Not Going Grey Gracefully – Part 3


going blonde

Since I’ve been blonde now for all of the better part of 3 weeks. Here are a few of the things I’ve noticed about how my new hair colour is changing the way I dress.

My Makeup

My lipstick is getting lighter.  I’ve found when I put on my darker lip or really bright lip colours, they are wearing me, rather than me being the focus.

If I want to wear my darker colours, I have to wear darker eyeshadow colours and a medium lip colour to create more contrast on my face.

My Clothing

I’ve discovered that most of my wardrobe is too dark and the colours too intense!  I hadn’t realised how dark it all was until I went blonde, and now I can see that the majority of it is dark.   You will see in the pic above that the black in the skirt above looks heavy and dark as compared to the rest of me.

I’m finding that I want to wear all the (few) lighter coloured clothes in my wardrobe as they look more harmonious with my new hair!

This is why white is my new black!

My Style: White is My New Black

My Shoes

Which shoes

Now I look better when wearing skirts and dresses to wear a lighter coloured shoe rather than dark one (unless the colour of my skirt or capri pant is darker.)  You may remember from my posts on Visual Grouping  and another here (ways to use visual grouping) I talked about shoe and hair colour working well together.

You will notice in the pics above that the black shoes dominate the outfit and don’t really relate that well to anything else in it – they are passable because of the dark denim, but they draw attention to themselves, whilst the light shoes don’t draw attention.

So I’m playing in my wardrobe, trying to work out ways to make my existing clothing work with my new hair!  I will share more as I discover  – and do ask your questions about this process too in the comments!

Read part 4 of my journey from deep brunette to blonde.


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  • I’m very interested in your journey. I too am getting lighter – naturally. Not that I was all that dark to start out with, but it changes things. This is very useful.

  • Would you say you are now a summer rather than a winter? Your coloring is more like mine now and I’ve wondered what my best neutral would be. I have dark cocoa, pewter/grey, and navy. I have a couple of skin tone/goldish shoes to pull an outfit together with my hair, since medium ash blond is pretty close to skin tone.

    I do have some black things that I love and don’t want to let go of. I tried putting bleach and water in the utility sink, then adding my black things to see if they would lighten to grey. The natural fibers did lose color, one turned orange, and one a warm burgundy (I plan to re-dye them cocoa), but the nylon/polyesters stayed just as black as ever. I saw some posts on youtube where a woman spray painted her black shoes grey to match her palette, but when I did it, the paint cracked at the creases of the shoe and I read that you can’t paint over leather as it breathes, you can only dye it, well… so much for that idea…

    You look beautiful as always.



    • Helen – I am not a winter (or Dramatic) in my books any longer – they are too dark and intense for me. I’m more related to summer now (have to decide between my Refined and my Sublime palettes). I’m not making any decisions til I get to the hair colour that I’ll want to keep for some time. Think I may still go a little lighter which may brighten me up again. At the moment the slightly softer shades seem to be better.

      Neutrals – mushroom, cocoa, lots of shades of grey and navy.

      • I am unfamiliar with the terms “Refined and Sublime palettes. Could you elaborate on that for me. By the way I didn’t think I would like the change of hair color…I was wrong you look stunning. And, maybe I am not that great with understanding color but I think the blue is superb on you and the darker colors in the skirt don’t seem to bother me at all.

        • Sherilyn,
          Refined – light, bright, cool
          Sublime – light, soft and cool
          Serene – light, smokey and coolish

          These are just 3 of the colour groups in the Absolute Colour System of 18 colour directions that I developed back in 2009 with my training business partner.

      • I never understood the seasons, what is summer and winter? Cursory googling showed me that they mix colours of different intensity which doesn’t make any sense to me. Mathematically they don’t match your perfect system of three dimensions: warm or cool; bright or muted; dark or light.

