- What time is it?
- Where am I going?
- Who do I need to respect?
- What are my responsibilities?
- Interesting structural details
I’ll just deal with color for this post and I’ll get to the other aspects later. These days, color doesn’t have as much to do with the four practical questions. (There are exceptions to this – to respect the bride, don’t wear white to a wedding, etc.) It has much more to do with the last question – the “do I like it” question, but it goes beyond liking. Colors are culturally embedded, emotional, symbolic, and powerful.
Back in the days of black and white, costume designers were routinely asked why they designed costumes in color. Why didn’t they just design in shades of gray? That’s all the audiences could see. The designers replied that actors needed colors to emotionally engage with their characters. When Bette Davis wore a red dress, you knew she was wearing a red dress – even if you saw it as dark gray on the screen. The costume’s color changed her attitude and her performance, and that’s what we pick up.
We know what colors mean, even when we don’t think about it. Red is the most obvious – passion, blood, fire, courage, desire. Yellow – sunshine, cheerfulness, summer, spontaneity. Different greens can give different emotions – some greens evoke life, nature, hope, others (like poison green) signify jealousy, envy, greed. Blues calm – they communicate intelligence, loyalty, stability, tranquility. White stands for purity, cleanliness, even holiness. Black has always signified mourning and death, but shifted into popularity over the 20th century (partially thanks to Henry Ford’s Model T and Coco Chanel’s Little Black Dress).
When colors become popular, we should ask why. Think. Use our brains. They mean something – what do they mean? Because colors change us – they change our moods, they change our behavior. They have power.
If you’re afraid of color and only wear black/gray and maybe jeans (yes, you – you know who you are), try to figure out what it is about color that you’re avoiding. Maybe you’re afraid of attracting attention. Maybe you are afraid of a color looking bad on you. Maybe you don’t want to try new things. I have nothing against black, but it can become camouflage. To give color a try in a low-risk way, find a cardigan in a beautiful color and throw it on over your black t-shirt. Or try a bright skirt. Don’t worry, it will go with all your black clothes. Maybe you’ll get noticed, but that is not a bad thing. Cheerful colors make other people happy. Give it a go and tell me how it goes!