How to be colour confident

So by now we all know there are 50 shades of grey. For a book or a film that’s one thing, but if we’re talking about your wardrobe, it’s time for a rethink.

Woman in red jacket against yellow wallFor some reason, lots of us are scared of injecting some colour into our clothes. But it really can become your secret weapon to help you get more from your work and social life, as well as expressing yourself instead of hiding behind yet more swathes of black.

Colour is everywhere – we may not consciously notice it, but it can play a big part in our emotions, decision making and non-verbal communication.  Our brain registers colour before images or words, which is why marketing strategists use colour to make things more appealing to us, in terms of packaging, corporate branding, advertising and interior design.

And, if you think about it, there’s no reason why the colour of our clothes can’t have a similar impact.  

You don’t need to suddenly swap all your blacks and greys for brights – there are some great, subtle ways to introduce colour to make just the right impression:

Coco Rouge - Arthur

Coco Rouge – Arthur

Red

This colour gets you noticed. We often associate it with assertiveness and power, but it needs using wisely to avoid being confused with aggression.

Essentially, you don’t have to be a top-to-toe scarlet woman to have an effect. If you’re giving a presentation, for example, a red tie or scarf, or slick of red lipstick, will draw attention to your face, and people will be more likely to listen to what you have to say (Barack Obama often wears a red tie when he’s speaking in public). But avoid a red dress if you’re in a serious meeting, such as one discussing redundancies.

Red is often also associated with romance and passion (it does increase your heart rate and blood pressure, so this isn’t really so crazy). Maybe you could try a flattering shade on a first date, or introduce a splash of red on your online dating profile picture – just don’t go mad!

Blue

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 20.48.01

Jigsaw silk dress

No longer a gender-specific colour, blue is associated with loyalty, trust and professionalism, which is why it’s a popular choice for uniforms. It translates well into a working wardrobe or interview, where you want to inspire these feelings. Pair it with lighter-coloured separates or accessories to inject a sense of authority (high contrasts = I know my stuff!).

Blue can sometimes seem a little aloof or cold, so avoid the darker shades if you’re in a youthful, fun-loving environment (you don’t want to be the only grown up in the room). Go lighter and brighter instead.

Brilliant blues can really add some pzazz to your outfit – think accessories again rather than all over. Lighter, warmer shades conjure up peaceful thoughts of dreamy blue skies and tranquil waters, so are great for a less in-your-face look. While I’m on the subject of water, mosquitoes are attracted to blue twice as much as any other colour, so they’re not the greatest holiday hue!

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 20.21.48

Boden colourblock dress

Green

Restful, peaceful, calming… all associations with green. It’s not as stimulating to our brains, and so helps our senses to relax.

It’s a great colour to wear when you’re facing a stressful day, whether at work or socially – even better, sit in a green room – lots of showbiz luvvies do this before going live on TV or radio.

Bright, vibrant greens get you noticed – and this season is all about green.

Try to avoid all-over sludgy, dirty greens, you don’t want to look like the mould on the top of cheese. If you’re going for this colour perhaps go for a print.

Purple

Rich, royal and classy, purple is often associated with wealth.  A good-quality leather bag or shoe in a rich warm purple (wine and plum tones) always looks more expensive and can make a good impression.

It can also project a feel of wisdom, mystery and creativity as well as being particularly favoured in all things spiritual. If you’re into meditation and deep contemplation, it’s good to project this in your attire on both a professional or personal level.  Just keep it soft so you’re more approachable to clients.

A word of warning. Purple is easy to get wrong. Too dark or cool can look really gloomy, and if you’re pale it can make you look drained. Stick to warmer, brighter or lighter purple for a lively look and feel, or try wearing it with yellow, its complementary colour.

Yellow

 

Lauren Ralph Lauren Water-Resistant Hooded Trench Coat from JLewis

Lauren Ralph Trench Coat at JLewis

If you love and wear yellow, I salute you! Not too many people include it in their wardrobes as it can be tricky to master. It’s another one to introduce here and there for best effect. Some yellows can leave you looking jaundiced – not the effect you want – so try using costume jewellery to find the best shade for your skin.

Unless you’re running in the dark/working on the road etc, avoid the head-to-toe hi viz effect, as you’ll just give onlookers a headache (and ruin your fashionista reputation forever). Too bright is too mentally stimulating – there are strong associations with frustration and people generally losing their tempers.

From softer pastels to richer tones, yellow can look great with pinks, oranges and blues. And there’s a marigold yellow trending in the shops at the moment, if you have quite a warm coloured skintone or are a red head, this is a definite one to try.

Pink

Oh so stereotyped, some women avoid this colour like the plague, while others wear it to death. Yes we’re inundated by pink, but it can also be empowering. Pink is renowned for being calming, so is a good one if you think you might need to act as peacemaker to diffuse a difficult situation.

It’s not just for girls either. Men have become more agreeable to pink lately, and worn in moderation, it’s definitely still fashionable.

As a derivative of red, it also promotes a sense of passion, without the oomph of aggression. If you like hot pink, try wearing it with navy. This is much softer than black, and looks great on darker or brighter skintones. Softer, candy pink looks very chic with a camel or caramel colour on fairer and warmer skins.

Black and white

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 20.25.52

Boden’s classic shirt

Is black a colour? Is white? Who cares what the scientists say – black and white is chic and funky at the same time.

Most of us like black, as it makes us feel safe, and it’s also elegant and powerful. But it can be a little menacing. Yes it’s slimming, so are all dark colours, but you don’t need to limit yourself to black.

White has the obvious connotation of purity and cleanliness, but can sometimes be a little clinical. It can make major statements in lace, leather and jewellery – pearls are a particularly good neutral to use with most outfits. But beware, whites come in many different shades – think about bridal gowns, you have to get the right shade of white.

If you’re smaller up top, a plain white shirt or jacket will help to balance you out – actually, any light colour will do this. Put it with black and it positively shouts authority (think police, security staff and judges – they wouldn’t be half as effective wearing beige!)

Monochrome is always around in some form throughout the fashion season, so is always a good investment, either in clothes or handbags, bangles and shoes.

Colours are great, but as with all things fashion, it’s important to stay true to yourself and dress to express your personality. Have a little fun, experiment with different shades, but rely on your instincts. What looks great on your friend might not suit your colouring.

So there’s nothing wrong with digging out your little black dress once more – just try adding a few pops of colour here and there and it’ll be like wearing a whole new outfit, time after time after time…

Sara MARSDEN-SHREEVE

About Sara MARSDEN-SHREEVE

I’m an image consultant which means I get to help women look and feel great – it’s my dream job! I became tired of seeing so-called ‘perfection’ portrayed in the media, and it’s my aim to help women feel confident whatever their body shape. You can find out more about how I can help you by visiting my website.