We all find it easier to embrace colour during the sunnier months. The sunshine-yellow dress in our wardrobe reserved for hot August days and our suitcases filled with a mismatch of bright holiday clothes when we jet off to warmer climes. The question is, why do we find it so easy to dress bolder and brighter in summer? Colour expert and the woman behind The Colour File, Martha Roberts, explores the reason behind our daring dress sense when the sun shines...
Embracing Colour and Wearing It With Confidence by Martha Roberts
Coco Chanel once said that when it comes to fashion, ‘black has it all’. It’s the fail-safe, non-colour (it’s technically the absence of colour) that makes us look like we’ve got that whole capsule wardrobe thing totally licked, even if we dressed, bleary-eyed, in a dimly-lit bedroom. Black is also the skilful fashion alchemist that bigs us up but makes us look smaller, all at the same time. Clever, clever black. But after years of us playing it safe in both fashion and interiors (think ‘greige’), we are finally returning to colour – and, as a colour fanatic, I couldn’t be happier.
This season’s colour revival was hinted at by colour expert Pantone when it unveiled 12 shades for SS19 last year and not one of them was a shrinking violet – nor was it black. Instead they included an orange-red called Fiesta, a heavenly cobalt called Princess Blue and a dazzling yellow called Aspen Gold, aimed at taking consumers down a ‘path of creative and unexpected combinations’. Half a year on, bold brights have hit the high street and are urging us to be experimental with colour, texture and print. These are exciting times, like watching a colourful butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.
In reality, colour appears each spring and summer on catwalks and in look-books, often in the form of a gentle, pastel whisper, other times as brash ‘Look! I’m back!’ neon accents. In her book, ‘The Complete Color Harmony’, Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute, explains that bright sunlight makes it ‘easier for the eye to ‘take in’ additional brightness’ which is why colourful palettes tend to emerge in time for sunnier weather – and why we are often happy to wear them on hot holidays but not necessarily at other times.
However, Marianne Shillingford, creative director of Dulux, says colour is taking centre stage for other reasons right now. ‘We are witnessing various world problems such as poverty, war and economic unrest, not to mention a global environmental crisis, and it suddenly seems like it’s all too much,’ she says. ‘When things are going wrong, we like to party and return to childlike, simple things that reconnect us with fun. Using colour is an easy and accessible way to do this. If you love colour, this is the time for you.’ But what if you’re not used to wearing colour – or the thought of it brings you out in hives?
Humans have a basic need to belong and to feel accepted. If we choose a colour that others don’t like, we can feel judged and even rejected. Although some of us relish the opportunity to play with colour, for others who tend to go for ‘safer’ or more muted colours, it can be stressful. However, it’s been scientifically proven that wearing bright colours causes the brain to release ‘feel-good’ dopamine, keeping us happy even when the summer sun momentarily hides behind the clouds.
So how do you make this season’s bold brights work for you? Small tweaks rather than massive changes can be extremely effective, as well as building on what you already own and love. Start by thinking about colour on the ‘extremities’, as Marianne puts it. Fingernails, make-up and jewellery in bright shades can introduce colour without a huge psychological (and financial) commitment, before progressing to accessories like shoes, tights, socks and bags.
A black hush sundress teamed with a yellow hat and a yellow and navy striped bag shows how you can add bright shades to neutrals ‘by stealth’ to be colour-ready for summer. Neutral pieces edged with colourful trim is another stylish entry level colour hack, as is a multicoloured embroidered motif on a simple neutral T (like the hush camel and palm tree one). However, if you’re ready to make a bolder colour statement, go for a striped top or maxi dress with a mixture of this season’s punchy brights such as cobalt blue, hot tomato red and sunshine yellow – I’m particularly loving hush’s Rainbow Feya Rainbow Jumper, striped V-neck jumper and striped maxi sundress.
This is definitely the season to be experimental with colour, whether you’re a cautious beginner dipping a cautious toe in or an inveterate colour-lover clashing with impunity. Colour is fun, confident and – it’s official – can make you happy. There’s never been a better time to give it a go.