Years ago – I mean YEARS – I managed to persuade my boss that I needed to go on a course discussing the impact of colour in business. I worked in press relations at the time and to this day can’t remember why I – or he – thought some Kodachrome insight would add value to writing press releases. I don’t remember much about the course – apart from it taking place in Brighton and a Daily Mail photographer taking our photo on the sea front – but I do remember coming away believing that wearing the right colour could positively influence pay rise negotiations, and that red kitchens – just like red cars – can lead to accidents.
I think the premise was that if you wore grey or earth colours you could get walked over in the work place by allowing yourself to blend too easily into the background;if you wanted a pay rise, wearing black was too authoritative and navy was the perfect colour to wear into salary negotiations because it was professional but not too pushy.
Just like my hair colour, life has been through all shades of the rainbow since then, but I was still surprised when a friend commented the other day that she knew I was getting my mojo back because I was wearing a red top when I took the yoga class – apparently I’d been taking classes in grey and black for the past 12 months (I promise the tops were hitting the washing machine). I hadn’t realised I’d faded so far into the background; I did have the vague feeling of being invisible though.
I do actually know what colours are in my official ‘best self’ colour palette, so I should know better. Having taken another course – Colour Me Beautiful – over 20 years ago I can share the important information that I am a ‘Soft Autumn’ and my take- away colour swatch (‘never go shopping with out it, ladies’) dictates a spectrum of warm hues. To be fair I think that swatch has been languishing in my bed side drawer rather than in my handbag over the last couple of year. I had clearly been breaking rules in yoga classes by wearing grey and black which were banned by my CMB consultant (‘put those colours next to your face madam, and you can add 20 years to your skin tone’). We know by now that I am not by nature a rule breaker, so it must have been a subconscious decision to drop under the radar and make drab my new rainbow.
In an extremely timely fashion, Marks & Spencers then helpfully sent me a link to my own personal stylist* (well I think they probably offered this to lots of people, but I like to think they chose me specifically as the invite came just after the grey top wake up call). To sign up I had to answer a few personal questions to decide what look I was after. I went for broke and decided I needed help with ‘smart casual’ and colour (am I the only person in teaching who loathes dress down days? I’ve sometimes thrown caution to the wind and ditched my suit jacket for a cardigan in a devil-may-care attitude, but there’s always a jacket hanging on the back of my office door just in case I lose my nerve). My stylist (ok, ok, the M&S algorithm) asked me how much of a risk I was willing to take and I hesitated before replying that I would be prepared to venture ‘ever so slightly out of my comfort zone’ and that I would like some new colour suggestions.
So far I’m just loving this new avatar version of myself. I’m wearing yellow animal print pleated skirts with sneakers; a metallic bomber jacket and an orange chunky knit. Well, I will be once I actually get to M&S and translate the electronic look onto my Sparks card.
It’s shifting my mood just thinking about it. It reminds me of those paper cut-out dolls I used to play with as a child. I can now dress myself for sport, work and casual. Thankfully the fashion advice hasn’t attacked underwear choice yet, so I can still keep my Bridget Jones sensible pants and vest, just like that paper doll.
I do feel the rainbow returning. I dug out a pair of metallic shoes and a bright green jumper yesterday. I was only visiting mum (she’s an ‘early Spring’ in case you’re interested; we did the CMB course together), so I didn’t test out my new wardrobe colours in terms of a salary rise, but I did notice that mum was quick to pay for coffee when we took my new look out to the local garden centre. Luckily we didn’t have to wait long to be served because if we’d waited any longer I might have embarrassed myself by asking the mother in front of us where she got her daughter’s flashing trainers in a colourful unicorn design.