Today, I’m tackling some of the most common questions and obstacles I hear around bringing the right colors into your wardrobe. We’ll be talking about how much your hair color affects which colors look best on you, what to do when you love a color but it doesn’t love you back, how to start branching out if you’re stuck in a color rut, surprising revelations about how our brains process color, and so much more!
Let’s review 7 things you need to know about color –that no one ever taught you.
1. You likely have a good, innate sense of what works for you.
I want to encourage you to trust your instincts when it comes to color. You don’t need to be a color specialist to know when a color makes you look washed out or tired or older. And you don’t need to be an expert to know when a color lights you up or gets you tons of compliments or works well with your complexion. If you feel good and confident in a color, then that’s the most important thing. You’re on the right track.
2. You can’t remember an exact color when you’re not looking directly at it.
There was a really cool study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, where a researcher from Johns Hopkins University found that while we can see millions of colors, our brains store them as basic, general hues. So when we try to remember a specific color, we err on the side of the basic versions that our individual brains prefer. We unconsciously simplify each color we see with a more limited, language-driven category. So, I’ll give you an example, a very specific teal might be remembered in your brain as more ‘blue’ or more ‘green’. Coral could be labeled as more ‘pink’ or more ‘orange’. But you’ll have a hard time picking out the exact hue without seeing it again.
So yes, even as a 2X Certified Color Specialist, you can bet I’m not going shopping without having my personal color palette ready to reference!
3. The colors you wear tell a visual story about who you are.
Not only do you want to think about what compliments your complexion or looks good with your hair color, but think about what lines up with your personality, too.
Are you outgoing and creative? Then you might want to bring in some brighter pops of color.
Are you more type-A and reserved? If so, you could be better-suited to neutrals or rich jewel tones.
Your personality is more important than you might think when it comes to choosing the colors in your wardrobe. Because while you obviously want to wear colors that flatter your physical beauty, you also want to represent who you are through the colors you wear. You want your wardrobe to feel like you.
4. Color psychology is both universal AND personal.
We’ve talked about how color tells a story and the biggest contributor to that is basic color psychology. You might know that red represents power and passion, blue is an honest and calming color, yellow is joyful and energizing. All of these statements are universal, which means as a whole, people agree on these emotional responses to color. But that’s not always the case.
I can tell you that the color brown stands for reliability and warmth. But if you hate the color brown, you might associate it with dirt or worse, and feel more sick than secure when you see it.
So while I can explain the basics of color psychology and provide you with a handy reference to help you remember that blue-green signifies balance and lavender is a compassionate choice, we can never fully predict how people will respond to the colors we wear.
Different cultures can assign different meanings to color. For example, in some cultures white is equated with purity, while in others it represents death. That’s a pretty different psychological response, am I right?
And this is why, before I start designing a personal color palette for a client, I always ask if there are any colors she’d rather me NOT include. Because I know if you have an aversion to a particular color, you’re not going to wear it.
But because we know that between 62 and 90% of someone’s first reaction to you –or a product or an environment– is based on color alone, we can use color psychology on occasion as a best practice to get the response we want. Remember, it’s not a guarantee, but it can make a big difference. This is infinitely more important if you are presenting yourself in a professional situation or maybe even on the dating scene and trying to create a specific image or end result through the way you show up.
5. Personal color psychology is an even more powerful approach
Personal colors are based on your innate color characteristics. They include your skin tone, your hair and eye colors, your natural blush pigment, and of course, your overall color qualities like the temperature and intensity of your coloring.
There’s a laundry list of benefits to knowing and incorporating your personal colors into your wardrobe. The most game-changing is that your personal colors work to bring out your best, making you look more refreshed, attractive, powerful, youthful, and confident ─effortlessly.
And you can also wear your personal colors to create a unique psychological effect just like general color psychology! You can think of them as your secret color arsenal, my friend. While I can’t share all of them with you, because they’re called personal for a reason, meaning they’re a little bit different for everyone, I can give you a few quick and simple ones to start.
➤ Wearing your hair color, especially on the lower half of your body like with a pair of pants or your shoes, will give you a down-to-earth and grounded look.
➤ Your eye color, particularly when it’s close to your face, like in a necklace or a jacket, gives the impression of credibility and trustworthiness.
➤ Your natural blush color gives you a romantic and attractive quality, so it’s a perfect choice to wear for a first date.
You can also go back to episode #19 of HER Style Podcast where I shared 5 Colors You Need to Start Wearing Now and, in that episode, I talk a lot more about personal color psychology. So that’s another good jumping off point if you want to go deeper!
6. Your hair color greatly impacts your best colors
If you’ve experimented a lot with your hair color over the years, you’ve likely already noticed this fact. The concern with making drastic changes to your hair color is that it can affect quite a few factors including the contrast, temperature, and intensity of the colors that flatter you.
Going from a cool ash brown to a warm honey blonde can completely alter the colors I would recommend for you. And just like I experienced when I took my hair a fraction of a tint from jet black, when you take your hair from dark to light or light to dark, it affects the contrast levels (or difference in darkness to lightness) of the best outfit combinations for you.
Because remember, the key to great style is about bringing out the best in your innate beauty. You want to work with what you’ve got!
Now, another thing to keep in mind is that you may not electively change your hair color. Our coloring softens with age. So if you’re getting more mature, like myself, you might be finding more and more gray hairs popping up. And I mean literally popping up, because those suckers stick straight up, don’t they?
But whether you dye your hair or not, you’ll find that your hair color is going to naturally transition and lighten up as you age. So it is important to revisit your best colors from time to time for this very reason. I usually recommend that my clients have me refresh their palettes every decade or so.
And if you are someone who likes to switch up your hair color, it’s not a problem! What I would suggest is that you stick with colors that are in harmony with your personal color palette.
Play! Have fun with your hair color! Experiment if you want to! Just remember that you might need to switch up your wardrobe from time to time if you want to keep everything working flawlessly together. And you might want to ask yourself if that’s something you’re willing to do.
7. You can wear ANY color with confidence.
Yes, you read that right. I said ANY color!
My favorite hue in the whole wide world is sunny yellow. But, let me tell you, friend, sunny yellow does NOT love me back. I don’t look good in it.
So when I want to add my favorite color into my wardrobe, here’s what I do. There are two tricks to this.
First, find the best variation of that color for you.
I can’t pull off a bright, canary yellow with ease, but I do look nice in a buttery champagne hue. So when I want a big splash of yellow, I’ll opt for a pastel yellow dress or top to satisfy that color craving.
The second way to wear any color you want is by using the right amount and placement of that color in your outfit.
I wrote a whole separate article with lots of amazing visual examples of how to do this. It’s called 7 Ways To Wear ANY Color You Want With Confidence and you can find it by clicking on that link.
I hope this has been so eye-opening and fun for you to read today!
Of course, if you want to eliminate all the guesswork and get even more personalized recommendations, I’ve talked a ton about my Personal Color Palette service. It’s my absolute favorite thing to do, because I’ve seen the instant impact it makes on my clients’ confidence around shopping, getting dressed, and showing up at their best. I would love to give this gift to you, too. So if you want more details or know this is your next wardrobe investment, you can head right here to get started.