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The Science of Colour in Fashion

By: , Posted on: July 21, 2014

Colour more than anything else creates the first visual impression. Colour is a component of light, and travels at vibrating waves at over 186,000 miles per second. It can affect individuals physically, psychologically, and emotionally. It can propel us into action, motivate, or soothe us. However, it can also repel us as we often make split second judgments based on colour. So learning how to use color particularly in textiles is incredibly important. There are many ways in which colour and fashion are connected. One of the reasons for this is that colour is known to have certain psychological effects. For example:

  • Colour Design coverThe Aztecs of Mexico taught the Spanish how to make red dye by crushing insects called cochineals. Deep red looks bold, while pale red—pink—looks gentle. Pink is now associated with girls, though before the 1920s it was considered a boy’s colour.
  • In ancient Rome, yellow was the most popular wedding colour. Yellow is sometimes worn for safety reasons: raincoats today may be bright yellow so that the wearer can be seen easily in the rain.
  • Blue is an extremely common colour and is known for its calming effect. Fashion consultants recommend wearing blue to job interviews because it symbolizes loyalty. For this same reason, U.S. police officers traditionally wear blue.
  • Hospital uniforms may be green because the colour relaxes patients. Green is also associated with nature; leprechauns are said to dress in green, and brides in Europe in the Middle Ages wore green to symbolize fertility. Dark green is masculine, conservative, and implies wealth. However, seamstresses often refuse to use green thread on the eve of a fashion show for fear it will bring bad luck.
  • Purple has always been considered the colour of royalty. Because for many years it was difficult to obtain, Cleopatra needed 20,000 snails soaked for ten days to obtain one ounce of purple dye for her royal clothing. The colour connotes luxury, wealth, and sophistication.
  • Beginning in the 20th century, western brides have worn white to symbolize purity. In China, however, white is the colour of mourning. White shows dirt easily; doctors and nurses wear white coats to show that they understand cleanliness is important.

Like what you’ve read? Here’s a free sample chapter from Colour Design discussing the emotional effects of colour psychology.

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