This post begins with a rather cryptic instruction for Relief Society leaders, published in the Bulletin No. 13, July 1981, p. 2, which reads:
Homemaking Meeting Materials:
Relief Society leaders should ensure that all materials used in homemaking meeting are reliable and accurate. They should be especially careful about materials focusing upon color analysis for wardrobe planning. Materials presented in homemaking meeting should use basic color principles and promote an understanding of the use of color. Sisters should avoid “systems” of color analysis, many of which contain misinformation. 
Fellow JI blogger J. Stapley stumbled upon this puzzling little gem; I have a pretty solid hunch about it, but I also invite further interpretation / speculation about its meaning in the comments. The specific context might very well be forever lost in the mists of time, but it’s worth seeing if we can unpack this passage a little.
I can say that in 1980 a woman named Carole Jackson published a book that became a best-seller called Color Me Beautiful . I know because we owned a copy and I pored over it hundreds of times growing up, so much so that I probably unconsciously memorized entire passages. I’m not aware of any particular Mormon connection with Jackson herself, but I do know that Jackson’s book launched a popular cottage industry of direct-marketing color analysis home businesses, including lots (I have no idea how many, but I’ll just venture a guess… lots) of Mormon women who became independent beauty consultants.
The system of Color Me Beautiful (CMB) analysis was simple: based on hair, eye and skin coloring, a woman could determine which colors of clothing and makeup suited her best (“Find Your Colors, Find Yourself,” was the book’s theme). These palettes of harmonious colors could be divided into 4 timeless “seasons:” Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. For example, regardless of the calendar date, Autumns (like me) actually should wear avocado, olive, mustard, pumpkin and other colors with warm undertones, whereas Springs, Summers, and Winters should just be grateful that the 1970s were over and seek out other colors that flattered them better. The book expanded from color selection into makeup application tips, fashion “personalities,” developing “colorisma,” and dressing to minimize unattractive body features.
An evening with a color consultant would involve draping women in an array of CMB’s solid-color scarves to see which ones best enhanced their natural coloring, thereby determining their underlying season’s best colors, and providing advice about wardrobe and makeup dos and don’ts, with an emphasis on simplicity and paring down to a wardrobe of functional, easy-to-match, classic pieces.
Homemaking meetings over the years, no doubt, have harbored all kinds of fascinating fads among Relief Society sisters, only few of which raised the alarm among local leaders enough to warrant a scolding in the Bulletin and thereby secure them a permanent place in the historical record. Consider this equation:
Inventive, creative Mormon women + home-based marketing (and/or pyramid schemes) + frequent women-only meetings that need content + tight social networks of trust = a highly potent combination.
Many things have come and gone in Homemaking meeting (and its successor Enrichment nights) that blur the line between merchandising, home economics instruction and gospel topics: resin grapes , Joy School, Shaklee, Creative Memories, Stampin’ Up, NuSkin and on into our own era of doTerra and Choffy, just to name a few.
Color Me Beautiful may seem utterly benign, but the Bulletin’s stated fear of women dispensing “misinformation” is telling nonetheless. It’s possible this is just a generic concern about uncorrelated materials in church meetings – a perennial chestnut over the years, I’m sure. But I also think CMB walked the fine line between traditional femininity and female empowerment at the dawn of a decade when post-2nd wave feminist gains in employment, education, and affirmative action were bringing more women out of the home and into the workforce. The late 70s and early 80s was an era of power suits for women, coining the term “Yuppie,” and sometimes bewildering double-messaging (think of the 1980 Enjoli perfume ad in which a sexy professional woman brings home the bacon and fries it up in a pan, all while remaining irresistably attractive and desirable, thus keeping traditional gender roles firmly in place).
At the time, Mormon women were being encouraged to assert their political clout and cultural authority with massive collective action… ironically enough, to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. And so many of them would follow the general cultural and economic trends of the time to seek jobs or even full-time careers outside the home that by the mid-1980s it would become President Benson’s steady mantra to call mothers in Zion back to their hearths and kitchens. Women who embraced CMB principles weren’t just training to be mindless, homogenized pageant Barbies; they were discovering how to leverage their unique (natural… even divine) assets in order to be more effective in the public sphere. Jackson’s book contained a section on “Dressing for Business,” and emphasized authenticity and self-esteem, the confidence of being “put-together” every day. Perhaps that’s why the color system seemed even mildly threatening? I’m reminded here of Elaine Tyler May’s argument in Homeward Bound, that Cold War containment ideology recognized the subversive potential of capable women’s ambitions, and therefore channeled those ambitions aggressively back into domesticity; in such an analysis, Mormon male leadership was following suit here, whether for those same or its own internal cultural reasons.
Those are some of my ideas. What do you think might be at play in this counsel? What secret threat lay buried in systems of color analysis in 1981? And what other uncorrelated cultural fads made it into Homemaking meeting over the years?
 *Bulletin,* no. 13, July, 1981, p. 2. The *Priesthood Bulletin* was a periodical for stake presidents and bishoprics established by the Correlation Committee that ran from 1965-1974. The *Bulletin* was similar except that it was directed at the equivalent to the ward council. It ran from 1980 to the mid 1990s.
 Carole Jackson, Color Me Beautiful: Discover Your Natural Beauty Through Color (Washington, DC: Acropolis Books, 1980).