color psychology, what colors should I wear, color analysis, best colors to wear

Color Clothing Psychology: What To Wear To Boost Confidence, Energy + To Hit Your Goals In Life

Oct 09, 2023

 

The Psychology of Color: Choosing Your Colors Wisely

When it comes to our closets, most of us are looking at a den of blacks, grays, and navy's.

We're grown-ups. Right? Our clothing is professional, serious, and what we've been taught to wear since graduating college.

At least, that's what I hear most whenever I visit events as a guest lecturer.

The room is usually filled with these colors, and people are willing to defend them to the death.

"I love black - I always have. I'm not going to change that for you...or for anyone."

That's their stance until they see the actual statistics that black is the color most universally tied to grief, mourning, and death.

Suddenly, their world is shaken.

"You mean, I could actually be offending my audience if they live in a country where black is reserved only for mourning spouses?"

Yes, you could be.

Or you could simply have been raised in a time when black became seen as more professional due to fashion trends at the time. (Thank you, Chanel!)

What we wear goes beyond what feels good to us, what is most commonly accepted, or even what we believe exudes confidence.

In this article, I want to break down for you everything you need to consider when shaping your closet.

Because color, color psychology, and especially light - have everything to do with what our choices should be.

And, if you're anything like me, simply becoming aware of this can radically shape what you purchase and put on your skin for decades to come.

The hues, shades, tints, and tones you wear each day can influence your mood, physical responses...even how others perceive you!

So, with that in mind, let's start with a brief overview of the primary eight communication colors and what they may mean for your wardrobe.

 

Reds: Passion and Energy

Red, the first color we see in the visible light spectrum with the longest wavelength, is evident in the sky first thing in the morning and last thing at sunset.

It's a wonderfully vital color for our bodies - helping us reduce inflammation and increase circulation.

As Avicenna advised in 1025, you may want to avoid looking at the color if you're having a nosebleed!

Red is mainly associated with elevated emotions, like passion, love, anger, or even quick action.

Throughout history, it has symbolized both power and danger.

In ancient Rome, red was worn by generals to signify their authority, while in some cultures, like China, it represented luck and celebration.

"Red is a color that demands attention. It's a symbol of confidence and dynamism." - Color Secrets.

What's remarkable is red's physiological effects on the human body! 

  • In 1875, European Doctor Ponza conducted experiments using colored glass, walls, and furniture in various rooms—red and blue most dramatically affected behavior.
  • In 1942, Russian scientist SV Krakov proved that, when exposed to red, people's heart rate and blood pressure increased. Their pupils also dilated in response.
  • In 2008, a groundbreaking study took place by two psychologists at the University of Rochester, that asked the question, "What attracts men to women?"
  • Through five studies Andrew Elliot, Professor of Psychology, and Daniela Niesta, post-doctoral researcher, found that the color red made men, "feel more amorous towards women."

A first-of-its-kind study! Now we know why red lipstick is so popular 😉

This makes red an excellent choice for those seeking to make a bold and confident statement! 

If you want to get more attention, increase your heart rate during a workout, or be seen as more attractive: red is an excellent choice in your wardrobe. 

Whether you choose a red power suit or a striking dress, incorporating red into your closet can instantly boost self-assuredness.

Personally, I choose red when I need to take a lot of action that day and am feeling more lackluster. I'll also wear red lipstick while presenting to keep people's attention!

There are, however, some cautions to take with red. 

It can seen as aggressive and sometimes overstimulating. If you're prone to high blood pressure and aggression or are dealing with harassment in the workplace, avoid red.

Red is a powerful color that by far has the strongest effect on the body physically.

If you want to get attention, wear the bright true hue.

If you want to attract someone romantically, I recommend using a darker shade.

If you want to exert your authority but not come across as too aggressive, use a more muted tone.

 

Orange: Balanced and Exotic

No! Not Orange! Anything but Orange!! I totally get it. 

Orange is not an easy color to love for most people. It certainly wasn't for me!

But I'm glad I was forced to study it because I believe it's one of the top missing colors in our society - especially in America.

There's a reason this is India's "royal" color and so beloved by the Netherlands.

If I had to assign a word to Orange after many years of studying, it would hands down be "balance."

