By Michal Goldfein
Throughout my life, and in my fashion journey, I often was curious about what it meant to find and know one’s color palette. I was mystified by the process in which colors were “chosen” for people. How did someone know what colors looked especially good on them? How could someone else identify the colors that truly enhanced another person? Enter Chanchi Milecki, a.k.a. the Soul Styler, and all my questions were answered. Chanchi is a color palette connoisseur and personal stylist and can be found on Instagram @thesoulstyler. She relayed to me the ins and outs of color and really gave me an eye-opening lesson. Even more important than my newfound appreciation of color and its uniqueness to each individual was the reminder that a person’s clothes are “the frame” and that they should only enhance one’s tone, coloring, and textures.
Michal Goldfein: What does Soul Styler mean?
Chanchi Milecki: I call myself a Soul Styler because I really like to start from the inside out, as opposed to the outside in. When I have a client coming to me, before taking into account what their skin tone is, or their style, I sit down with them and I talk to them. I have them bring in a picture or two of something they love or even an item they love. I look through these things with them and I see what they love and what makes them tick. These things give me a good sense of the client’s personality, and what I would say is her soul. It really gives me a depth of understanding of who this person is and what it is that she loves. Then I go from there to do their palettes, through their tone and hair/eye color, always leaning back on that understanding of who they really are.
MG: That’s so interesting. How did your interest in the field begin?
CM: I have seven sisters and I was always the one shopping for everyone. But even before that, as a little girl I would take pieces of fabric, sew them together, and try to make outfits. I had a knack for understanding the slight difference between something looking good and something looking a little better. I was very color sensitive and style sensitive. As I got older I went to FIT to study design and image consulting. Since they didn’t have a color program I went to a place called Color Designers International. There I learned the method of personalized color analysis developed by Suzanne Caygill.
MG: The psychology of color is such a complex field. Do you feel that color and whether or not someone likes a color has to do with our personal experiences with that color?
CM: There are definitely certain colors that have different emotional reactions associated with them. For example, some people love certain tones of green and some people don’t. What I find is that the colors that look good on people are the colors that they will want to wear and that they gravitate towards, even if they haven’t fine-tuned it.
The majority of what they gravitate towards is mostly the right kind of idea. Or I have clients who have very specific colors that they cannot find when they shop, so they have nothing available to them. They know what they need and they’re not finding it.
MG: How can you describe your process?
CM: To start out before a client will come in, I make sure they’re not wearing any heavy makeup or any loud colors. I have them bring clothing that they bought that they never wear, or items they bought but are not sure why they bought them. I also have them bring in something that they love. Those things that they pick tell me a lot about them. I also show them images of things and we go through what they are attracted or not attracted to. My process starts with having my client direct me, instead of imposing my ideas on them. Then I show them how what I am offering them in terms of color is a better option for them. I show them the comparison, and they usually see it pretty clearly.
MG: This is amazing; tell me more!
CM: Throughout this process I try to see what season someone is. Most people belong to a different season. There are four seasons, and there are even sub-seasons, and each season has a different kind of energy. It does help me and gives me some direction in terms of their personality. From there I match their skin tone, and find all the colors that are in the skin tone. I match the person’s hair and eye color as well. From there I come up with a palette and colors that match the colors within their palette. The idea behind all this is that when we get dressed in the morning we think to match our outfits to our shoes or to our accessories, but do we think of ourselves as having to match our clothing? The way to look the best and feel the best is by taking our own coloring, and matching and enhancing it. Wearing things that work with it, as opposed to fighting it.
MG: I like that a lot. People always say that your clothes shouldn’t wear you, but you should wear your clothes. The way you’re describing this is that the person is the springboard for their wardrobe.
I used to work in a gown and eveningwear store, and people would come in with their color palette in hand. Most often, they didn’t want to sway from their palettes. Do you ever find that having a color palette can be a hindrance?
CM: I actually think that getting your palette done gives you more freedom. When I show someone what the best white is for them, I’m not just showing them, I’m comparing it. I’m showing them the subtle difference with swatches of fabric, and usually I’ll say, you tell me which one looks better. They always pick the one that I like, because it is better for them. I don’t see it as spoon-feeding them, it’s like teaching them. It’s definitely not just my opinion. It’s very interesting to me to see what happens on a woman’s wedding day. Throughout a woman’s everyday life she’ll have outfits that look good on her. When it comes to her wedding dress, a bride can be very overwhelmed and she doesn’t end up looking good on her wedding day. I find that if you know in advance what colors look good on you, what weight of fabric looks good on you, and what style looks good on you, you’ll be prepared and will look good on your wedding day. In general, I try to give as many color options as possible to my clients.
MG: Any tips that you give your clients when they shop?
CM: I recommend to my clients to use their eyes. I have something called the “blank test” that they can use when they go shopping. The premise is that you stand in front of a mirror, you put the fabric in front of your face, and you close your eyes. Then you open your eyes and what do you see? Do you see yourself or do you see the color and the fabric? If you see yourself, that means the color, fabric, and texture are enhancing you. If you see the fabric, it means that you are getting lost and that it’s wearing you. The general idea of this is to teach my clients how to make their own decisions.