        You obviously still need to wear bright clothes still, I’m the same. The tricky bit I think is neutrals however. Black is great for your former self (and my current self) but if I ever went blond, I think it’d be tricky to find other bright neutrals apart from black. I currently have one single brighter grey jumper, all my other non-colours are bright white or black.

        • Winter – deep, bright and cool

          Summer – light, soft and cool

          But there are lots of other options in colours – such as light, bright and cool – which is why I don’t use the seasons.

          Navy is a great neutrals, some shades of rose brown/mushroom, some greys (the more silver end) are all great lighter cool neturals.

          • what is spring and autumn then?

            and that Absolute Colour System of 18 colour directions you mentioned, everyone fits into one of those categories you have developed or there are some who just don’t?

          • Spring is LIght, bright and Warm

            Autumn is deep, toasted and warm

            I’ve not found that anyone doesn’t fit in one of my 18 categories so far, and if I did – then I’d invent a new one! But I’ve been using it now since 2009 and so far everyone fits somewhere.

          • Thank goodness for Imogen. Not all Light, warm people look good in bright colours. I think I look better in muted, light, warm colours. I don’t look bad either. And also Imogen has noted that we all have our own levels of contrast.

      • Imogen, Im wondering when you dyed your hair lighter, you needed to reduce wearing the dark colors, right? But Im wondering when you had more contrasted coloring – can you wear both dark and light colors near your face – or does it even matter if the overall value is right? I often hear when people has very pale skin, they should stay away of wearing too many pastels but this seems to be apply to people with darker colorings as well, so Im a bit confused when it comes to people who has both fair skin AND dark hair.
        I dyed my hair to a dark blonde or dark ash brown color (which IS my natural hair color), but Im super pale (cannot wear foundation) so Im not sure whether I should wear be able to wear lighter or darker near my face or only focusing on the value contrast. (Im think medium to dark high contrast now, Im not sure. I was medium contrast when I had medium golden blonde hair:

        Regarding seasonal colors, It feels like Ive morphed into a darker but soft color palette, but Im a bit lost when deciding what intensity near the face I should wear (undertones are alot easier to adapt to, since Im somwhere in the middle). I usually opt for darker cool earthtones and warm them up with gold jewelry (e.g. black, gold and burgundy with a light neutral), because the muddy autumn colors cast a yellow shadow on my face if this made sense! You told me I looked washed out in lilac near my face when I had golden blonde hair, but what about now, Would cool pastels still wash me out if I pair them with darker colors and gold jewelry?

  • I was a Soft Autumn up till 2 years ago. Changed my lightening hair from solid tint to high and lowlights and it’s amazing the difference in the cooler skin and eyes (now draping soft summer) but in between visits to the hairdresser my hair is almost white and I really need to lighten my clothing and makeup. Thank you Imogen for demonstrating the process so well which I believe many are facing.

    • Yes you’ve most likely moved from the warmer to the cooler end of the undertone spectrum! Kind of exciting in some ways getting a whole new colour palette to play with!

  • Imogen, I’ve been reading your blog for some while now. I have to say, I always thought the dark hair was too dark, and am loving your new look! Have fun on your journey!

  • This is fascinating, Imogen! I think you look lovely and you do seem softer and prettier with the lighter colours. Younger, too. Yes, I think the lighter coloured shoes do match better, and the visual grouping has completely changed. It must be a bit like losing weight……..then you also seem to need a new wardrobe! Have your children become “used to ” the “new you” yet? Do you get a bit of a surprise when you look in the mirror & see the lighter hair? You may find it difficult to find your new, lighter colours in the winter….I always find there are usually very dark & gloomy colours to choose from then! What a GREAT excuse to go out and buy new clothes!

  • Hi Imogen,
    Those colours look great on you. Is that a David Lawrence top? Appreciate if you could tell us where you get the tops that blouse a bit but fit around the waist/hip as they aren’t easy to find.