Are we all maybe repulsed by orange because of our lack of balance in our personal lives? Probably

Would I paint my wall orange? Probably not.

Would I bring in a statement piece to add balance and provoke that feeling? Absolutely!

I don't think I have ever heard someone say that orange is their favorite color, but did you know that this color can supercharge your brain?

(Maybe this is why Nickelodeon chose this color as one of its main branding colors!)

It not only gives you a brain a charge due to signaling the production of melanopsin (a hormone which wakes us up) but allows you to focus and be more alert. 

Can you imagine how much better we would have taken a test if we had done so wearing orange?

This is also why citrus is such a powerful essential oil that dramatically affects the body when inhaled.

If we could use the studies out there on the color orange and bring it into our libraries, schools, and even our local government, we could quite possibly introduce this new language as a commonality to everyone's benefit! 

  • Did you know that all our International Space Station crew members wear orange?
  • Or that Monks around the world wear different shades and mixtures of orange?
  • In Buddhism, orange is the color of transformation.
  • In India, this color is viewed as the sacred color of Hindus.
  • In Native American culture, this color is the color of family and is considered energetic, cheerful, joyful, and anti-depressive. 

When you dive deep into its meaning, orange has many beautiful and positive meanings. 

It quite literally has changed my perspective and response from "NO" to shouting orange from the rooftops for years, as I now think it is one of the most underrated colors out there! 

Now, wearing orange can symbolize your enthusiasm and zest for life.

It can suggest that you are approachable, lively, and full of energy!

Orange has also been linked to encouraging social interaction. 

Orange can allow you to convey your willingness to think outside the box and become more open to connections with others. 

I had a client who really struggled with narrating her books. She would become high stress, lose her voice and leave the recording booth feeling absolutely exhausted.

She took my suggestion of trying orange for her next reading. Not only did her voice stay strong throughout the two days, but she felt at peace, balanced and completely stress free during the experience!

On the polar opposite end, another client decided to wear an orange dress to a networking event. She was approached by someone who said - "You look so familiar to me. I saw you and felt right at home."

Let's be honest - orange is a bold and confident choice and can absolutely help you communicate your confidence and optimism in a given situation.

 Orange is a great choice if you want to convey a sense of fun and liveliness.

It is a combination of the energy of red and the cheerfulness of yellow, allowing you to convey a sense of balance and adaptability. 

It suggests that you are well-rounded and can easily handle various situations.

In some contexts, especially in safety-related situations, orange is used to signal caution.

It can symbolize your attention to detail and your commitment to safety.

So, when wearing orange, it's important to consider the specific context and your personal style. 

While orange can be a dynamic and positive color, it may not always be appropriate for highly formal or conservative environments...  

It can also signal caution, so use it wisely!

Depending on the hue or shade, orange will show people different things.

Wear a bright hued orange to get attention, signal a bit of danger and prompt yourself to having more energy.

Wear a more muted tone to feel balanced and centered.

Wear a darker shade to symbolize family, home and a sense of familiarity.

 

Want to discover the color that will work best for YOU? Take my 2 minute Signature Color Quiz - I'll analyze which primary communication color aligns the strongest with you so that you can start implementing it into your life + wardrobe to support your goals!!

Yellows: Optimism and Positivity

When we think of yellow, we often think of the sun or daffodils. And, of course, there's a reason we have those associations.

Yellow is often associated with energy that radiates optimism and positivity - it lies right in the center of the visible light spectrum, so it's one of the colors we see the most throughout our waking hours.

What is even more interesting to me is the effect if has on our nervous system.

Yellow is the only color that causes peak excitement when our eyes see it - meaning that our rods and cones are doing a lot of work looking at this color.

Charles Klotshe in Color Medicine says that this color actually stimulates the pumping of our lymph glands, which is fascinating since the only other way to pump them is through physical movement. What incredible proof that color can cause a physical reaction. 

Because of this, yellow is the strongest psychological primary color and a key color in communication!

This is why most dangerous insects contain yellow - we see it as a potential thread and avoid at all costs.

Which is also why we have yellow signs to signal "caution".

Yellow has also been linked to enlightenment, intelligence, and gods throughout history. 

