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How to bring joy to your wardrobe by wearing more colour

18 March 2020

We talk to four vibrant women about how they’ve brightened up their life with colour… and why you should too.

New Zealanders are famous for commitment to black – not to mention grey, navy and beige – and though dark or neutral colours can be an easy default (and a chic one) wearing colour can be life-changing; impacting your mood, appearance and social interactions.

Culturally and psychologically we’ve long attached colour to emotion; red is aligned with intense feelings like anger and passion, blue can be sad or peaceful, green represents envy, growth and wealth, while yellow is inarguably cheerful.

“Colours have a huge impact on our moods.”

“Colours have a huge impact on our moods,” explains The Edge radio announcer Megan Annear. “Just think about how you feel when you close your eyes and picture the blue ocean on a sunnyn day, or a lush green forest with sunlight pouring in compared to an overcast cloudy day in a carpark.”

While there are collective feelings around colour – blue, for instance, has been found to be universally liked – colour association is inherently sentimental, making our choices deeply personal. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that wearing a cheerful outfit might elicit a compliment from a stranger.

“I like that colour surprises people, and people engage with you more – that brings happiness.”

Such interactions are familiar to publisher Sarah Henry, who regularly dons a statement suit, and finds it has a noticeable impact on those around her. “Other people comment when I’m wearing colour (nine times out of 10 it’s positive). People notice you,” she reveals, adding that she finds these interactions incredibly rewarding. “I like that colour surprises people, and people engage with you more – that brings happiness.”

Colour can influence your own headspace too, according to Kylie Cooke. The stylist and costume designer is known for her vibrant wardrobe. “I’ve been a colour blocker from day dot,” she admits. “It’s what I’m naturally attracted to and feel most at home in.” She believes colour is good for your soul, providing power and motivation. “It can brighten not only your day but those around you.”

It can also work wonders in improving our appearance and complexion, as Megan has discovered. “Colour makes me look my best,” she says. “It brings out the warmth in my face and hair and allows me to show my personality more.”

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“It can brighten not only your day but those around you.”

For Sarah, colour has power in the workplace. “I used to not like pink (it was a hangover from childhood) but it came back into my life in a big way as a professional colour when I was editing Woman’s Day.” Pink is now one of her signature hues.

Bold colours can be daunting for some, and deciphering which hues suit you may feel overwhelming. Sometimes it pays to turn to an expert for guidance.

Professional colour consultant and director of Colour Me Beautiful NZ, Trudy Van Zyl helps people create a cohesive, flattering wardrobe. She first learnt about which tones to wear when she had her own colours done.

The practice of colour analysis or ‘doing your colours’ was exceptionally popular in the ’80s.

The practice of colour analysis or ‘doing your colours’ was exceptionally popular in the ’80s, and is still relevant today. It draws from colour philosophy explored by Swiss artist Johannes Itten in the ’60s. Methods of colour analysis can utilise seasons or temperature as classification. The seasonal approach uses a person’s complexion, hair and eyes to determine what colours of clothing and makeup will suit them. Different complexions fall into different tonal seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter.

Venturing outside of your seasonal palette can have a negative effect on your appearance. “Wearing colour that isn’t in your colour family will just look wrong,” Trudy explains. “You will look sallow and drawn.”

To know instantly if a colour is ‘right’ or not, Megan recommends a simple trick. “If you are trying something on in a dressing room, it’s a pretty instant tell for you to hold a dress up against your face and see if it makes you look washed out and ill compared to rosy and glowing.”

Trudy advises bringing your personal colours into your wardrobe – such as the hues in your hair, eyes and blush.

Trudy advises bringing your personal colours into your wardrobe – such as the hues in your hair, eyes and blush. “They will be your most flattering [colours] and bring harmony to your look; enabling you to build a working wardrobe that suits you and helps you feel your best.”

As a longtime wearer of colour, Kylie recommends being tactical. “If you’re new to the game, start with a neutral and add a pop of colour – or keep it low and loud with something bright on your feet. Sometimes all you need is a splash of colour.” It’s a strategy that Sarah supports too. “Begin by adding a bit of colour to black outfits, that’s easy; you’d be surprised how many things you own go with colour.”

For Megan, though her colourful approach to fashion has garnered a large online following, her personal style wasn’t always so vibrant. “I used to have an all-black wardrobe and it was like pulling teeth to get me to wear anything else,” she confesses. “But over time I ventured out of my comfort zone, from black to a deep navy blue. I didn’t buy a fluorescent yellow dress right away.”

Megan advises taking your colour journey slow, and exploring patterns.

For those wanting to integrate a wider range of hues into their wardrobe, Megan advises taking your colour journey slow, and exploring patterns. “Try a print with a black background and a coloured pattern that feels a little closer to home.” She also recommends using makeup to discover which tones complement your complexion. “Do you like wearing pink or red lipstick? Or rust colours on your eyes because they pop? That can sometimes be a good place to start, exploring what you like and what suits you.”

Once you’ve ‘found your colours’ it’s vital to keep experimenting. “Our personal colouring changes as we mature,” Trudy explains. “What was right 10 years ago may not be right now.” Fashion too, she notes, continues to evolve.

Wearing colour helps you embrace life and emotion, making everything more vibrant – as artist David Hockney so aptly put it, “I prefer living in colour.”

Shop our colour season finds below.

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