  • I quite liked the dark hair when you had it, but it did give quite a strong look, and then seemed to need bright lipstick, strong colours etc. I am glad you have decided to work with your hair a bit more, as it sounds like it was quite a fight to keep it that dark. There is a wide range in lighter browns and blondes and at the moment yours still looks to me like it has quite a lot of caramel in it, which is quite warm, so you could either explore those earthy tones a little (not sure that’s good, but looking is free, espeically in a friends wardrobe) or go for something a bit lighter/brighter/cooler in your blonde tones.

    I am a natural brunette (mid tone and also wavy) with only a smattering of grey in my 40s, so I use a low strength semi permanent dye which knocks the white hairs into a lighter coppery brown and this is working for me now. I noticed my mother although quite grey at the front/top has an under layer at the back of her hair which is still mostly dark. It is tricky!

    • Ruthie – my hair is a little too warm still for me at the moment – I’m madly toning it to try and keep those caramel and brassy tones out of it – but it’s a part of this process as I had to cover some strong red pigments – left over from dying my hair dark brown. It should become more ashy as time goes on and my old hair is cut out.

  • Wow, I noticed the weight loss too now on closer inspection, you look fantastic, I recall you having problems with breast area being too large, both aesthetics and back pain- wise, hope the latter’s improved too!

    I think another big difference with your current hair refers back to yesterday’s post about texture. Dark hair was smooth, straight, shiny, currently your hair being different shades of blond/slight brown makes patterns or texture eaiser to pull off?!

  • What a fascinating transformation Imogen. You look heaps younger and I see how well the lighter colors are flattering on you. Will you will have your portrait redone for your blog masthead?

    • Yes Barbara – I will have to get a new portrait done! Sadly I just had a whole heap of new photos taken – I think I’ll wait a few months til I’ve settled into a hair colour then do some more!

  • I have noticed many comments stating that you look much younger with lighter hair. In my opinion, this is not always the case. I feel that many women over do the lighter hair color as they age and tend to look faded. In fact, a customer came into my store yesterday (in her late 60’s) and I thought she was ill. She decided to go grey and her daughter was against this drastic change from a nice reddish brown so they compromised on a light nondescript hair color. She looked so much more vibrant in the deeper (but not harsh) color.
    On the Today Show in NYC, there is a weekly “Ambush Makeover” and a famous colorist/hair stylist makes over women of all ages. Often he deepens a light color on women so that there is more contrast with the skin tone.
    Just something to think about!

    • The trick is – is to find the right hair colour for your complexion – there is no one rule for going grey that will suit everyone – we are unique and need to find the solution that best fits us!

  • This new color really suits you and goes well with your skin tone. This whole discussion of how our coloring changes as we age is really interesting and pertinent to where I am in life.

    Beginning in my late 40s, I found that instead of just getting blonde highlights, I also needed to get low lights. Since my hair tends to be a dark ashy blonde, which just leaves me looking washed out, I get low lights in a dark strawberry blonde. It warms up my whole face (I’m definitely a soft summer by nature). I get loads of complaints on it.

    Thanks for your great blog!

  • Gosh, Imogen, I sort of dreaded opening this post thinking I wouldn’t like how you looked with light hair – I so associate you with really dark hair. But you look fantastic! Younger somehow (though you didn’t exactly look old before). I see in the comments that you’ve also lost some weight – else I was going to ask why re-turning to blonde didn’t make me look skinnier as well and younger! This is fascinating, this major change. Well done – you look great!

  • You look great! I liked the black hair on you too. I was very interested in seeing how you would change your clothes and colors you wear now that you’re turning into a blond. Interesting blog. Hopefully you’ll keep posting about the colors you wear and your transformation and the insights you’ll get. I love that you show pictures to show what you mean. It’s Always very clarifying.

