Color Evokes Emotion

One of the most powerful tools in the box is color, and it’s one of the easiest to deploy.   Ad agencies all over the world use color to manipulate your emotions – because it works.  Why shouldn’t you do the same, when you’re trying to create a certain impression?

There are three ways in which color evokes emotion; cultural, personal, and biological.

Biologically, we know that red increases your pulse and your blood pressure.  It increases appetite, which is why restaurants are frequently decorated with red.   There are certain shades of pink and green that are reputed to be calming, and so jails often use these to decorate.   Generally speaking, brighter colors are more energizing colors, and softer colors are more relaxing colors.

Culturally, we associate certain colors with certain holidays and events.   In the West, white is for weddings and black is for funerals.  If you wear red and green together, you look positively Christmasy.   Blue and white are what you wear when you’re ready to get down to business.   There are copious lists online (some of which I’ve pinned to my various color pinboards) of the various associations.   Your style elements (earth, fire, air, water) have heavy color associations.   Consider a dark brown suit – very solid, tending to sobriety.  You could lift it with a yellow blouse, but the yellow is going to have a solid foundation and not go floating off, carried in all that brown.

Personally, each one of us have “power colors”, we all have colors that are soothing and relaxing, we all have colors that represent getting down to business – and these colors are based on our own coloring.  Your hair, skin and eyes give you your personal best palette.*   These colors affect you when you wear them or surround yourself with them, and this factor is more important than the prior two when selecting your wardrobe.

Example:  red is a dynamic, intense color.   If you understood the first two factors of color psychology, you’d think that this made it automatically a power color for everyone.   But not everyone has the same coloring.   If you don’t have the skin tone to carry off an intense red, the red will wear you – and that makes you look less in control, less competent, and less well-pulled-together.   That’s not “powerful” by any measure.

So then you choose “your” red as your power color… but maybe your red is hot pink.   Hot pink is certainly energetic, but culturally, we don’t associate it with seriousness (it’s a very “Air” color taken on its own).  Maybe your best power color isn’t “red” at all… maybe it’s a bright blue, or intense yellow.   Mine is bright turquoise, and when I want you to wake up and pay attention, I pair it with bright navy.   (Navy is an excellent color for grounding).

These personal colors *are* personal, and one person’s relaxing space can make your skin crawl.  I am, admittedly, on the more sensitive side of the equation – but I once bought a bedspread in a warm burgandy – not one of my colors at all – and in less than a week, I could feel my blood pressure rising every time I went into my bedroom.  My bedding was making me angry!  Not helpful.

Contrariwise, I can tell what kind of mood I’m in by what colors I’m selecting for my daily wear.  Right now I’m finding myself in all manner of soft greens and blues – my relaxing/soothing shades.  If I *need* to feel dynamic, I wear red!!  (I absolutely use color to manipulate my own emotions – they’re my emotions, thank you very much).  Red is Fire, which is an element missing from my predominantly Water-focused wardrobe.   I have a friend who, although she’s an Autumn, needs the emotional energy from bright colors, so she picks the very brightest shades to lift her mood.

Color is incredibly powerful, so why not use it?   It’s not just about what colors are in or out this season, this year.  Color affects your life – it affects how seriously you’re taken, it affects how happy you feel, it affects whether you’re comfortable in an environment.   It can draw people to you.  And color is so *easy* to use – once you know what colors are your best colors, and then pick from those the colors that are most helpful in helping you achieve your goals, the world is your oyster.

You are your own marketing firm, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use all of the tools at your disposal.


*David Zyla wrote a fascinating book about this.


Sample Analysis: Remie

Color frame


Remie: (Pinboard: https://www.pinterest.com/hearthroseimage/z-suggestions-remie/)

Who Are You?

  • Prefers casual clothing (works in a physical field, needs little office-type clothing)
  • Active in church groups
  • Politically active (conservative)

Body Analysis: 

You’re medium in height, with long limbs and a shorter torso, which is where you carry what weight you carry (very little excess).  Your long, slender limbs make you look taller than you are, as do your prominent features.   These both allow you to carry off larger prints and larger jewelry than someone else your height.  You will always appear slimmer than your weight because of these factors – lucky you!

Color Analysis:

Winter.  You know this, having had your colors done some time ago, but your closet doesn’t reflect it.

Best white:  Winter white (bright-white doesn’t work as well due to the way our skin changes as we age)

Best black:  Black

Metal tone:  Silver

Yes, you can wear pearls – white or grey.  Either will be flattering to you and help you in your goals.

Your best colors are dark and saturated – more so than the brightest of the jewel tones, you’ll be at your best in navy, midnight blue, pine green, and imperial purple.  You also look lovely in deep true red.

Ice tones (palest yellow, pink, purple, blue) will work best on you in prints or accessories, rather than entire garments.

Your best contrast level is medium.

Pattern type:

You had a strong preference for regular, symmetrical patterns.   Your patterns should be balanced.  Florals would work well for you, as would large polka dots.

This works with your overall goals, to be more respectable and trustworthy in appearance.


A more textured garment will be more flattering than a smooth garment.    Examples:  Linen blouse > silk blouse; wool sweater over cashmere.

Print Size:

You are medium in height and weight – so you want a medium print size.  You definitely don’t want to go oversized, because one of your priorities is to look more polished and conservative.  Don’t go too small, it will look “cutesy” – not something that gets you taken seriously.

Where are you going?

  • Create a trustworthy, respectable appearance.
  • Be taken seriously.
  • Casual, comfortable clothing.



Your outfits should always have a factor of “polished” to them, so aim for conservative accessories.  You do want to accessorize, you don’t want to pile them on.

