Stepping out of the shade Forget ‘The Little Black Dress’ – partywear this festive season is all about colour, writes
If you’re a colour-phobe who dipped a toe into pastels this summer but have been relishing the idea of retreating back into your comfort zone for winter, then look away now. Fashion’s dalliance with colour has picked up pace this season, dialing up the drama with colours even more vibrant and plentiful. Where one or two trend colours have prevailed in seasons past (witness the ubiquity of red last winter, or the dominance of lilac this spring), the fall collections were kaleidoscopic, electrified by jolts of blue, yellow, orange and red.
From literal rainbows at Burberry to neon brights at Prada, there was no ignoring the fact that colour is autumn winter’s overarching trend. At Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli showed a couture collection replete with exuberant colour combinations so sophisticated they made black feel, not chic, but safe, dull and uninspired. A parade of bold, bright, saturated colours, it was impossible to ignore because, well… colour tends to have that effect.
If black whispers, colour speaks at full volume, and perhaps that’s what makes it a daunting proposition for some. “In my experience, most people love colour but when it comes to fashion, they’re scared of it,” says journalist and self-confessed colour obsessive Martha Roberts.
The author of Shelfie and curator of @the_colour_file on Instagram, Martha points to a 2015 study that revealed the extent of our colour anxiety.
“Around a fifth of us aren’t confident enough to wear colourful clothes or make-up,” she says.
“I try to encourage people to be adventurous, to fall in love with colour and make it their own. I know how exciting and invigorating being surrounded by the ‘right’ colours can be.”
And while it seems counter-intuitive – winter being traditionally the more subdued half of the fashion calendar – who couldn’t use an injection of colour in their life at the moment? In May, The Aesthetics of Joy author Ingrid Fetell Lee described in a TED talk the fundamental design elements that are universal triggers of joy: curves, feelings of lightness and abundance, and – unsurprisingly – colour. She could have been describing Piccioli’s Valentino collection, and perhaps that’s why it brought a jaded fashion audience to its feet and a tear to the eye of Mr. Valentino himself. They were overcome with joy. And therein lies the appeal of all this colour. When the world feels permanently perched on the precipice of disaster, and the news cycle seems relentlessly dark, the psychological impact of having more colour in your life should not be underestimated.
“We should be embracing joy, and finding ways to put ourselves its path more often,” argues Fettell Lee; and where better to start than with our wardrobes? We all have go-to outfits we rely on to help us project confidence, feel powerful, or self-soothe, so we already understand that clothes don’t just make a statement to the world around us, they are a statement of intent to ourselves. But do we fully understand the role colour can play in this?
Colour analyst Joan Cashman of Colour & Image Acedemy believes when it comes to using colour to maximum effect, we have a lot to learn. While many of us think of ‘getting our colours done’ as being a bit old-fashioned, Joan confirms what experts are noticing globally – colour analysis is enjoying a resurgence, as people seek to overcome their fear and learn more about what colour can do for them.
“There’s so much colour out there at there; like it or not, you’re going to end up buying it,” says Joan.
“Colour analysis isn’t about limiting your options, as some people think, it’s actually about giving you scope; training the eye so you feel more confident.”
And when it comes to stepping out of a colour-free comfort zone, confidence counts. Buying blind into trend colours can be counter-productive. If lilac washes you out, wearing it just because it’s on trend might add to your colour phobia; and let’s be honest, we all harbour secret fears that our attempts at Valentino-esque colour combos will leave us looking like Bosco presenters. But colour can make you look healthier, happier and more confident; and fears that it’s not work appropriate are unfounded.
“Women worry that colour in the workplace makes them seem frivolous, but in fact, the opposite is true. Colour gives you a whole new language to communicate with,” Joan explains.
“It can pull focus in a meeting. Colour can be the difference between getting the job or the promotion, or not.”
So maybe it’s time we stepped out of the darkness, and considered the benefits of embracing a winter wardrobe that’s devoid of black.