The Sultry Soft Summer

Every season suffers from stereotyping, some more than others. True Winter is the Ice Queen, Light Spring is Easter pastels, Dark Autumn is a smoldering tigress, and Soft Summer, well...if there's one season I'm always reluctant to determine a client, it's Soft Summer. Because no matter how luminous, how stunning, how sexy a Soft Summer looks in her colors, she almost invariably thinks, "I will be forced to wear dusty mauve--and only dusty mauve--for the rest of my life."

In this series, it is my intent to showcase lesser-seen sides of the 12 seasons: the sunny True Winter, the bold Light Spring, the ethereal Dark Autumn. And where better to start than Soft Summer?

Show any online group a fairly muted, boring garment and ask them to determine its season. Nine times out of ten, they'll answer "Soft Summer." In reality, that garment may fall into another season. Soft Summer is the darkest of the Summer seasons, smoky and mysterious, but the colors are also quite vibrant.

However: a Soft Summer palette will look dusty when compared to a higher-chroma palette or garment. That's why it is so important to wear the colors that harmonize with your own coloring. Otherwise, you're the Soft Summer looking dusty in Bright Winter colors. Your clothing and makeup will walk in the room two days before you do. When you wear the colors that harmonize with your body, a mutual lifting-up occurs.

As an analyst, here's what goes through my mind when I think of Soft Summer:

Blackberry sherbet. Lamb's Ear. Crushed velvet. The evening sea rippling like dark ink against the shore. Lavender macarons. Charcoal tweed. Creamy white magnolia flowers, brushed with the barest whisper of pink. Grey wolves. Beaded ball gowns in shimmering taupe, raspberry, teal. Morning mist. Smoky tabbies. Men wearing navy linen. Sage. Dragonflies with iridescent wings. Slate. Venetian canals at twilight.

Sound boring? I didn't think so.

One of Soft Summer's biggest strengths is the unfettered potential for color combinations. Provided an outfit makes sense stylistically, you can cram as many Soft Summer colors into it as you like, without worrying that you'll look like there was an explosion in the Crayola Factory. This is a quality very particular to the Soft seasons. Other seasons can combine their colors well, of course, sometimes quite a few of them, but the Soft seasons are particularly enhanced by doing so.

Many thanks to the beautiful K. here, as well as her analyst Sharon Forsythe.

Many thanks to the beautiful K. here, as well as her analyst Sharon Forsythe.

Whether you've just been draped Soft Summer or you've been living in the season for a decade, here are some practical ways to infuse your appearance with some sultry appeal:

Many thanks to the stunning P. here, as well as her analyst Rachel Nachmias.

Many thanks to the stunning P. here, as well as her analyst Rachel Nachmias.

  • Back away from grey. Grey is easy for Summers to wear and can quickly overtake your closet. Take care to purchase other neutrals as well. Smoky navy, burgundy, and aubergine make lovely neutrals, just be careful not to move into too-saturated territory.
  • When you do purchase grey, look for unique color casts. For example, this men's sweater from Nordstrom. The charcoal heather has a green shift, which adds interest to your outfits. I see this a lot with grey and it usually works in a Soft Summer's favor.
  • Soft Summer is a Cool-Neutral season, but the key word is neutral; when selecting jewelry, consider rose gold in addition to silver-toned metals. Combining them in a single piece is even better as the warm and cool tones will play off of one another.
  • Look at the depth of the stones in K's necklace, above. Imperial Jasper is often found in the palette's colors, from dusky mauve to celadon. This piece is especially gorgeous.
  • If you wear makeup, try exploring the darker side of the palette. The lighter options are beautiful, but Soft Summers can go pretty smoky. For lipstick, try MAC Odyssey, Maybelline Bit of Berry, and Bite Beauty Lip Tint in Raspberry. Bare Minerals' The Indecent Proposal is a lovely blush. Don't forget the eyes: take a look at Laura Mercier Sable and Plum Smoke.
  • Don't live in monochrome. Combine those colors! My husband is a Soft Summer. A typical winter look for him includes grey corduroys, an eggplant undershirt, a raspberry and stone-checked dress shirt, and a burgundy or green-grey cardigan. All of the colors together create great synergy.

Here are some of my favorite Soft Summer resources: