Mere colour, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.
~ Oscar Wilde
You may have guessed from these pages that I love colour. As a young woman, my wardrobe was a profusion of primary colours — reds, yellows, royal blues, as well as lots of white. But during my declutter, I noticed that in recent years the colours of my clothes have undergone a transformation. There are lots more pastel shades, especially different shades of blue and beige. There are even brown items — a colour I avoided when I was younger because I felt it made me fade into the background because of my dark skin. There are a few yellows and reds — although I hadn’t worn them in ages, I was reluctant to discard them for sentimental reasons. (Marie Kondo would disapprove!)
Mature women are encouraged to tone down the colours in our lives — wardrobe, jewellery, makeup, we are told should be muted. Have you noticed that many mature women wear shades of brown, beige, cream and black? Perhaps it’s because magazines and countless blogs for the over 40s and 50s exhort us to subdue, soften, and diminish! Red is out, jewellery should be silver, platinum or white gold and no chunky gold necklaces or bangles.
Does muted = age?
To me, muted says ‘don’t draw attention to yourself.’ But by conforming, are we yielding to the stereotype that women become invisible as they age?
One aspect of ageing that I have acquiesced to is my grey hair (I call it silver). Don’t get me wrong, I would’ve been much happier to continue as a brunette, but I felt that colouring my roots every couple of weeks was becoming a ridiculous waste of time and money, and ditching the chemicals was in keeping with my decision to live a simpler, more minimalist life. I cut my hair short and haven’t regretted my decision.
Looking around my house, I see a cornucopia of colour in my world. Red and gold in the bedroom and cushions and throw rugs in shades of pink, purple and lime on my couches. Magenta for my kitchen splash backs and a decal of pink magnolias on the white tiles in my laundry.
But although the colours in my house reflect who I am, my wardrobe suggests that I’ve been suppressing my true self. I’ve been fascinated to read that colours have psychological properties. It’s not about the symbolism of colours or their cultural associations, for example, that green is considered lucky and red is associated with danger or love (think Valentine’s day) — it’s about the behaviours and emotions that are evoked through colour in our environment and our clothes.
According to Angela Wright, researcher and author of The Beginners Guide To Colour Psychology, colour psychology is, “the effects of the electro-magnetic radiation of light on human mood and behaviour – a universal, psychophysical reaction… When light strikes any coloured object, the object will absorb only the wavelengths that exactly match its own atomic structure and reflect the rest – which is what we see.”
Ok, so I don’t really understand the electro-magnetic radiation of light but I do understand that different colours can spark varying emotions in each of us. And it’s not just one colour that we respond to, it’s a combination of colours.
That fire-engine red dress for example, with matching shoes and lipstick, could stimulate and excite, summon warmth and friendliness or on the other hand, evoke feelings of defiance, aggression or hostility. But if worn in combination with other colours — your red scarf and matching nail polish with a black dress (black communicates sophistication and glamour) and taupe handbag — the ensemble sparks a whole other set of emotions. If you’re interested to know more, Angela Wright discusses the psychological properties of the eleven basic colours on the Colour Effects website.
Me? I’ve decided to reinstate colour to my wardrobe. I discovered that pink (a colour that didn’t ever grace my wardrobe in times past!) looks good with silver hair. It’s also soothing, and represents the feminine principle — described by activist, Marilyn Nyborg who writes at Women waking the world as compassion, interconnection, co-operation, and inclusion, among other qualities.
The blues will stay. According to Angela, “strong blues will stimulate clear thought and lighter, soft blues will calm the mind and aid concentration.” I definitely need more of that! Reds and yellows? I’m bringing those out more often because according to Angela, yellow is the colour of confidence and optimism and it will, “lift our spirits and our self-esteem.” I now realise why I kept those coloured items — it’s because they give me joy! It’s time to celebrate the colour in my world and my wardrobe!
What’s your favourite colour and how does it make you feel? I’d love to hear from you!