only will you never make another sartorial mistake but your entire wardrobe will automatically co-ordinate forever.

Julie (having got off on a bad foot) remains sceptical. “Why pay some stranger to tell me all my clothes are wrong?” she protests.

“Well …” soothes Elaine (who has, however, been looking rather stunning lately), “everyone naturally inclines towards their personal element, so most of your outfits probably already belong to it.”

There’s a pause while she processes this. “So why don’t I look stunning now?” she counters.

Elaine doesn’t appear to have an answer to this and rapidly changes the subject. However, we all agree it’s a beguiling idea – after all, every woman has mornings when she greets her reflection with a heartsinking “bleearghh!”  And at such moments, wouldn’t it be great to reach for that flattering blouse and become instantly … stunning?

“I think you’re earth,” Elaine murmurs to me confidentially.  This revelation leaves me with decidedly mixed feelings.  Earth sounds kind of … muddy. Certainly not glamorous, like fire.  Or mermaid-like and serene, like water.  Or Wuthering Heighty and dramatic, like wind.  (Although now I come to think of it, wind also possesses some other rather unfortunate associations.  I’m sticking with earth.)


I suddenly realise that if Elaine has my element pegged, she presumably also now knows which colours I should be wearing.  I’m immediately clothed in uncertainty.  I glance at her sideways with narrowed eyes.  One thing’s clear – to avoid a lifetime wondering what Elaine’s thinking about me, I shall have to get “done” myself.

So, dear reader, I did. Julie, Ros and I booked a very nice lady from a rival company who came to the house at much more reasonable cost.  She revealed that I’m an Autumn (which sounds cosy and mellow and sparky – loads of interesting things happen in the autumn – and which, best of all, happens to be the predominant colour in my wardrobe).

By and large, though, there were no surprises.  We’re still wearing much the same colours these days – but there has been a difference.

It’s been said that what makes a woman beautiful is confidence, and that’s what colour analysis gives you. It hands you the rule book, and puts you in control.

We’re feeling more at ease with our looks now because we’re more confident about how to maximise them. And that’s attractive, empowering – and rather fun.

OK, ladies – Set for Stun.

© Sue Williams
An abridged version of this article first appeared in Woman Alive magazine

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