Colour psychology and what your wardrobe reveals about you
Before you choose your outfit for the day, think about how you want other people to see you and interpret your personality … your clothes say far more than you think. Bridget Allen, senior fashion expert.
Socially everyone selects something of choice to wear from their wardrobe, but generally no further thought is taken other than if it looks good and feels comfortable. A picture is worth a thousand words, but 99% of that description is about the colour of that picture. Colour psychology is concerned with how certain colours effect emotions, perceptions and reactions.
According to Adam D Galinksy, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, “clothing affects how other people perceive us as well as how we think about ourselves”. Leave your inner fashionista behind, this week Happiness Weekly takes a practical look at what the colours in your wardrobe are really saying about you!
Colours at work
Black symbolises power and sophistication, but is also the colour of the secretive unknown creating an air of mystery. Some use it to hide their weight, others use it to hide their fears and insecurities. Black provides comfort while protecting emotional feelings and vulnerabilities. It symbolises control, hanging on to information and things rather than giving out to others. It radiates authority, but creates fear in the process. People that wear black are self-controlled and disciplined, independent and strong-willed but give an impression of authority and power. Affluent and success-orientated women often choose to wear black as it gives an impression of elegance, sophistication and confidence. It’s a great colour for trousers, jackets or shirts – it is recommended that you break it up with other colours.
Yellow can be seen as cheery and warm, it is the colour of mind, intellect and acquired knowledge. Uplifting and illuminating, it offers hope, happiness, cheerfulness and fun. Yellow inspires inquisitiveness and original thought. People that like yellow are generally great communicators and love to talk – particularly suitable to networkers, journalists and people that work in Public Relations. It is linked to clarity of thought and ideas which aids with decision making, focus and study, and recalling information. Yellow should be limited to accessories such as ties or necklaces because it can be impulsive and cause anxiety. More information about yellow and its variations is available here.
Gold is the colour of success, achievement and triumph. It is associated with abundance, prosperity, luxury, quality, prestige and sophistication. Valuable and elegant, gold implies affluence, material wealth and extravagance. Linked to masculine energy and the power of the sun – it is confident, passionate and eye-catching.
White is associated with purity, innocence, wholeness, completion and serenity. Cleanliness personified, the colour white is the colour for new beginnings and the ultimate purity which is why western brides and doctors wear it. The colour of protection and encouragement, white offers a sense of peace and calm, comfort and hope, and helps alleviate emotional upsets. It creates a sense of order and efficiency – great for inspiration if you wish to unclutter your life. Too much white can be cold, isolating, empty and bland. It implies a feeling of sterility, detachment and disinterest, providing little stimulation for the senses. Wear it sparingly, white is the classic colour for an office shirt because it provides a good background for the statement colour of a tie.
Silver has a feminine energy and is associated with the moon – it is fluid, emotional, sensitive and mysterious. Reflective and sensitive, silver inspires intuition, clairvoyance and mental telepathy. It is also associated with prestige and wealth as it is seen as glamorous, sophisticated, prosperous and modern. People that wear silver are respectable, courteous, dignified, self-controlled, responsible, patient, determined and organised. It resonates well in the corporate world to those in positions of responsibility (males and females).
Grey is the colour of compromise – it is neutral and detached. The closer it gets to black, the more dramatic and mysterious it becomes, but the closer it gets to white or silver, the more illuminating and lively it becomes. People that wear grey are generally subdued, quiet and reserved. Conformists, they are conventional, dependable and practical. Too much grey creates sadness and depression and a tendency to loneliness and isolation. More information about grey and its variations is available here.
Purple is a colour of imagination and spirituality, historically associated with luxury, wealth and royalty. It represents the future. Purple inspires unconditional and selfless love, and enhances psychic ability and spiritual enlightenment. It promotes harmony of the mind and emotions, contributing to mental balance and stability, and peace of mind. Violet is the colour of humanitarian, using its better judgement to do good for others, combining wisdom and power with sensitivity and humility. People that wear purple have an element of power as it demands respect. They are ambitious and self-assured leaders. Purple is difficult colour to pull off because it requires confidence to wear successfully. More information about purple, and its variations, is available here.
Indigo, the colour of intuition, perception and the higher mind. It promotes deep concentration during meditation. Powerful and dignified, it conveys integrity and deep serenity. People that love the colour indigo conform to things that have worked in the past, while planning for the future. It stimulates the right brain and helps with spatial skills.
Red is the colour of energy, passion and action. It exudes a strong and powerful masculine energy, it excites the emotions and motivates us to take action. Red is a powerful colour: it is a symbol for leadership, assertiveness, confidence, ambition and determination. Too much red can cause irritation, agitation, aggression and anger. In China it is the colour for good luck, in India it is the colour for purity and is often used in their wedding gowns. Red is a great colour to wear to negotiations, meetings and sales pitches. More information about the colour red, and its variations, is available here.
Brown symbolises age and maturity. It is serious, down-to earth and relates to security, protection and material wealth. People that wear brown take their obligations seriously and encourage a strong need for security and a sense of belonging. They feel that family and friends are of utmost importance, are honest, genuine and sincere – though can be stingy with money. They are trustworthy, reliable, loyal, dependable, practical and realistic. The colour of structure, it encourages orderliness, uniformity and organisation. It is reassuring and quietly confident. Wearing this colour can make you appear wise. It is a popular colour with teachers and academics because it inspires feelings of respect in a subtle manner as opposed to aggressively asserting respect like red or purple. Wearing too much brown can make you look stuffy or old fashioned. More information about brown and its variations is available here.