MG: Are there any universally flattering colors?
CM: Within most colors, people can wear some shade of that color. One color that everyone would agree on is a version of teal. Everyone has a blush color. For some people it’s a little warmer, for some it’s a bit cooler. Neutrals are definitely easier. Navy is an almost universal color.
MG: What colors work best with each other?
CM: There are different kinds of color combinations. There are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, some that are across from each other, and others that make up a triangle. Let’s say someone has olive-tone skin and their hair is a little bit darker than that, which means that their own personal coloring would be those two colors that are also next to each other on the color wheel. They would look the most balanced wearing those two color combinations. Someone who has pink skin tone, blue eyes, and blonde hair would make up a triadic color combination on the color wheel. People who have that tone look good with those three colors. As always, part of it has to do with the client’s personal preference.
MG: I’m very intrigued by this whole idea of how a person’s natural coloring is represented on the color wheel. When working with clients, how do you deal with clients who are afraid to step out of their comfort zone?
CM: I had a client who recently came in and said, “The only season I don’t want to be is spring.” The ironic thing was that she was definitely in the spring category. After showing clients even just a slight change in tone, they begin to see clearly what subtle differences can make. Even if someone is resistant in the beginning, they think maybe something is too bright for them, afterwards they see that, in fact, it is a better color for them.
MG: You give them the evidence and proof — if you see two colors next to someone’s face, you can see which looks better on them. What about prints? How does someone’s palette and coloring play into when they are wearing prints?
CM: You definitely have a lot more leeway when it comes to prints. When choosing prints, I would say to use the blank test, so the clients can see for themselves if the print looks good on them or not. Although when it comes to prints, some people, based on the texture within themselves, can get away with prints that have more going on. For example a woman with curly hair may be able to get away with prints that have more texture in them. Just being aware of these things can really inform people. The main thing for me is that I don’t want my client’s clothing to “wear them.” I teach my clients that they are the picture and their face, body, and clothing are just the frame; it’s just there to enhance you. If you put a heavy frame on a delicate picture, the picture is going to get lost. You need to see yourself, know yourself, and use your clothing to enhance that.
MG: Wow, you put it so eloquently. I’ve experienced that when it comes to wearing sheitels of different lengths. When I’m wearing a long sheitel, I feel like I can carry certain styles and colors, and that dynamic changes when I put on my short wig.
CM: That’s all about proportions, and there’s actually a mathematical equation that can tell you what the right proportion is. A person who is short can actually be perfectly proportioned. I have a very long torso and my legs in comparison are not as long, so I need to wear pieces that are high-waisted. This fixes the proportion, and camouflages it. This applies to hair length as well.
MG: I love the lavender and soft green that they are showing for fall. What color trends are you most excited about?
CM: I have a love–hate relationship with trends. A lot of my clients fill their closets with trends but the clothes don’t necessarily look good on them. So as long as the trend works for you and isn’t something that doesn’t enhance your features, I’m all for it. I’m excited that brown is coming back; another color that I love is neutral-tone blushes. I love the feminine colors.
MG: Staying true to yourself is the most important thing! What do you think about the current trend of modest fashion? Is anything lacking in the modest fashion industry?
CM: First of all I’m very excited about the modest fashion trend. Also that there are frum fashion clothing companies, as well. That being said, I would love to see these new fashion labels kind of up the game a little bit. Whenever a company starts up, they tend to try to source cheaper materials, but I think it’s really important that when you have to cover up, the fabrics should be comfortable and breathable. Clothing that is more comfortable will stand the test of time and uplift these labels. A lot of the tznius clothing companies are showing similar styles, so I’d like to see some more creativity in terms of silhouette, to push the boundaries more.
MG: Yes, not everything has to be a shift dress or in jersey material.
CM: I would also love to see petite and plus-size lines in modest fashion. Right now, those types of sizing are very hard to find and I think the market would really respond well to that.
MG: What excites you the most about the future of fashion?
CM: The thing that excites me the most is that anything goes. At this point in fashion, I feel like people are breaking out of the rules of the way things have always been. I’m excited to see the positive effect of this trend.
MG: Now there’s a lot more freedom, you can run with your imagination. But at the same time, there should be a balance. One last question: What’s your favorite part of your job and what you do?
CM: I had a client recently who thought there was something wrong with her because every time she went shopping she couldn’t find anything. Her colors are very specific and hard to find. She sent me a message after we met and shopped together and said, “You totally made me feel good about myself. I thought there was something wrong with me; now I realize that there was actually something wrong with the clothing … I never felt so good in my life.” To me there’s nothing better in the world than helping people feel their best and be confident and to help them feel attuned to who they are and how they want to represent themselves.
Michal Goldfein is a fashion influencer and content creator on Instagram and posts daily modest fashion inspiration @TheFashionDetour. You can listen to her modest fashion podcast on Apple podcast and on Jtriberadio.com. Email your fashion questions to Michal at Thefashiondetour@gmail.com.