Imagine a colour. Visualise it. Then ask yourself how you feel.
Does black make you think of evil, while red warns you of danger? Does yellow make you smile and blue make you dreamy?
Colours arouse strong emotions in all of us. These emotions may be linked to memories. I can't stand bottle green because it reminds me of bleak school uniforms. But ochre yellow and fuchsia pink always take me back to sunny days in colourful Rajasthan India.
Sometime our reactions to colour are physical and unconscious. Red, for example, is arousing and can raise blood pressure, whilst blue is wonderfully calming to the nervous system.
Little wonder then that we are drawn to clothes in colours that meet our psychological needs.
In a recent survey of over 1,000 women, black came out as the main colour that women valued for their professional and personal wellbeing.
Most of the women surveyed thought that:
- Black is the colour most likely to create a positive first impression
- Black makes them appear more attractive and intelligent
- Black works for most occasions, for traveling, the bedroom, the school run, a night out, work, interview or a first date.
As someone who wears a lot of black, and is married to a man who wears nothing but, I know it goes with everything, is always in fashion and hides a multitude of sins from unwanted bulges to the odd soup dribble.
But let's not underestimate the also-rans in the colour field. Because they each have their role to play in influencing our moods and subtly affecting our emotions.
- Red: the colour of passion, energy and action. Associated with fertility. Women who wear red on dating websites are said to attract more potential partners.
- Grey: the colour of wisdom and sophistication. Grey is capable of portraying elegance and commanding respect.
- White: helps keep the body cool, is the colour of innocence and hence the traditional choice of brides and baby clothes.
- Pink: whereas red denotes a woman in her sexual prime, pink is girlier and associated more with innocence, the absence or loss of passion.
- Brown: the colour for friendliness and trust in others. Traditionally associated with poverty, economy and modest aspiration. Wear with caution, too much brown may bring you down.
- Beige: a safe choice, conventional, unlikely to shock. Easy to wear but be careful not to 'neutralise' yourself as it's easy to blend in with beige.
- Orange: the colour of energy, enthusiasm, playfulness and balance. Demands attention, hence its use in safety garments, so not for the faint-hearted.
- Yellow: the colour of happiness, optimism, warmth and hope. Think smiley faces and bright sunshine, they're hard to resist.
- Blue: a relaxing, harmonious hue that projects confidence and dependability. It can have a calming effect, lowering blood pressure, respiration and heart rate.
- Green: nature's own colour and said to stand for wealth, luck, youthfulness and vigour. Green also has connotations with growth, fertility, and the life force.
- Purple: a regal hue because it was traditionally the most difficult colour to produce and said to convey sensuality, enlightenment and creativity.
Our clothes subtly affect how we think, feel and behave in many ways. I explore these in more depth in my book Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion. But when it comes to colour, if you love it and it makes you feel wonderful, then go ahead and indulge the whole rainbow. Nothing cheers people up, or invites unsolicited compliments, like a bright yellow jacket, technicolour socks or a purple hat.
Most of all, wear what makes you smile.