You don’t need us to tell you that an outfit can be a whole mood—and that clothes can be a powerful form of self-expression. But what is even cooler is that the colours we wear can secretly work some magic on our emotional state. And our minds subconsciously know this, which is why we often gravitate towards specific shades at specific times. Like last week, when you were feeling stuck and (seemingly randomly) you chose that lime-hued top? Yeah, that might have been because your brain was craving a subtle serotonin hit from being around green and its fresh, rejuvenating vibes.
Spooky, we know! But it is also science: when mini receptors on your eyeballs take in a colour, they shoot a signal to your brain that can trigger an emotional response. This is why wearing a bright shade can enhance your mood—kind of like how sitting by a sun lamp can help with seasonal affective disorder. What each tone makes you feel depends on where it sits on the rainbow spectrum (look to the right for a cheat sheet). Most of this comes from historical associations that originated way back—we are talking centuries ago—and are still super embedded in society today, says Dawnn Karen, a fashion psychologist at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology. (And we do mean centuries ago: folks in ancient Egypt and Greece were already using various coloured stones, crystals, and dyes in healing rituals.) Of course, modern marketing and advertising firms have wielded the power of colour for a while too, using it to prompt certain responses or compel purchases (and now you know why car insurance logos are typically blue, evoking confidence and stability). Workplaces are in on it as well, painting their offices, say, violet to foster feelings of creativity.
Illustrations by JADE PURPLE BROWN
But all this isn’t just a sneaky way for businesses to sway your feelings. Colour therapy is having a major moment RN because designers—and the people who wear their clothes—have realised that anyone can get in on the action by intentionally choosing tones to wear. New Zealand-based lingerie designer Chloé Julian kept this in mind while creating her line, Videris, narrowing in on nine colours and their meanings. She hopes her rosy-pink bras and underwear can prompt feelings of self-acceptance, and her purple ones will spark imagination and spirituality. “It is about taking a small moment for yourself each morning to ask, ‘How do I want to feel?’ and then picking out something to put on that supports the feeling,” says Chloé.
Other designers, like New York-based Roxanne Assoulin and Tanya Taylor, have released colour therapy collections of beaded bracelets and T-shirts, respectively.
Now obviously, wearing specific colours isn’t a replacement for actual mental health treatment. Instead, you can think of colour therapy as a simple method for temporarily improving your state of mind. The effect it can have on your mood—and the moods of those around you—is undeniable, says Dawnn. Case in point: during the pandemic, Dawnn had a physician client who was treating COVID-19 patients. To help the doctor lift her spirits during a devastating time, Dawnn suggested she start wearing yellow. The result: both she and her patients reported feeling happier.
All of which is to say that you may as well give colour therapy a try. At best, you will be more in tune with your emotions; at worst, you’ll look amazing in that hot-pink dress. Not a bad scenario at all, right?
Wow, these hues can do a lot for you.
WEAR IT FOR: Passionate Vibes
Logo-print bucket hat, Superdry, `2,999
PINKWEAR IT FOR:
Lots of Lively Energy
Titli Midi Dress, Ash & Eden, `2,999
WEAR IT FOR: Happy, Joyful Feels
Tyche Sandals, Chalk Studio, `3,999
WEAR IT FOR: A Hopeful Mood
Como Top, Ookioh × Lisa Says Gah, price on request
WEAR IT FOR:
A Sense of Calm
Danny Skirt, Angrakhaa, `2,500
WEAR IT FOR: All the Creativity
Silver UV Protection Sunglasses, John Jacobs, `4,500
WEAR IT FOR:
Blanket stitch half sleeve T-shirt, Uniqlo, `1,290
WEAR IT FOR: A Wholesome, Warm Aura
Zelie Brown Bag, Edgability, `3,200
Who knew emo dressing could be so bright and cheery?
Wearing your heart on your sleeve just got a whole new meaning.