I have always found it interesting how much of the color black one sees at fashion shows, the place where fashion as art is supposed to be most celebrated. And yet, so many of the attendees are wearing black. Why? Because that is fashionable? Chic? Classic? It was even a requirement at Lindenwood Fashion Shows for the students to wear all black. While there is some truth to the fact that black can promote a classic and chic vibe, I do believe we could all check our motivations for colors that we wear. If we are wearing black to appear intimidating, might we be struggling with feelings of inferiority? If we are wearing black to fit in, maybe we are battling some insecurity? I am not passing judgements, just making observations about what I see, so I can better understand what drives humans’ choices on what kind of clothes they put on their body, including me. I love the idea of the motivation of our personal style being expressive, representative, and aspirational. It is not that what you wear is priority number one, because that should never be the case, but being purposeful with our style that is the most attractive quality when approached honestly.
Like most people, I love trying to understand or make sense of the things that interest me. My interest in fashion took me to a liberal arts university, Lindenwood University St. Charles. My four years at Lindenwood began with the basics of art and fashion. We took studio art courses that delved into the subjects of color, structure, sketching, and fabrication. One of my favorite classes was color theory. We had a teacher who took the subject very seriously… and who wouldn’t want to play with color for 3 hours twice a week? We used mediums such as paint, collage, pencil, markers, and Color Aid (which was very expensive for some reason, and of course, we had to pay for it out of pocket). So many people made fun of me when I told them I had to do my Color Theory homework as I would just be sitting there cutting out shapes from color swatches. However, the class was very interesting, and color plays a huge role in our lives. Most of us see the world in color. Color makes up what we cannot see in light. Science is even learning the importance of the color of light that we are exposed to with the popularization of infrared saunas and blue light blocking eye wear. So, studying color and understanding each color’s impact and relation on what it comes into contact with is something you could study in depth for a long time. For the purpose of this blog post, however, I will be applying a fairly rudimentary knowledge of colors and their relationship to each other, through the lens of fashion.
I go through phases of obsessions with colors, and I like the idea of learning something from each phase of life to be able to carry with you as you continue on. This makes my personal style and preferences involving color ever-evolving. As I have gotten older, I have noticed a shift in my preference of or “favorite” colors. High school me loved cool blue tones and black, while adult me has moved to the warmer end of the rainbow. I truly enjoying the warmth and serenity of yellows, oranges, and browns. I really do not know why that is yet. I like to try new things, because it teaches you to grow, so maybe it just stems from that. A sense of adventure is paramount to a style that has a magnetic pull. When choosing what colors to wear, you want to think about a few things. First, understand your natural biological colors. Eye, skin, and hair color all will have a relationship with whatever color you choose to wear. Most people who enjoy fashion have a color they think they look best in. Usually that is because that color is complimentary to one of their distinguishing biological colors: eyes, hair, and skin. For example many red heads really pop in the color green, because red is green’s compliment on the color wheel. This does not always mean that all people with natural red hair look great in green. If you experiment with dyeing your hair, tanning, or color contacts that will change the nature of the color palette you are working with. Perhaps the most complex of the biological colors you are given is skin color. Our skin tones are neutrals or nudes which are made up of a variety of colors. Which makes browns and greys some of the most complex of color mixtures. If you have ever tried your hand at painting, just think about what color the water is in the cup where you rinse your used brushes. It is usually some type of grey or brown (if you have used more than 3 different colors). Skin tones commonly have red, green, blue, and yellow undertones. You might not be able to distinguish these undertones from the overtone of your skin color whether you are fair, tanned, or dark. When you put a color on that skin, however, those undertones can be accentuated or reduced depending on the undertone and its relation to the color of the garment on the color wheel. Colors that are directly across from each other are complimentary. These colors make each other pop and appear more saturated. While colors that are next to each other are analogous. These colors are what we usually pair together when we want something to “match”. Below, I have the basic color wheel that gives a visual for what I am talking about, and some photos of how I like to use color in my personal style.
These photos are a mix of the cool blue tones from my younger years with the warm, joyful yellow of my current style. This jacket is “vintage” Nautica (I am putting vintage in quotes, because it really was not made long ago at all) from the time when the brand was at its peak. The acid wash denim is a creation of some mom or teen’s first try at pants, I am sure. When I got them at the thrift store they fell right off me and had an odd excess of fabric in the front crotch area. Some minor adjustments to the crotch seam and some new elastic in the waist band made them just for me. That’s the thing I love most about thrifting clothes. An interior decorator on a house hunting show may say a room has “good bones,” referring to the potential of the space with some adjustments and upgrades. This applies to clothes too. With some basic sewing skills, and an active imagination, used garments can become new treasures. The beautifully patterned button up was a thrift store find from this summer’s obsession for these classic button ups reminiscent of the seventies era in men’s wear. The belt and the choker are the only parts of this look that are not thrifted. The choker, inlaid with tiny crosses, was from a time I was randomly shopping with a friend in Charming Charlies and they were giving away free necklaces. The belt is from my high school days of working at Old Navy. It is one of the only things left over from that time in my style evolution (thank goodness). LOL.