The Reluctant Bright Winter

by Jorunn Hernes (Norway)

I see quite a few Bright Winters. Their reactions when their colour tone is revealed can roughly be divided into two categories:

The first category is the client who exuberantly embraces her colours, squeals with glee at finally being able to unchain all her favourite colours, and hops out the door with her fan held like a beacon, giggling as she skips to her car.

The other category is the client who squints suspiciously at her face in the drapes, almost refusing to believe what she sees in the mirror. She stares at me like a deer in headlights after we have concluded that she is Bright Winter. She handles her Bright Winter colour fan as if it were contaminated nuclear waste and tells me she needs some time to let it sink. And that she will appreciate some advice on how to work these colours into her wardrobe. 

This blog post is for the clients who are worried that being a Bright Winter means they have to start dressing like Iris Apfel.

And I understand. I have been that client, the second category, the reluctant Bright Winter. Not wanting to let go of the safe, dark, sensible colours I had been calling my own, but on the other hand grudgingly admitting that the brighter colours made me look younger, fresher, more approachable.

I don’t want to use the screaming Bright Winter colours, I want simple colours!
(email from a client)
…but these are circus colours!

(a freshly minted Bright Winter, looking at her fan)

Now, we could say that it is all about fear of being noticed. But the longing for wearing simple colours is not as simple as that (pun intended). We cannot cure a simplistic, minimalist Scandinavian by simply saying “Snap out of it, don’t be afraid of showing who you are”.

So what are simple colours? 

In Norway, being simple is a compliment. When we call something simple it is not a bad thing. 
It’s simple as in “clean and uncomplicated”.

When I think of simple in this context, it’s kind of like the Shaker tune Simple Gifts:

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

(Shaker dancing tune by Joshua Brackett)


So let us see if we can find the ‘place just right’ for the reluctant Bright Winter, and see if that may lead us to the valley of love and delight in our colours.

There are many ways to invent your unique version of your colour tone.

The trick is to do it while staying within the boundaries of the colour tone, and without compromising the essence of it.

The essence of Bright Winter is neutral/cool, bright colours, and high contrast. 


Here are 4 baby steps and one graduate level project:

1. Embrace the neutrals

Really get to know your best neutral colours and use them.

Bright Winter neutrals are charcoal grey, ebony, silver grey (often found in the silver of the grey haired Bright Winter), cool taupe, dark espresso brown (often found in the deepest hair colour of the dark haired Bright Winter), bright navy, white. Yes, navy can be used as a neutral.

Bright Winter’s neutrals are neutral, not too warm or too cool. With the taupes, it is better to lean cool than to choose a warm beige version.

The Bright Winter neutrals are clear, not muddy.

2. Put together outfits using only neutrals

Make sure to use the highest possible contrast level: 

Ebony with silver grey 
Bright navy with cool taupe
Charcoal with silver
Black and white
Dark espresso brown with light grey

If the neutrals are clear, this will already lend a clarity and brightness to your features.
Avoid combining dark with dark.

3. Use makeup in your colour palette

It is really worth your while to wear makeup in your colours.

Get a blush that is perfect for Bright Winter. 

Invest in a perfect lipstick (and use it). Go for a sheer lipstick, it is easier to ease into your bright colours if the formula is sheer, not opaque. 

It is amazing what the right makeup colours can do to lift a neutral outfit.

If you should happen to be a nail polish person, use nail polish in your best Bright Winter red and watch how that breathes life into the neutral outfit.

4. Introduce one bright accent to your outfit

When you look at your fan and see all those colours exploding in energetic intensity, it can be intimidating. However, nobody says that you have to wear them all at once. One is enough, and in a very small portion.

But you do need this one, in order to sparkle like a true Bright Winter:

A necklace. A belt. A scarf. Earrings. A zipper in a jacket. A little sparkle. Something shiny.

One Bright Winter I visited with lately was wearing dark jeans with little sparkly blue dots all over. It added that little sparkle that lifted the outfit nicely into Bright Winter territory.

Shoes. Personally, I have found red shoes to be the best ever brightening trick. You can wear an outfit consisting of all grey and black, and adding a pair of bright red ballerina shoes just adds that little extra brightness.

5. Graduate level project

Are you ready for some graduate level work?

Start wearing your colours in larger blocks in outfits.

Start with colours that you are comfortable with. Perhaps blues and greens are less scary than, say, pinks and reds.

So start within your comfort zone.

Do not compromise the brightness level of your colours just because you want to simplify them.

It is better to have an outfit built of neutrals with ONE little accent of a Bright Winter colour, than to compromise your season and wear muted, toned down, watered out colours in your clothing. That is not being simple. That is being off the mark.

These were my tips on how to express Bright Winter with Nordic simplicity.

What you have found to be your secret formula for adapting to your Bright Winter colour tone?

Let me know in the comments.

Jorunn Hernes is located in Norway, where she offers in-person 12-Season Colour Analysis. Jorunn blogs in English and Norwegian about colour and style, with particular focus on minimalism and practicality. Please click the link buttons below for more information.
Jorunn Hernes

Go from reluctant Bright Winter
to confident Bright Winter 

Jorunn offers a course exclusively for Bright Winters