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by colour What does your colour choice say about you?

This document was compiled with information from the following sources: Personal Style Guide­— Colour: Messages and Meanings (L Eiseman) Colour Source Book (R Ormiston and M Robinson) And images from the following:


by colour


e all come across colour on a daily basis without paying much attention to the subtle messages we send, receive and interpret based on the colours we wear. The way we respond to colour is influenced by a mixture of biological, psychological, social and cultural factors—while

some meanings are biological, the messages most colours communicate are a result of dynamic cultural and social factors. Colour stimulates the senses, recalls time and place and produces an aesthetic or emotional response.

This article takes a look at some key colours and offers a little bit about the emotions each one evokes.

The best colour in the world is the one that looks best on you. Coco Channel STYLE by colour




We love red because it . . . •• is the colour of love •• makes you feel passionate and dynamic •• is timeless and classic when paired with navy and white •• makes any outfit pop


physical colour, red suggests the very ebb and flow of

life. It is the most viscerally alive hue, the symbolic colour of the heart, strong-willed and expressing enduring emotions. It may command us to stop or encourage movement. A chemical message is sent to the adrenal glands when we see the colour red. This alters our body chemistry causing us to breathe more rapidly, increases blood pressure, heart rate and pulse. These reactions are physiological and we have no control over the

When red tones are deepened to shades of brick red or burgundy, they become more subdued. These earthy, wine tones are seen as more authoritative, mature, lush, opulent and elegant than vivid red. Red is an unrelenting hue. As an attention getter, red can muscle out surrounding colours. If demanding is what you want, then red is the perfect colour. Red is for impact, wear it with confidence and enjoy the attention.

effect. As a result, red is indeliby imprinted on the human mind to connect with excitement and energy. 4

STYLE by colour

When in doubt, wear red Bill Blass


green F

rom tender shoots and pine tree greens to elegant emeralds, turquoise and teals, green makes you feel instantly alive. With a multitude of greens so plentiful in the surrounding world, the human eye literally sees more green than any other colour. As a result, there are many moods that green can convey. Green is simply good for you, enhancing your life, making you more vital and alleviating stress. Physiologically, green affects the nervous system, causing us to breathe slowly and deeply, helping the heart to relax by slowing the production of stress hormones. The range of green hues is both extensive and multifaceted. Mint

green is seen as both fresh and refreshing, bright greens are associated with grass, first buds of spring and renewal, emerald greens are elegant, while deep greens are stately and prestigious.

A majority of people see green as symbolic of nature and ‘new beginnings’ as green refreshes and restores Turquoise is often described as a sky blue with a hint of green and it expresses the protective and steadfast qualities of blue along with the soothing effects of green.

We love green because it . . . •• symbolises freshness, youth • and nature

Teal is a thoughtful colour that exudes confidence. It is more elegant than an ordinary green and is a tasteful colour, often seen as serene and sophisticated.

•• combines with aqua and white • for a beautiful effect •• has so many shades that you can make it work with everything •• works wonders for hazel • and green eyes

STYLE by colour



purple T

he purple spectrum is so diverse, from light lilac through to the deepest plum and embodies certain mystical or spiritual properties. But purple is something of an enigma. It is both sensual and spiritual—a blend of the excitement and sexuality of red and the tranquillity of blue—often conflicting forces which have to be handled with care and a certain sense of daring. Pure purple is made up of half blue, half red, but the shade can be skewed either to the warm red side giving a sensuality and dynamism like red, or to the cool blue side, giving a feeling of coolness and calm familiar with the blue family.


STYLE by colour

At one time considered oldfashioned and feminine, lavender shades have become more trans-gender in the fashion industry, especially in the smokier tones. These shades are still considered to be gentle, delicate and refined. The exclusivity concept attached to purple came about because of affordability. In ancient times, only the wealthy could buy purple garments as the dyes were extracted from tiny molluscs— approximately 336,000 snails yielded just one ounce of dye. Therefore purple became the provenance of kings, queens and the wealthy and powerful.

We love purple because it . . . •• is a great base colour •• works well with other colours such as navy, nudes and metallics •• has accents from the garden such as blueberries, lilac and lavender •• is traditional and noble

Purple is considered to be uplifting, calming to the mind and nerves, offers a sense of spirituality and encourages creativity




splash of citrus is sure to brighten any day, with hues ranging from soft coral to vibrant orange and earthy terracotta. Orange shades are seen as playful, gregarious, happy and childlike and is perceived as a colour that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Orange contains some of the drama of red, tempered by the

cheerful good humour of yellow. Lighter shades of orange—such as peach, coral or melon—are considered more sophisticated and urbane.

Orange symbolises ambition and creativity, while yellow represents energy and wisdom Yellow emulates sunshine, light, energy and warmth. In the lighter variations, yellow is cheerful, soft and mellow. Brighter yellows, while equally cheerful, are more energetic and eye-catching. It is an extroverted hue, one that can never be described as dark or dim. It is the colour of hope, joy and optimism.

We love citrus because it . . . •• will add vibrance and energy • to your outfit •• has so many tones, there really • is a hue to suit everyone •• makes you happy

STYLE by colour



blue W

hat would life be without a pair of blue jeans? There is a blue for everyone, from fun loving turquoise to elegant navy. Because of its association with the elements of the ocean and sky, blue is seen as reliable, trustworthy, dependable and committed; it inspires confidence and certainty. Blue has a calming effect and suggests cleanliness and freshness. It is also associated with fidelity: blue flowers symbolise faithfulness and brides traditionally wear ‘something blue’. But forget the sweeping generalisation that all blues are serene and sedate. Darkening blue to navy makes it serious and powerful, but brilliant blues add a whole new dimension to this colour 8

STYLE by colour

family. Take electric blue—from the Greek word ‘electros’ meaning ‘gleaming, shiny and brilliant’— being iridescent, dynamic and dramatic. Periwinkle tints are seen as warm and playful and teal is seens as rich and unique.

We love blue because it . . . •• has endless options—sky blue, deep navy, turquoise, duck egg •• compliments citrus colours for a stunning result •• offers a softer alternative to black •• is classic yet modern

Blue shades seem never ending—teal, cyan, azure, cerulean, turquoise, cobalt, cornflower, denim, steel, powder, prussian, royal, sapphire, navy and ultramarine­—all completely unique shades worn for different occasions Italian designer Emilio Pucci used to go diving with an aqualung and camera to capture the coral, turquoise and emerald of the Mediterranean to add their hues to his flamboyant print colours during the 1950s and 1960s.


Shades of puce and rose symbolise beauty, delicacy, charm and refinement, while the English usage of ‘puce’


dates back to 1798 when an edition of The Lady’s Magazine reported that a dress worn by Queen Charlotte on her birthday has a ‘body and train of pucecoloured velvet’. In the fashion world, pink made its first real impact in the 1950s, after the patriotic red, white and blue decade of the 1940s.


ink is girly, feminine and fun. But depending on its value or intensity, pink has a diverse range of moods.

In 1951 a fashion designer created ‘hot pink’, sparking a pink frenzy. The colour pink has been present in fashion to varying degrees ever since.

Vivid, shocking or hot pinks share the same high energy and spirit of red. They are seen as energetic, youthful and create a feeling of movement and abandon. They are fun and exciting, but more faddish than red. Be cautious of bubble gum pinks as they can look immature and artificial. Magenta and fushia pinks that lean to red or purple are perceived as more grown up as they are both sensual and theatrical. The lighter, less saturated pinks are seen as romantic as the raw sensuality of red is gone. These

shades are viewed as soft, subtle and sentimental. While red stirs up passion, studies have shown that large amounts of pink can create physical weakness in people.

Both red and pink denote love, but while red is passion, pink is romantic and charming. Most people think of pink as a feminine, delicate colour

We love pink because it . . . •• signifies friendship and calm •• is divine with apple green •• reminds us of our childhood with beautiful pink dresses and matching ribbons •• is just so, so girly

STYLE by colour



black E

very girl needs a little black dress. Coco Chanel introduced the world to the little black dress in 1926 and it since has become the epitmoe of timeless fashion and remains the height of chic, knowing no boundaries of society, size or style. The impenetrable, after-dark, powerful essence of black is seen as the most sophisticated shade. Black gives a dramatic, elegant and expensive presence. Black is the extreme contrast to white in every way, therefore they make for the most perfet marriage of opposites. Black and white is the quintessential and most classic combination of strength and clarity, power and purity.


STYLE by colour

Every few years in fashion there is an announcement that ‘Black is back!’, but the reality is that black will always have a presence. Adding black to any colour renders that colour more powerful, creating an illusion of depth, substance and subtlety.

One is never over-dressed or under-dressed with a little black dress Karl Lagerfeld

We love black because it . . . •• makes us look slimmer and is forgiving •• is so powerful and mysterious— not to mention seductive •• is timeless, classic and dramatic •• can make a very bold statement




resh and always in fashion, white goes with everything—think of

a classic white shirt or a single strand of pearls. White most often represents purity clarity and simplicity. There is an unsullied innocence and delicacy around white—the unblemished quality of a baby’s christening dress or the illusion of chastity in a bridal gown.

We love white because it . . . •• makes us feel feminine and romantic •• symbolises peace and innocence •• is the colour for our traditional wedding and christening celebrations •• goes with everything

The tradition of wearing white as a bride began with the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840, in which she took the then unusual step of wearing white, which until that time had usually been reserved as the colour of mourning.

White is gently romantic or starkly modern, depending on how you use it Pure white is crisp, succinct and viewed by the human eye as having the same vibrancy as a brilliant colour, so it truly should not be thought of as a neutral colour that only works when all else fails, but as the starting point for all explorations of colour and fashion.

STYLE by colour




We love grey because it . . . •• works with so many colours and is incredibly versatile •• can be elegant for evening •• symbolises knowledge and wisdom •• makes you feel comfortable


ersatile grey is perfect for everything from comfort at

home to sophisticated elegance. Grey is the middle ground between black and white, making it the perfect neutral shade. As grey tones approach black, they start to take on much of black’s power and prescence, but charcoal greys are never as threatening or overpowering as pure black. Light to medium greys are the most non-committal of all colours. These hues will not compete with other colours and are highly recommended as a buffer between bright colours to reduce the intensity of their brilliance.


STYLE by colour

Because of it’s perceived neutrality, grey is often seen as classic, reserved, sophisticated and efficient Silvery greys can take on a very futuristic, modern look as they are inevitably connected to all things minimal and sleek.


metallic S

parkle and shine in gold, bronze, copper or silver. Just add a little metallic to finish off any outfit. Eternally acknowledged as the gilden representation of sunlight, glittering gold has always been perceived as being a measure of wealth and luxury. The perception of value is always intensified with the use of gold. Silver is the more exciting metallic sister to grey. Just as gold is invariably connected to the sun, silvery is paired with the light emanating from the moon. Silver has an old world elegance, while at the same time a silver finish can speak of sleek modernism.

We love metallics because they . . . •• add a little glamour to any outfit •• make you sparkle and shine •• are important symbols in our culture—wedding rings!

There is a clean, classy, stylishness to silver; it is cool in every sense of the word. Shades such as copper or bronze are also stylish representations of the metallic hues, being softer and more subtle than their metallic sisters.

•• work so well with every colour •• complete any outfit

Fashions fade, style is eternal Yves Saint-Laurent STYLE by colour



neutral T

The word khaki is adapted from the Hindi word khak meaning ‘dust coloured’ he colours and fibres of the earth are a fashion staple.

Neutral tones such as beige, taupe and brown are seen as solid enduring, timeless and classic. They will never date because they are always in style. Other shades such as champagne, khaki, tan and chocolate are all considered neutral and make up an essential part of any wardrobe. Most descriptive names for taupe come from various natural sources like fawn, otter, mushroom and sepia. This versatile shade is often thought of as organic, modest and unobtrusive. There is also a timelessness and basic lack of ‘trendiness’ that indicates a longevity of the shade. 14

Another group of natural looking neutrals are the off-whites, ivories, bones, creams and beiges. These classic tints are an essential in the wardrobes of the stylish and elegant.

STYLE by colour

We love neutrals because they . . . •• are a great base colour •• have such a wide spectrum— deep, rich chocolate browns right through to the lightest champagne •• let us mix practical, classic and elegant all at once •• take us back to earth



Create your own



let it be

for yourself

yet identifiable for others.


Anna Wintour

Style by Colour  

Magazine sample for layout design