Winter Problems: Pastel vs. Icy

As part of my yearlong quest to explore every season, I’m going to attempt to tackle a frustrating problem for the three Winters: How am I supposed to tell the difference between an icy and a pastel?

For those of you who have been draped as a Dark, True, or Bright Winter, you’re probably familiar with the concept of icy vs. pastel. Wading through the seemingly endless sea of pastel to reach the elusive icy can seem impossible, especially when they look so similar at first.


First, a quick description of both:


Pastel colors are very light, very soft versions of other colors. Powder blue, baby yellow, and ballet pink are common examples. Summers and Light Spring are the primary seasons that can claim pastel colors as their own.


Icy colors are lighter and clearer than pastels. Picture a can of white paint with a single drop of pigment added. All three Winters get icies.

For tons of visual representations of pastel vs. icy, check out my Pinterest Boards.

Okay, that’s great, but how do I tell the difference when I’m out shopping?

As you probably expected, your fan is going to be your best friend. I’ve taken a series of photos to help explain the swatching process, but please remember that photographs can be deceiving. I’ve done my best to represent the colors, but it’s nearly impossible to replicate them perfectly.


This is a Bright Winter icy pink top I found at Goodwill. Even though it’s BW, I still wear it occasionally because it makes me feel cute and I haven’t found a good Dark Winter icy pink yet.


It’s harmonizing well with the whole fan, not just the icy strip. I could easily picture someone wearing this top and carrying a bag in one of those lovely emerald greens.


Now, here’s a pastel pink sheet. Light Summer looks particularly good next to this color, so we’ll use that for comparison.


All the colors are light and fresh with a slightly muted quality.


Now, watch what happens when we swatch the top against the LSu and BW fans.

The Bright Winter fan is more harmonious

The Light Summer fan doesn’t look too bad with this top, but pink is looking dustier and softer than it truly is. The Bright Winter fan is helping the color retain its clear, whitish-pink hue.


Let’s see the pink sheet against both fans.

The Light Summer fan is more harmonious

Yes, those are the same fabric. They’re in the same light, with the same camera, taken less than 30 seconds apart. Light Summer is blending beautifully with the color, making it hard to tell where the fan ends and the fabric begins. Bright Winter is popping toward the screen, causing the color underneath to look lost and pale.


Comparison: Pastel sheet is on top, icy top is on the bottom
Let’s try another color

Here is one of my drapes, a Dark Winter icy yellow. It has been my fruitless quest to find this in a top or dress.


You’ll just have to trust me that it’s yellow. I was having a really hard time having that show up on my camera, but you can still see how the pinks, blues, and even greens can exist in the same universe as the fan.


Here is another one of my drapes, a light Soft Summer yellow.


It’s got that muted, dusky quality that makes Soft Summer so gorgeous.


Let’s compare the fans to the icy drape.

The Dark Winter fan is more harmonious

It’s much easier to tell the drape is yellow now, isn’t it? Soft Summer is looking so pale, and the ivory shades on the first strip up from the label seem downright dirty. Dark Winter is glowing next to the drape, and the whites in the first strip look pure and bright.


Here are both fans against the pastel drape

The Soft Summer fan is more harmonious

Now we can actually see Soft Summer! The colors look much more vibrant, allowing us to really appreciate their nuance. Dark Winter is leaving this drape in the dust, leaving it looking muddy rather than beautifully soft.


Comparison: Icy is on top, pastel is on the bottom


As you can see, comparison is a immensely helpful in determining icy vs. pastel. When you’re out shopping, obviously use your fan on the item you’re swatching, but it’s a good idea to grab something else in a similar color and swatch them both to see which works better. So grabbing two pale blue items and swatching both of them against your fan could actually help you more than only swatching the item you’re looking to purchase.


So, Winter friends, I hope you’re feeling a little more prepared to distinguish icy and pastel colors! Next month, I’ll have another common Winter problem before working though the Spring seasons!


P.S., I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who viewed and shared my last blog post! I am working on more similar posts, so for all of you asking for more recommendations, fear not! They are coming, as soon as I get some time to go a-swatching.


All photos are my own unless otherwise noted.

5 thoughts on “Winter Problems: Pastel vs. Icy

  1. Hi, I’m really interested in the difference between icy and pastel. It’s just that it seems as if your photos have disapperared from your post. Would it be possible for you to restore them? I would be really grateful!


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