There has been a fair amount of research regarding the psychology of colour. While many people may not be very familiar with its use to create a certain impression, we are all familiar with concepts such as ‘hospital green’ or baddies wearing black.
You can influence how people relate to you by wearing particular colours. You can dress to create a particular impression, depending on who you are meeting.
Explanation of terms
The tones of colours are classified into warm or cool and clear or muted. A colour can sit in any category, according to its tone. So, a warm pink is a peachy pink and a cool pink would be a purplish pink. A warm green would be a yellowish green and a cool green would be more blue. Clear is the brightness of the colour, such as emerald green (clear) versus olive green (muted). Earth tones are the browns and soft greens of nature.
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yellows, oranges, browns, yellowish greens and orangey reds
blues, greens, pinks, purples, blue-greens and magentas
Warm and clear
bright, fresh colours, such as peach, coral, yellow, spring green, lime, salmon, golden yellow, golden brown, turquoise and bright blues
pastels, pale pink, lavender, pale yellow, light blue, navy, dark blue and rose-brown
Warm and muted
earthy rich tones, such as camel, beige, orange, gold, darker reds, olive, ivory, caramel and all brown colours
Cool and clear
true white, true black, cool greys, bright pink, jewel tones like emerald, royal red, royal purple and icy pastels, white, black and navy blue
How to use colour in your clothing
The first thing to remember is how you look and feel in the clothes! Don’t go and buy a brown suit if it makes you feel drab! Some colours make you look healthy; others make you look pale and ill. If you want to add a colour to create an impression, you can do it in small doses, such as a tie or a blouse.
These are the impressions colours can create:
Approachable and friendly
To appear approachable and friendly, wear clear earth tones, light yellow and clear colours in warmer hues. The clear earth tones, such as beige, camel and tan, are warm, friendly and approachable. Yellow is a happy, sociable colour, but in brighter hues, can demand attention. Clear warm colours (such as coral, sunflower yellow, peach) are non-threatening and open, particularly if they are light.
To give an impression of seniority and someone in a position to make decisions, wear dark colours, in particular black, charcoal, medium to dark gray, midnight-blue, navy, dark blue. The darker the shade, the more powerful and intimidating the effect.
To have a look of success, wear rich but subtle sophisticated colours such as camel, butternut, burgundy, salmon and blue-gray. These will help create an impression of prosperity and economic success.
To inspire trust, wear clear earthy colours combined with navy or medium blue. The
clear earth tones appear warm, open and down-to-earth giving the impression of dependability and credibility. Navy and medium blue suggest reliability and professionalism.
Creative and forward-thinking
To appear creative, wear strong clear colours, especially purple. Purple is associated with originality and strong clear colours are expressive, extroverted and positive.
Calm and reassuring
To create an impression of calm and reassurance, wear pastels and green. Pastels seem quiet and diplomatic, calmly deflecting criticism. Green gives the impression of peacefulness and orderliness.