Dec. 20, 2017

Color Story: Signal Red.

What defines our ability to sport True Red with ease and pose? It is not the hair color, it is the skin tone. It ranges from dark olive to alabaster and varies from cool to warm, but it has one unifying quality.

I once shopped  with my mother in law for a windbreaker and we went through a bunch of them. Growing tired of the shopping process,  she said she would just go for one in  signal red, cause it is so basic, it goes well with everything and looks good on everyone. My jaw dropped. I could not handle signal red for a life of mine.

There are what I call Red-people and Non-Red-people. My mother in law is Red-people. She is convinced Signal Red is as basic as navy blue. And she is right. I belong to the breed of “Non-Reds.”  Signal-Red is not in the book of my every day colors and I am just as  right.

By the time I got to shop with my mother in law she was in her 70s. But  Signal-Red was as basic for her in her seventies as it was when she was seventeen, as captured on this sepia shot.

Everyone can wear Signal Red, but the difference between “Reds”  and “Non-Reds” is that “Reds”  wear it as a base.  “Non-Reds” need to get creative about it and treat Signal Red as a high-maintenance color.


I belong to the “Non-Red” breed but one of my best pictures came out when I outfitted myself in  this vibrant hue.    What looks as a body-con jersey dress is actually separates. The top is a gift from the member of an Armenian family, I was  part of in my early 20s.  The skirt is a trophy from my Buenos Aires 2007 trip. My face is seriously caked up, Technicolor style. I just emerged from the 1940s makeup & hairdo workshop at a  vintage repro studio ReVamp, Los Angeles.  I am wearing an amateur version of Victory rolls and heavy makeup that does not support my skin tone. It covers it up entirely. This is what it usually takes for Non-Red people  to wear Signal Red.

Nothing openly casual (sweater or a tee) or alluring (mini dress) in Signal Red  will usually  work.  Carefully calculated ratio of elegance and reserve is required.   The level of effort can get so overwhelming it is easier to let go of all Signal Red sartorial ambitions or do them once in a blue moon.

Here is another “Red”,  my  friend Tanya, who is wearing my husbands’ sweater. I pulled it out from the drawer  just to show what Signal Red does for her.  “Reds” wear dresses, skirts, pants, coats, windbreakers, ski-gear and knits in Signal Red nonchalantly,  and it   instantly brightens up the day, for them and for those around them.

The ability to wear Signal Red, also known  as  “True Red” is often attributed to hair color.  While hair has something to do with it, it is not the color, but  the texture of the hair.  Signal Red likes heavier hair.

The main prerequisite for wearing True, Signal Red is not the hair, it is the skin-tone. It can range from darker olive to  alabaster and it can be either warm or cool, but it needs to be one color, no undertones.  My mother in law has darker olive skin tone and Tanya’s is on a peachy side,  but neither of them have  undertones.  Signal Red will mercilessly fail skin tones that have several  undertones to them.

This is a very interesting and nuanced topic. Picture sharing can only give a sneak-peek into it.  It really requires a hands-on approach and is a workshop material.  One day I hope to have enough people interested to host a Red workshop.

I am using Susan Caygill Seasonal Harmony system to work with colors. The “Red” women presented in this entry are Vital and Golden Springs. The Non-Red is a Twilight Summer.

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Color Story: Signal Red.