  • In ancient Egypt, yellow was associated with the sun god Ra and used to paint women's faces in tombs as it closely resembled gold
  • Yellow journalism was coined due to a type rarely based on facts but often attention-grabbing, exaggerated, or full of outlandish claims
  • Yellow is chosen for most emergency vehicles in some regard as it's the color with the highest visibility

It has always been a color that captures attention and lifts spirits. 

It's an excellent choice for you if you want to break up the monotony in your life.

If you want to up the energy and bring a sense of joy or increased focus.

Let's face it - We all go through periods in life where every day gets boring and makes us feel lackluster.

Most of us are sitting and working 8-10 hours a day in a gray room, with gray dividers, staring at our gray computer screens.

This is where wearing yellow can instantly brighten up not only your appearance and mood but can quite literally spring you back to life. 

Whether it's a subtle pop of yellow on your bookshelf or a vibrant yellow dress, this color can create a sense of approachability and friendliness.

It is inviting, welcoming and can’t be ignored!

However, using yellow strategically is essential, as excessive use might be a little too overwhelming for not only you, but others as well. It's important to note that this color can be stress-causing for anyone with neurodivergence, so use sparingly.

By far, clients that implement yellow in their wardrobes and brands see the biggest difference the fastest.

Whether it's sales, growing a social following rapidly or getting attention - yellow is the easiest way to do so!

Not all of us, however, look the best in yellow.

Remember that you can find options that are bright, more muted and even deeper to work with your natural skin tone.

After all, it doesn't have to be a shirt. It can be socks, a wallet or even a scarf to bring that pop of joy into your life.

Blues: Trust and Tranquility

Ah! Blue – the world’s favorite color!

No, really! And that’s probably because it’s all around us most of the year in the sky and, like me, if you live by the water.

Blue, often associated with the sky and ocean, exudes a sense of calm and tranquility.

It is also probably one of the most used colors in homes now-a-days.

But did you know that the “meaning” of this color changes in our spoken language? 

Think of the hit song ‘Blue Christmas’ - the thought of “feeling blue” aka sad, which is wildly different from what the color itself invokes in us.

This is a reason the color centers around the mind. It is known to symbolize trust, loyalty, and wisdom.

Why we often see blues in country flags and marketing.

  • Funny enough, did you know that Blue was the first artificial pigment ever created?
  • It was called Egyptian Blue and was created around 2200 B.C. 
  • Rumor even has it that Cleopatra used powdered lapis lazuli (a beautiful deep shade of blue) as eyeshadow. 
  • In ancient times, blue pigments were highly prized due to their scarcity, making blue garments a symbol of wealth and status.

Today, 75% of people around us on the street are wearing some shade of blue! Navy is actually one of the most popular colors worldwide.

Blue has become a universally loved color because of its calming effect. 

Wearing blue can be soothing to both the wearer and those around them.

It's ideal for situations where you want to exude professionalism and create a sense of trust, clarity and logic.

(Remember in the movie Divergent where the faction Erudite all wore blue? This symbolized their mental focus and intelligence.)

 Just walk around NYC during the work week and you will literally see blue suits, dresses, pants and blouses EVERYWHERE!

This is why it is such a wonderful choice to wear for most job interviews, important meetings or international dealings.

This color is perfect for creating a sense of approachability and reliability, while also helping someone trust you and your ideas.

Personally, I wear blue whenever I speak publicly.

Usually, color psychology is a newer concept, so it's important to ease people into learning before they even realize it!

I use a brighter, deeper blue to convey approachability and introduce color in a way that the audience feels like it's actually their idea. It always goes over beautifully!

  

Greens: Harmony and Growth

Trees…Plants…your favorite coffee shop...

I don't think there is a color I would want more in my environment than the color green. 

We often associate this color with nature and renewal. It makes us feel good, grounded and even safe.

It may be because it's the most relaxed the eye is when looking at any color. Everything equalizes into a type of homeostasis.

 It has also been linked to balance and health; in some cultures, it symbolizes luck and fertility. Hello, Luck of the Irish!

  • In ancient times, green was associated with fertility deities and life's rebirth.
  • In the post-modern era, in Europe, green was most commonly associated with wealth, merchants, and bankers (as opposed to red, which was reserved for royals at the time)
  • This is why the Mona Lisa is dressed wearing a green outfit

Knowing this small piece of information can give a whole new context to one of the most famous paintings in history and throughout the world.

