Colorful image from women's clothing store

You want to stay true to yourself in fashion, particularly when it comes to your colors. But sometimes you just gotta break—or temporarily bend—the rules a bit. Here’s an example.

Many years ago a woman I know had an important business meeting with a group of potential investors for a TV series she was pitching. They were known to be extremely hard bargainers, notoriously sexist and profoundly stingy. She found out ahead of time that everyone in their executive office, particularly during negotiations, dressed in white. It set their ‘tone’ as being members of a lofty pantheon of power and authority. She wore white that day. She got the sale. (Hopefully she was wearing her version of white…)

Knowing the culture of your potential client/employer or partner is an important part of establishing equal footing with and gaining respect from them. In the above example, the power of color was a significant subliminal component that helped make a positive first impression.

The colors you wear can contribute to your success or failure in any negotiation or meeting, whether it’s a first date or a major business deal. Since—most of the time—you’re going to be wearing your true colors, here’s a little excerpt from the Shopping for the Real You Chapter about Working With Your Colors about the psychological effects of the primary colors—red, blue and yellow:

Reds are romantic. They stimulate. Red is the color of hemoglobin (literally life’s blood), vitality, sensuality, and danger. Wearing anything in the red family telegraphs these qualities, so make sure you really want to make a red statement when you wear it. For those who are not particularly romantic in their style type (which we will discuss in Chapter 3) wearing the reds in their palette can make them appear more romantic. In fact, the less romantic quality in someone’s personal style, the more they can get away with a lot of red without looking tart-y.

Reds that are tinted with white or light yellow—including pinks, salmon, and peach—can make someone seem younger. Everyone has some of the lighter reds in their palette and these are useful when you want to appear more approachable and lighthearted. Reds tempered with black, like burgundy or maroon, create an impression of dignity and maturity. Corals—red combined with yellow—express health and freshness. Reds combined with brown take on a rich, earthy quality and make someone appear grounded.

Blues are always considered cool colors. Those with warmer color markers will find less saturated and more teal shades of blue in their palettes. Extremely versatile, blues have the ability to express the full range of emotions from power and drama to calmness and serenity. Although people think of red as the most powerful color, my own color guru, John Kitchener (director of Personal Style Counselors), says that in fact blues—and some of the more saturated greens in your palette—are your true power colors. They express that power in a more subtle manner. Rich, saturated blues suggest authority and credibility. We wear blue when we want to be taken seriously or exert influence. Softer blues can make us feel relaxed and hopeful.

When toned down with black, creating the range of navy shades from indigo to what is called dark rinse in jeans, blues convey conservatism. Or, as with the blue jeans example, they become the great equalizer—a safe color for the masses. Blues washed with white are lively and crisp and suggest clarity of mind and spirit. Aqua—pale greenish blue—bestows peace on the viewer and the environment.

Yellows are some of the most intriguing and complex colors. They are the only ones that are limited for some people because certain yellows can turn some skin tones sallow. Depending on where you live in the world, the color yellow has wildly diverse implications; it represents commerce in India, courage in Japan, and mourning in Egypt. But in the West, yellows are considered to be jubilant. That’s likely because they imply the liveliness and joy of the sun—the giver of life. They add spice, energy, and warmth to anything they’re worn with. In nature yellow flowers speak of optimism and good cheer. In their unique and playful way, yellows makes a pretty bold color statement, especially in a workplace or social milieu that favors a kind of uniform of neutrals or dark colors.

Yellows can be youthful and also versatile when combined with other colors. When toned down with black, they turn earthy, rich, and grounding; when lightened with white, they’re positively angelic and airborne! Yellow grabs our attention: When contrasted with black, as in street signs, it says, Caution! But in mineral form yellow becomes golden—appearing warm, rich, and rare.

lime shopping bagOne last note: When looking at a color to see if it works for you, keep in mind that there is a vast range of shades within one color family and that they can vary profoundly and produce profoundly different effects. A specific shade of red may appear powerful on one person and tart-y on another. Also, depending on your basic coloring (skin tone, eye and hair color) a color that looks cheerful on the hanger may make you look sickly in the mirror. Always look at yourself carefully in natural light before buying a garment and make sure the color conveys what you intend to convey when you wear it.

Andrea’s books and new video series:

Shopping for the Real You front cover image