What the Color of Your Outfit Right Now Says About You
It doesn't take Miranda Priestly to know that the fashion we choose to wear each day does say something about us. What we wear isn't just an accidental necessity, nor is it random circumstance. It's a form of expression, regardless of whether we intend it to be. Even clothes that we don't deliberately put thought into send a message about who we are and how we fit into the world. But what exactly do they say?
As it turns out, they communicate a lot more than we'd think. Even the mere color of what we choose to wear in the mornings while getting dressed has psychological implications beyond the surface level, and Angela Wright, color psychology expert and author of The Beginner's Guide to Color Psychology, is here to break it down.
Wright specializes in color psychology, the study of how color influences mood and behavior, and she spoke to InStyle to set the record straight about the link between wardrobe tones and overall state of mind and feeling. If you find yourself reaching for a specific color more often than others—such as the color you're wearing right this second—read on to find out what it says about your personality.
Who knows, you might just have an eye for fashion straight out of The Devil Wears Prada after all.
If you're wearing red
Stereotypically, red is seen as a bold and powerful color, and when it comes to color psychology, it falls along a similar line. If you're wearing red, you might expect it to have unconscious psychological effects on you. Allow Wright to explain.
"Red is physical, [seeing it] acts on you physically. It raises your pulse rate and your blood pressure. It creates the impression that time is passing faster than it is ... That universal stimulus applies to everybody across the whole world," she said.
"But if it's the wrong red, for instance if you put a warm red with black, they won't really work together. So the red, this stimulus, is going to come across as aggressive and demanding, rather than the potential it had initially for being exhilarating and exciting."
If you're wearing orange
Orange is a unique color, but there's a reason why people don't reach for it with the same frequency as a black or gray.
"Orange is all about the secondary survival, food, warmth, shelter, physical comfort, sensuality, spontaneity. A lot of people don't like it because it's a bit scary. It's a very sexy color, sensual, but negatively, it doesn't have any thought. It can be very thoughtless and heedless and immature, and just generally unthinking and irresponsible," Wright said.
But just how can orange reflect your unconscious mood? Wright has seen an example firsthand.
"I had a client came one day some years ago, and she she moved to England from South Africa about six months earlier. She said, 'I don't understand why, but since I came to England, I'm absolutely addicted to orange.' She wanted to wear orange all the time and never wore it at home. And I asked, 'Where did you live in South Africa before you left to come to England? Were you living independently? Did you live at home with your parents?' She said, 'I was living at home with my parents, this is the first time I've left home.' Well, there's your answer. You have to worry consciously or unconsciously that you might not be able to keep a roof over your head or feed yourself. And she said, 'Oh my god that's exactly how I feel about it.' So she chose to wear orange."
If you're wearing yellow
It might seem like yellow is the color of happiness, sunshine, and cheery moods, and while that is partially true, Wright explained that there is a non-literal "dark side" to the wrong tone of yellow.
"Yellow is all about the emotions and the ego, self-confidence and positivity, encouraging optimism and the sun, all that lovely positive energy of sunlight and springtime and tra la la. But if you've got a really bright yellow, and it's all wrong for you ... then the yellow will have a different effect. It can actually compromise your self-confidence and undercut it to the point where it creates anxiety and fear. People call somebody 'yellow' when they mean they have no courage. They're cowards. Well that's the negative side of yellow, because ... it has to do with fear and anxiety, the opposite of self confidence and optimism."
If you're wearing green
The way colors reflect and shape our moods can be easily evidenced in green, which has both a large basis in nature and ties to financial safety.
"Green creates the essential balance between the mind, the body, and the emotions. So it's the most restful color to look at," Wright said. "You don't have to adapt to it, because it's quite restful. It's also very reassuring because when the world around you contains plenty of green, this indicates the presence of water and healthy vegetation, and you're not going to starve. So that is probably the reasoning behind it being the color of money, because it's reassuring."
If you're wearing blue
Unlike orange, blue tends to be a more "thoughtful" color, according to Wright, so if you reach for it, you might be taking an authoritative approach to your day.
"Now blue is the color that activates thought, it's the color of thinking and intellectual activity. It communicates that you know what you're talking about, you know what you're doing, and you're efficient because you've thought things through. It hasn't just bounced off the top of your head. And so it's the number one color of authority. Dark blue is a very authoritative color," she said.
"It communicates that you know what you're doing, you're efficient and thoughtful, and if they add a little black to make it darker, that makes you a bit heavier, so it adds gravitas. That's all very positive, this reliability and efficiency and thought, but if you get the wrong blue and too much of it, the problem is it becomes too bureaucratic. No emotion, no feelings."
If you're wearing pink
It's not a surprise that pink is associated with romance, because psychologically, that holds true.
"If you dress from head to foot in pink, and it would depend on what kind of pink in relation to your physical make up, but if it was a pink that suited you, you might be in the mood for love. But if you chose to wear pink that really didn't work for you by clashing with your complexion, this would suggest that somebody was threatening your femininity, and you were very cross about that," Wright said.
"If it's a good pink, you're focusing on your femininity and the survival of the species, nurturing, that kind of thing. A good pink is one that works with you naturally, most noticeably in your complexion, but also in your eyes, your personality, and your body shape."
If you're wearing white
It might seem like white would signify clarity or cleanliness, but it's actually more of a barrier in color psychology, according to Wright.
"White is the opposite of black insofar as it's all colors totally reflected. So it's putting up barriers in a different sort of way. You know when somebody puts their hands up with the palms facing you, and says 'Don't touch me, don't come any closer?' That's what white is doing. It's creating different barriers. It's also, not really color psychology but it's practicality that if a white garment is less than pristine, it's going to show immediately. So [white] has strong associations with cleanliness and hygiene," Wright said.
"Positively, it's very pure and virtuous, and quite strong, but negatively, it's got no particular emotion. It's certainly not a friendly color. But if you want to communicate with somebody, like if you're writing to someone and you don't want to upset them, you don't want to evoke any emotional response, do it in black and white. Don't put any color in there. Just black and white."
If you're wearing gray
Like white, gray can have somewhat negative implications, especially when it comes to how you feel unconsciously. It might even be the reason for drowsiness in the workplace if there's too much of it.
"So when the environment around it is gray, the human instinct is to hibernate, but the moment where the world is in the grip of austerity and gray is the color of austerity. So the retailers of the fashion world are all big on gray, and have been for 10 years. It's actually probably the most negative color to adopt, because it's not going to make us feel any better anytime soon. In the offices and workplaces in England anyway, gray is very popular. And the problem is the staff unconsciously fighting the natural instinct to go to sleep to hibernate all day at work."
If you're wearing black
Black is such a go-to staple, and it doesn't require a lot of thought or energy to put together a chic black look. It makes it all the more unfortunate, then, that the color psychology surrounding black isn't exactly positive.
"If you dressed yourself head to foot in black, I'd worry about you really, because you would be adopting a shroud and hiding," said Wright. "Of course, it is far and away the most popular color in fashion and style. In Europe and in cities, it's light years ahead—no pun intended—of any other color. And the reason for that is the fashion world says it's sophisticated, and it goes with everything, and it's glamorous."
While that may be true, the reality of how black clothes impact us psychologically is actually very different.
"The truth is, it's total absorption. It doesn't reflect anything. So it's protecting you from all the energy coming towards you. So it's a safe color, not because it looks good with everything, but because it actually is a safe color. It's protecting you. It's a security blanket," said Wright. "So if you were in black from head to foot, you wouldn't be feeling terribly sociable, and if you did this too often, then it could begin to have a negative effect on your whole personality."