It's a beautiful choice for conveying a sense of balance and calm.

Wearing green can also evoke feelings of tranquility and relaxation, just like being out in nature!

I think green is an excellent choice for situations where you want to recreate this feeling of being peaceful and having an approachable atmosphere to those around you. 

It would be a great choice to wear in situations you know are going to be stressful or chaotic. Wearing this can convey to others that you are a safe, peaceful place. 

This color is so adaptable as well! It’s various styles and occasions, from deep forest greens to vibrant emeralds, allow you to have fun and play with the shades!

Incorporating green into your wardrobe can be particularly effective when you want to evoke a sense of renewal or connection with others because it can convey your openness to change and your ability to adapt and thrive in a new environment!

I suggest considering green for an important meeting where you are giving strategies for company or personnel growth. It would be an excellent choice to subconsciously let your interviewer know you can adapt quickly and effectively within their company or that you are ready to take the next step.

Wearing green symbolizes approachability, a strong sense of self-identity and a conscious spirit.

Green is often associated with a balance between logic (represented by blue) and emotion (represented by yellow). 

Therefore, it can suggest that you are capable of making thoughtful, well-balanced decisions.

Green can be an excellent choice for creating a calming and positive impression, especially in settings where balance, well-being, and environmental consciousness are valued!

However, as with any color, it's important to consider the expectations of the environment to ensure that green aligns with it.

Wearing green in environments where this isn’t the case can have the complete opposite effect!

Two words…

WICKED WITCH!

Purples: Creativity and Royalty

Purple is the color of connection and spirituality. 

Purple is often associated with luxury, and creativity has a rich history of being associated with royalty and power.

Got a meeting with new people you've never met? How about a family gathering coming up? 

Well, purple is the color I might recommend for you. 

Purple is created by combining red and blue. 

So, remember back to the other colors we've talked about. Blue is the mental and psychological primary, while red is the physical. 

Red brings in that power, energy, and strength. While blue brings in integrity, truth, and reasoning.

 Thus, connecting both the physical and mental is why sometimes this color can come across as mystical or spiritual to those around us.

It is a strong, spiritually authoritative color. 

  • In ancient Rome, purple garments were reserved for emperors and magistrates only due to the rarity and cost of the dye
  • Tyrian purple was outlawed for commoners to wear - to the punishment of death
  • Purple in film is always used to symbolize a character's upcoming transformational journey

In today’s world - Purple is a color that still has individuality. 

It's a unique choice that can set you apart in a crowd.

Wearing purple can make a bold statement and express your artistic side.

From deep eggplant shades to lighter lavender tones, there's a wide range of options to choose from.

Purple can be a powerful color for asserting individuality and demonstrating a creative spirit.

This is a key color in anyone's wardrobe because we all have and need relationships and connections in our daily lives.

 

Pinks: Comfort + Playfulness

Pink is a color that has gone through the most transformation over time.

  • Once reserved for young boys due to it's creation coming from a dilution of red, it was switched to girls after WWII due to a department store mix up! 
  • Today, is often associated with romance and Valentine’s Day. This color is a significant color and is often worn for Hindu Weddings. 

It can convey a sense of empathy, compassion, and safety. 

When you wear pink, it suggests that you are approachable, caring and sensitive to the needs of others.

  • In France, the academic dress of Medicine and Health for graduates is redcurrant, a red shade of pink.

This is no surprise when you consider that wearing pink can have a calming and soothing effect, while also signaling that you are easy to work with and can handle challenging situations with grace. 

It also suggests optimism and a cheerful disposition.

When you wear pink, it signals that you approach challenges with a caring attitude.

This is a great color to wear if you are looking to bring more softness into your life or a little more “pep to your step” as they say.

This is also a great color to consider if you want to smooth the rough edges of your personal communication in a calming and supportive way.

There is even a fascinating study showing how it can affect moods and behaviors.

  • In the 1970s, Alexander G. Schauss showed that fifteen minutes of Baker-Miller Pink (Hex code #FF91AF) exposure reduced aggression in the detainees for up to thirty minutes after leaving the room! 