  • Funnily enough, my initial reaction was that you looked so much better with dark hair. However, looking at these photos, I now think you look great with your new look! It’s been very helpful seeing how you’ve changed your hair colour. I assume that I still have a lot of dark hair (at the age of 66) as it’s been 5 weeks since I last had my hair coloured and it still looks fine. My youngest daughter (who has a good eye for colour as art was one of her best subjects) says that I look better with darker hair, even though most women look better with lighter hair as they grow older. I think I’ll stick with darker tints until I see more white hairs appearing – but this series has certainly provided me with lots of inspiration.

    • You are lucky Sue that you can go 5 weeks without having to dye your hair! As your hair is still naturally mostly darker I’d happily keep it that way until you get to the stage where it’s obvious every 3 weeks!

  • I’m blonde and have never thought about how that effects my overall look, just took it for granted and didn’t really ‘see’ myself until this post. Again, you’ve given me something new to think about.

    • Most of us don’t ‘see’ ourselves when we look in the mirror. It’s interesting to learn to look at yourself in a more analytical rather than emotional way.

  • Imogen, Ive two questions (both are about same thing):
    Ive noticed that light and cool colors make me look really pale, but when I wear a muddy or light warm neutral, my skintone turns more orange. So Im wondering, what does it really mean when a color “wash you out”?
    Ive mauve-ish taupe dress that make me look really pale but looks fine on me if I wear it with deeper colors like burgundy or red, but an yellow-beige blazer or olive-green flannel shirt made my skintone orange-y and muddy even though I don’t tan or use foundation (regulary). Do you know what Im talking about? This is the taupe dress (+ another outfit wearing taupe): In 1st pic, I look extremly pale, while wearing only greys/blacks make me look sick (Im not wearing make up in that pic), but the other two pic, when wearing the taupe color with burgundy/gold or a bright red, it suddenly looks better. In all pictures, I actually have same hair color, the pics were taken in a different seasons so the pics might be a bit conceiving
    This is my natural hair color (almost): but my hair color seems to always want to change the one Ive in the first link due to red pigments that I cant remove from my hair.

    Another question: What do you think is more important to consider when it comes to undertones. The current hair color or your eye color?
    I asked another consulant about color analysis and she said I had a blended colorings. My natural colorings is similare to yours now, except that my skintone is slightly more warm-pink-ish. My best beige is “powder-pink”, a very pale peach btw. According to her, I was a soft summer (soft, medium value and cool – burgundy is one of my favorite colors), but because my hair colors turns golden, I feel I like Im going back and forth between soft and bright colors due to my hair color. Right now in natural sunlights (the pic with the red blazer), my colorings are very similare to Heather Graham which is a Clear Spring (Light, Bright but warm),
    so Im wondering is it possible to blend between two different color palettes?
    Because what I know, my eye color doesnt mesh with any other palette than soft summer. Can people who are more warm colorings has cool eyes? :S Because in the first link, I dont feel my outfit colors looks bad in either the 3rd (burgundy) and 4th picture (red blazer). Im not sure if its my hair or eye color that make me this confused.

    • Lina – you have what I call Intriging colouring – it’s like a slightly warm version of summer (summer is cool). The taupe dress washes you out because that’s a very cool rose beige – not taupe – so you need to wear it with warm lipstick and gold to warm up the look. Keratin in your hair is yellow – which is why it’s so easy to get more golden tones. My skin is very cool – I look atrocious in anything peachy!

      The brighter your hair colouring, the brighter clothing you may be able to wear.

      • I always thought the dress was a warm grey with slight purple tone… but its one of my favorite neutrals because its goes better than khaki and tan (when wearing colors similare to you own hair. I use them to break up black and white) which make my skin orangey-tanned so thats why Im always thinking I was a more soft and cool (I cannot wear yellow-toned foundation because it oxidize on me) …Guess, Im really horrible with “over/under tones”. haha 😛

        For years Ive been trying to get it back to my orginal hair color (which most people referit as “mousy brown”: but no matter how many time I dye it, it doesnt work, the golden color refuse to let go and keep switching for very golden to more ashy all the time. :S

        Imogen, when you stripe your hair lighter, will the pigment in your hair disappear or will you silver shampoo when you are done with the dying “journey”? =P
        Ive been consider dying my hair darker and than a couple of month later, stripe it but Im not sure if thats a good idea… The people at my hair salon refuse to bleach/stripe it because its too light as it is now. My hair is also too sensitive to fragnances so I cannot use silver shampoo (and only intense tone it 4-6 times a year max and use baby shampoo + conditioner in the hair ends).

