Colour Manipulation: Fashion Wise

The colours in your wardrobe affect people’s perceptions.

Dark, blood reds will get your date off to a fiery start (Photo: Delia MacPherson).

Dark, blood reds will get your date off to a fiery start (Photo: Delia MacPherson).

They say clothes make the man.  The truth is clothes make all of us.  The line between a Bay Street lawyer and a homeless guy is a shower and a $99 three-piece suit.  The clothing that people wear is undeniably tied to their identity.  That old, nasty baseball cap you've been wearing since you were fifteen?  It speaks to people.  It says old habits die hard - that you're stubborn, loyal and nostalgic.

You notice what someone looks like before you hear them, smell them or touch them.  No wonder we're so judgmental.  When you look at somebody, you associate what they're wearing with who they are, and what they stand for.  

When you understand the power of your wardrobe, you can dress to send a message. People will see confidence, mysteriousness, sex-appeal or whatever you want them to see instead of weakness, asexuality or indecisiveness.  

Blues and brown are comforting and reassuring (Photo: Delia MacPherson).

Enlarge Image Enlarge image
Blues and brown are comforting and reassuring (Photo: Delia MacPherson).

Meeting someone face to face after connecting online? Wear the outfit from your online profile picture. This helps your partner make the connection between the online you and the real you.

Author Alison Lurie says to avoid drab greys, which come across as conventional, asexual, weak and melancholy.


Fashion channels emotion.  When you want to feel sexy, you wear lingerie. When you want to feel powerful, you wear a suit.  We project our emotions into what we wear, but the clothing itself projects emotion onto us.

The most immediate emotional trigger is colour.  By understanding the effect that colour has on other people, you can control their emotional response.

According to the Pulitzer Prize winning author Alison Lurie, who wrote the book The Language of Clothes, psychologists have found that colour has a physiological effect.  She says it changes our heartbeat, blood pressure and frequency of respiration. 

For hundreds of years colours were prescribed for medicinal purposes.  Faber Birren, author of Color Psychology and Color Therapy says that for cancer patients, the use of the colour green with violet or blue is said to ease pain and distress.  For measles, red or yellow with blue reduced the fever of some patients.  For eczema, ruby is said to reduce the outbreak. For asthma, short exposures to yellow and blue alternately over the throat and chest can help with breathing. 

Hot Date? Coordinate!

While colours affect our day to day perceptions, one of the best examples of fashion in practice would be the first date face-to-face after meeting someone online.  According to these authors, what you wear not only has the potential to change the mood of the date, but it could also determine whether or not you feel the spark you're looking for.  If you wear something drab, their reaction to you and your reaction to them in turn might not be as strong as you'd like. So help yourself set the mood.

Get the Look...

Feed the Appetite:

Red is the colour of blood, and it gets the blood flowing.  It exerts the most physical response of all the colours. It raises your blood pressure and encourages you to take action.  Red stands for aggression, desire, passion, rage, sex, strength, heat, danger.  Look for scarlet reds, deep blood reds and crimson to really get your point across.  Reds that are shaded toward purple or black are more closely related to sex.

Be Mysterious:

The right shades of grey when mixed with other colours, especially purples and blues, can come across as mysterious and modest.  This look can be sexy partly because it causes the person you're with to wonder what's going on beneath the surface.  It reminds people of smoke and twilight.  As the grey becomes darker, the impression you give becomes more powerful, as it lightens it becomes coy and subtle. Try finding a patterned grey top, or match a solid with blue jeans to complete the look and to avoid the stuffiness associated with the colour.

Calm and Collected:

Blue is naturally subduing, sobering and thoughtful.  It calms the nerves and puts people around you at ease.  Think of the ocean.  Blue actually lowers your blood pressure and pulse rate, and is also the most commonly used colour in schools, hospitals and offices.  Brown represents stability, like blue it's an earth tone.  Brown can represent reliability.  Try a red-brown to capture the bold intensity of red.


Comments on this story are now closed

Cool article - some truth to it..

Posted by A.Canning | Jan 12, 2022

interesting article.. i like the pics

Posted by Mike | Jan 12, 2022

nice job

Posted by dm | Jan 12, 2022


Posted by Jake Macpherson | Jan 12, 2022

It's amazing what colour can do! Thanks for your insight!

Posted by Chelsey Pellerin | Jan 12, 2022

great article! definitely agree!

Posted by Tessa | Jan 12, 2022

Interesting article. I didn't realize the different shades of a colour affected meaning or feeling so much. Lots to think about when I'm getting dressed!

Posted by Gaeby | Jan 12, 2022

:) Well down.

Posted by cristina woodill | Jan 12, 2022