"Even if a person tries to be angry or aggressive in the presence of pink, he can't," says Schauss. "The heart muscles can't race fast enough. It's a tranquil color that saps your energy."

However, when they painted the entire prison pink, it skyrocketed aggression! Why? I think it's because - as we know - pink is made of red.

Where pink can keep things calm for 30 minute increments, prolonged exposure will bring out the "red" in us all.

I recently was consulted by a dessert company, The Knotts Churros, in the United Kingdom - who wanted to prove that pink makes people want to have dessert. The company coined it "Dopamine Dining". They polled over 2,000 Britts, where 76 per cent of people reported a significant energy boost if a restaurant used a pink color palate, than those that didn’t.

With that in mind, we can see how pink can make people want to relax, indulge and feel more youthful.

This is knowledge worth using in our wardrobe - to bring a more relaxed environment to a stressful situation or even a stressful space.

Pink can also be a suitable choice for friend dates or occasions where you want to convey feelings of affection and warmth.

When incorporating pink into your wardrobe, consider the message you want to convey!

Lighter shades of pink can be seen as more nurturing and approachable.

While brighter pinks might suggest enthusiasm and vitality. 

Your choice of pink should align with your style and the environment's expectations, whether in a professional setting or a casual gathering.

 

Magentas: Boldness + Revolution

Magenta is a vibrant and distinct color that falls between the red and purple spectrum. 

Magenta is a bold, polarizing color.

It is 100% an attention-grabbing color, often associated with confidence and a willingness to stand out.

If this is your color - you are a spit fire of a human! 

Wearing magenta can convey a sense of self-assuredness and a desire to make a statement.

Magenta is a unique and unconventional color choice.  Choosing magenta for your wardrobe can signal that you are polarizing, different and want the world to change.

Like its close relative, red, magenta can also evoke feelings of energy and passion.

It is a color that suggests enthusiasm - a zest for life. 

It can be a great choice when you want to project energy and excitement.

It can be a great choice for informal or creative settings where a more rebellious and adventurous approach is welcome.

It combines the passion of red with the connectedness of purple, making it a versatile choice for a variety of situations.

  • In Indonesia, the Marine Corps has magenta colored beret's
  • Pope Francis has been named "The Magenta Catholic", due to his more liberal Catholic leanings, desire for inclusive, decentralized Church and focus on environmentalism.
  • In Northern India, the Gulabi Gang, is a womens movement formed in 2006 aimed to reduce female oppression. They dress entirely in magenta!

When wearing magenta, it's important to consider the context and your personal style. 

Magenta can be a powerful and impactful color, but it may not be appropriate for all situations. 

It's essential to strike a balance between expressing your individuality and adhering to the expectations of the environment, such as a workplace or formal event.

Magenta is a color that exudes confidence and assertiveness.

It is the color of revolution.

It's a shade that suggests you are comfortable in your own skin and not afraid to stand out. 

Wearing magenta can send a clear message that you are self-assured and ready to take on challenges.

Magenta shares some characteristics with its close cousin, red, particularly in terms of conveying passion and energy. 

It's a color that can make you appear dynamic and enthusiastic. 

Magenta is not a color you see every day, which makes it a symbol of uniqueness and individuality.

By incorporating magenta into your wardrobe, you signal that you're not afraid to be different and that you embrace your distinct personality.

While it can be a fantastic color for making a memorable impression in creative industries or informal settings, it may not always be the best choice for conservative or highly formal environments. 

Balancing your personal style with the expectations of the situation is key to effectively using magenta in your wardrobe.

 

Conclusion

In the world of fashion, colors are not just arbitrary choices; they are powerful tools for self-expression and communication.

The psychology of color reveals that different hues can evoke specific emotions and perceptions that evolve over time.

Each color carries a unique story and impact, from the passionate reds to the calming blues and stimulating yellows.

The historical insights and science behind these colors shed light on the intricate interplay between color, psychology, and personal style.

So, the next time you stand in front of your wardrobe, remember that your choice of color goes beyond fashion—it's a statement of how you want to feel and how you want the world to perceive you.

And there is always more to learn in the world of color!!

Drop below the color that surprised you the most that you might start including in your wardrobe!

 

 

 

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