Loving Color - the most! : It's So You!

Loving Color - the most!

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 04/28/16

Not to state the obvious or anything, but a rather famous writer* once said that  “The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”

And,  I would like to add, in my travels among the women I serve, the number one most requested topic to cover in my services is color.

(Yes, there are some very pure and thoughtful minds out there.)

In celebration of the cherry blossoms near my home here in Virginia, the geraniums  growing in the planters along the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, the water gardens in Naples Florida, and the wonderful work at New York's Museum of Modern Art (all of which I experienced within about a week's time), I would like to explore the gift of color in our world and in fashion.

Beginning with an info-graph on the topic:

The Psychology of Color

Color is often the first thing we notice about an object, a scene, or an outfit somebody's wearing. We can also detect an awful lot of variations of color - some experts claim 6 million variants of hues, tints, and shades - and experience physical and emotional reactions to them.

Pop science aside, we humans really do have some interesting interactions with color. For example, we see yellow before any other color and if we see it for too long, it actually tires our eyes, and, in turn, causes a sort of adverse emotional reaction as well. That kind of says something about adopting yellow as a go-to color. (Just don't.)

Orange is similar. It's quite noticeable and it's why it works as a "new black" among the prison population, as background in road signage, and for bird plumage in the natural world. Orange also seems to indicate friendliness and cheer and, in the world of fashion, playfulness and whim.

Red is part of this club of "hot colors" and it's loaded with meaning: love, passion, daring, and luck. During most fashion seasons, red can work as a stand-out, forward-leaning fashion color.

Blue, like the sea, the sky, or the hue of atmospheric perspective in art, is calming, reliable, and honest. It is a fabulous fashion color because just about anyone can find a blue hue that works gloriously against her skin tone.

Green has been shown to have a calming, almost pain-killing effect, and, while most people really don't look great in most hues of green, it's found all over in nature. It's come to represent health, healing, and the natural world, but also, a bit ironically, sickness, infection, and envy.

Combining Color

Generally, Westerners combine color using certain rules: Black and white; but rarely black and brown. Blue and red; but almost never blue and purple. Now, those patterns have been stirred into a more global understanding of color. Some older color theory labels nicely organize these new ideas:

Analogous Color Schemes - Colors which are adjacent to one another on the color wheel are used in a single ensemble. For example:

(athomeinlove.com; very sweet blog)
 Or, as a print in fabric:

And Complementary Color Schemes - Colors which are opposite to one another on the color wheel are used in a single ensemble. This time:


This ain't your Grandma's closet.
Or, is it?
In Western Fashion history, there have been times when these schemes were perfectly acceptable.


By the late 80s, it all had been squashed out.

And I don't have to tell you about the nineties.

Of course, color is always in style. (Maybe not so much in this way!)

(I'm sure these nice people have moved on from this.)

But now! Newer and more sophisticated possibilities for color combination is appreciated and celebrated in our fashions even (sometimes) for professional wear.


But there's plenty of room for all neutral ensembles too.


So, what gives? Is it a new age of anything goes?

Not really. As with all other ages in fashion, the context must be considered before the color combination is determined.

Here are the basic three contexts and the "rules."

1. Executive work wear / Business in more conservative industries (Dress takes its lead from menswear)

  • Neutrals (Black, brown, gray, navy) can be paired with a lighter neutral (white, cream, light gray) or an accent color such as red, white, beige, pink, or a light green. 
  • Avoid large swaths of purple, pink, yellow, bright green or orange.
  • Avoid loud prints.


2. Business Casual / Business in creative industries
  • All of the above is certainly acceptable but ensembles must be injected with interest such as, for example, a tasteful print, unique accessory, or statement making bag or footwear.
  • Swaths of any other color or any analogous or complementary combination is perfectly appropriate, but the ensemble must be finished with quality materials and with work appropriate structure. (In other words, shirts and blouses but not t shirts; Trousers, leggings, skirts and dresses but not athletic apparel or underwear)


(For the record, I'd go a little lower on the heels.)

3. Personal Casual / Not work related
  • Any color combination is appropriate but only if one "wears it like she means it." (This means that she must have the fashion personality to pull off the less traditional color combinations.)



  • Athletic apparel should be worn only during athletic activity and underwear should not be adopted as "personal casual fashion" as a rule.
But when appropriate, these can be colorful too!

Next Post: How to find your best colors!

* That writer would be John Ruskin in his famous The Stones of Venice of course.

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ISYFashion no longer accepts clients for personal wardrobe design services. For information on what Mary's been up to, visit www.marysheehanwarren.com