  • Thanks for sharing! You look great. How do you feel about the change? Excited or do you miss your brighter darker clothes? I’m similar in colours to you and fascinating to follow how your experiment turns out. Are you planning on going blonder still? (I remember the Helen Mirren photo) Are these tones a bit warm, or have you managed to keep them cool?

    • Emma – I miss some of my dark colours – I will have to figure out how to wear them all – cos I’m not about to replace my entire wardrobe! I think I will go blonder over time – I have to let all the dark that has been stripped heavily grow out before I can peroxide my hair too much more!

      My hair is still a little warm – it’s hard to keep the warmth out because the peroxide in the dye that had been making my hair brown, turned it orange when it was stripped. I am using lots of purple hair products to try and keep most of the warmth out!

  • Oh dear! I love your new look so much that I’m having to restrain myself from running out and getting my dark brown hair lightened immediately. I am now in the every-two-weeks hair dye routine- only I’m not all that disciplined so I stretch it out and stretch it out with those little fill-in root touchup thingies. Which never really covers all the grey once it’s coming in like gangbusters.

    Very, very helpful, Imogene. You just look beautiful!

    • SE – if you want to make the change and stop the incesant dying – like I did – then maybe it’s time to throw yourself in at the deep end and just do it!

  • The same thing happens when a woman goes from graying light brown or blonde to brunette. I was a light brunette with gold tones. My hair started going taupe in my 40s, and I lost a lot of my golden look. I tinted my hair a rich medium brown to cover the gray. Five years later, I’m still eliminating all the tan and camel pieces and accessories from my closet because they look washed out on me. I’m wearing more dark neutrals with bright colors because my contrast level is much higher. You know what? The new look suits me much better. I’m getting more compliments on my eyes than before. Many people who knew me from before say I look years younger now.

  • Imogen, I thank you for the posts on your hair color journey. So many of us have tweaked and lightened but in slow, expensive and timely ways. You have encouraged me to charge full steam ahead! And let me add you look STUNNING! You’ve come alive and the color softening of your clothes enhances your renewed look. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and joy.

  • You look great with the new color (the old color was great too 🙂
    I have a co-worker who took the plunge to go platinum. After a very awkward week of Crayola yellow (wow, that was harsh), it’s now quite striking.
    She hated it until I suggested she change up her clothing colors. Instead of the bright orange she favored, she’s wearing cooler, less vibrant colors and it’s all working.
    And the credit goes to you for sharing your experience on your blog!
    I have recently given up the dye and find I totally rock the grey hair (with appropriate wardrobe coloring changes). It’s liberating!

  • Just discovered your site today and love it! I watched one video you did with dark hair and then found this page – not having seen you before, I think the lighter hair very flattering and definitely younger looking. I’m a winter who loved my darkened hair (loved that contrast!) then eventually went to a lighter color (med. neutral blonde) because the roots were hard to maintain. I liked the hair color but felt adrift with clothing colors. Then last year I got so fed up with the constant roots hassle that I quit coloring my hair and it’s now a silvery white that I actually like a lot (other than the mental prejudice I had to overcome about it!) and suddenly I felt better again about colors (so maybe the neutral blonde wasn’t right for me?) Can someone actually change from cool to warm or vice versa? I thought it was “either or” and stayed that way.

    • KC – thanks for your comment. The blonde could have been the wrong version of blonde for you -sounds like you’re very cool and it’s hard to get a really cool blonde! Glad you’re loving your new silver locks!

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