Blue is a calming colour that inspires serenity, trust and responsibility. Honest and loyal, this colour is reliable, sincere, reserved and quiet. It promotes mental and physical relaxation, reducing stress. In fact, the paler the shade of blue, the more freedom we feel. People that love blue define success as quality and quantity of relationships, they give more than receive and build strong, trusting relationships. They become deeply hurt if betrayed. Conservative and predictable, blue is safe, non-threatening, but persistent and determined to succeed. Wear blue when you need to give important news in a meeting but break it up with other colours if you are delivering bad news. More information about blue and its variations is available here.
Turquoise represents open communication and clarity of thought. It controls and heals the emotions creating emotional balance and stability. The colour turquoise recharges our spirits during times of mental stress and tiredness, alleviating feelings of loneliness. It increases creativity and sensitivity. People that wear turquoise are generally good at multi-tasking and are very caring. Turquoise also encourages us to build self-esteem and be self-sufficient. More information about turquoise and its variations is available here.
Orange radiates warmth and happiness. It is the colour of adventure, risk-taking and social communication. Orange offers emotional strength, it is optimistic and uplifting, and promotes spontaneity and a positive outlook. It inspires physical confidence, competition, independence, and aids in putting new ideas into action, banishing limitations. It encourages self-respect and respect of others. A great colour for accessories, orange prevents other colours from becoming overbearing. More information about orange and its variations is available here.
Green is the colour of harmony, growth and balance (creating equilibrium between the head and the heart). It is a natural peacemaker and an emotionally positive colour, encouraging us to love and nurture ourselves and others unconditionally. People that wear green enjoy observing and listening and have good judgement. They are generally inviting, generous, friendly and can keep confidences but also tend to look for recognition. A great colour for women’s dresses, it is also the ideal colour for accessories. More information about green and its variations is available here.
Pink is associated with femininity, unconditional love and romance. It represents compassion and nurturing. People that wear pink are intuitive and insightful and demonstrate tenderness, kindness, empathy and sensitivity. It is the colour of hope and good health. Pink calms and reassures our emotional energies, alleviating feelings of anger, aggression, resentment, abandonment and neglect. A non-threatening colour, people that love pink seek appreciation, respect and admiration. It is a great colour for items you will wear briefly but you can remove for the bulk of the day e.g. jackets and bags. More information about pink and its variations is available here.
Magenta is the universal colour for harmony and emotional balance. People that wear magenta are generally spiritual (yet practical), encouraging, have good common sense and a balanced outlook on life. Magenta strengthens our intuition and psychic ability while assisting to rise above daily obstacles and gain awareness and knowledge. An instrument of change and transformation, magenta aids us in moving forward, helping to release old emotional patterns that prevent personal and spiritual development. It is uplifting to our spirits during times of unhappiness, anger and frustration. Magenta is the colour of cheerfulness, happiness, contentment and appreciation for what you have acquired and achieved. Magenta is spontaneous and impulsive, yet resourceful and organised.
Speedy wardrobe colour tips * Blue establishes trust and credibility. It is a safe colour and universally liked by most men and women.
* To appear friendly and approachable, wear lighter colours such as mid-tone blues, greens, blue-greens, teal, tan and peachy-orange.
* To get noticed or appear assertive, wear red (but note, it can be threatening).
* To appear confident, blue-green is a good business colour for women, it suggests high self-esteem, confidence but is still friendly and approachable.
* To show dependability, wear green.
* To appear neutral wear grey or beige. You may look like a fence-sitter, but it enables you to say what a client wants to hear rather than the truth.
* To look professional with authority, wear dark blue or dark grey. It’s great for credibility when promoting your business.
* To shock or inspire your audience, wear a magenta suit … with a matching top hat and cane!
* Earth tones (dark orange, mid-brown, light yellow, beige, tan or caramel) are seen as reliable.
Fast facts on colour psychology – Teenagers often have a psychological need to wear black during the stage of transition from the innocence of childhood to the sophistication of adulthood. It enables them to hide from the world while they discover their own unique identity.
– According to Dr Jennifer Baumgartner, who wrote “You are what you wear: what your clothes reveal about you”, what you wear can inform people passing you in the street of your type of employment, ambitions, emotions and spending habits. “Shopping and spending behaviours often come from internal motivations such as emotions, experiences and culture,” she said.
– A study from Northwestern University examined the concept “enclothed cognition”. Researchers define it in their report as “the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes,” meaning what clothes say to you, rather than about you. How they make you feel, not just how they make you act and react.
– Women react more positively to blue-based colours, such as deep blue-reds, most blues, most pinks and blue-greens. Men find yellow-based colours more attractive. They appreciate true reds and oranges, peachy-apricots and most blues.
– Colours also enhance our culinary experience. Red is the most prominent colour in fast food logos because it stimulates appetite and expresses the speed at which you will be served your meal. Blue decreases appetite – however, people are more likely to drink from a blue glass than a red glass. Orange also assists with stimulating appetite.
– Trying to lose weight? Dieticians recommend eating off a blue plate as it suppresses appetite.