Accessories should be classic and look expensive (they don’t have to *be* expensive).

Scarves will be useful.


Currently you have too much Air (whimsy) in your wardrobe.  Recommend increasing Earth (reliability).  Fire isn’t needed, Water can be added to your comfort level.


Bring the colors that you wear back to your Winter season – your current wardrobe is far too warm.

Casual conservative:   Make clothing more conservative/classic – jeans without tears, neat accessories, a finished look.    Current wardrobe skews much too young.

Change hair color to a cool tone.


Dresses over Jeans/Kimono Toppers

There’s a trend going now for “dresses” (intentionally so – the “dresses” are usually not functional as dresses) or kimonos over jeans.  I’d recommend some version to nearly everyone.

Dresses over pants are a classic line in other countries (aka most of Asia and the Middle East) *because* they’re so universally flattering.   Here’s a few examples of this look:

  • You can vary your dress/kimono length to suit your proportions
  • You can vary your dress/topper fit profile (loose or fitted)
  • Color/style/fabric variations are nearly endless

We’ve all heard the rule of the trend – keep your basic pieces on point, and add the zippy bits that keep you up to date.  Well, this is a great way to do that.   The toppers shouldn’t run you much over $25/$30, so this is not an investment piece – it’s the cherry on top.

Have a little fun!


Sample Analysis: Glenda

Glenda Colors

Client:  Glenda  (Pinboard:  https://www.pinterest.com/hearthroseimage/z-suggestions-glenda/)

Who are you now? 


  • Winter


  • Mid-Forties


  • You work in a mortgage company part time; you work out regularly at Crossfit; you are a mom of teenagers; you are engaged to be married.

Other Activities:

  • You enjoy going out dancing with your fiancé in cowboy boots and gear


  • Although you work in the financial sector, you can wear fairly casual outfits to work.


Where are you going?


  • Getting married soon
  • Continue improving your health
  • Wants to become a traditional medical practitioner



You have made substantial changes in the last year of your life.  You’ve moved, gotten engaged, and lost four dress sizes as you’ve taken up Crossfit and changed your diet.  You’re looking forward to a new future – moving away from a career in the banking industry and moving towards a career in natural, traditional, medicine.   Moving away from your past as a single mom to being married soon.  That’s a lot of change!

Fortunately for you, your currently work in a business-casual environment, and you’ll want to have a very similar wardrobe when you become a practitioner of traditional medicine.  Both careers require you to elicit a “trust” reaction from your clients.   (Element: Earth)  The difference is that alternative-medicine practioners are expected to be connected closely with nature.    I would encourage you to bring more flow to your clothing, more movement.  (Element: Water).    That means that those beloved cowboy boots will work perfectly with your new career (though I wouldn’t wear them to the mortgage company).

Your wardrobe priorities are: Create a basic wardrobe which can be accessorized to reflect your passions.

You mentioned that you like playful clothes when you’re not at work, and would like to move into wearing dresses more often.  There’s no reason why you shouldn’t wear t-shirt dresses on your days off, maybe with those boots… and jeans and a kimono jacket with a nice blouse might be a work/home crossover.    Right now the stores are full of dark florals, it’s a good time to take advantage of a few pieces.  You won’t want to cover your body with too much whimsy, but a jacket or a skirt or a scarf will update your entire look.

You preferred an irregular pattern to regular.  A controlled bohemian vibe would be great for you – keeping things in proportion to your height and your age.   Consider adding in ethnic pieces – these would look nice on you and reflect your future goals.

Your secondary wardrobe goals are:  Incorporate florals and statement accessories into your basic black.

All that work in the gym has paid off, and you have lovely, slim arms and legs.   Your torso is long in proportion to your limbs, and that’s where you carry your weight.  You have what might be called a “rectangular” figure.   So therefore you want to utilize diagonal lines to break your torso up a bit and create movement.   Toppers are one of the most useful tools to create this kind of movement and line.

You’re quite petite, so even though you’re over 40, wearing a shorter hemline is going to suit you proportionally.  Those slim arms and legs should be shown off!

Your figure priorities are: create interest, create movement, show off your limbs.

Insofar as your coloring is concerned, you classify as a Winter.  Your colors are particularly dark and saturated, with a few unexpected brights (ice-yellow, magenta).  Purple/magenta is more attractive on you than red is, excepting the deepest, bluest wine color – which is insanely beautiful on you.

Your best neutral colors are:  Black, White, Darkest-Brown, and Charcoal-Grey

Use color psychology to evoke emotion – green is the color of nature, and a dark, cold, saturated green is amazing on you.  This is going to be your best true color, followed by purple.  Purple is the color of wisdom, and it brings out the highlights in your beautiful brown eyes.   Deep blues and navy are excellent on you.

Your best statement colors are: Dark Pine Green, Midnight Blue, Darkest Blue-Red, and Silver


Casual, Hands-on Work Environment

One of my clients recently came to me with the question – “Well, I don’t really have to change my style, do I?  I mean – I wear very casual clothes to work, and I’m hands-on (and getting dirty) all day”.   This is often an objection to upgrading the wardrobe for SAHM, too.  “It’s just going to get dirty”.  “No one will see me”.  “It doesn’t matter”.

It’s not the “what you do” that makes your clothes not matter – it’s the “I spend almost no time doing this”.   So if your grubby clothes come out once every six months to paint the bathroom or because you have the flu … fine.  But if you’re wearing those clothes regularly?  Yes – it matters!!!

When we get dressed, we see ourselves, and we’re decorating ourselves into the person we think of when we think, “me”.  That means that *every* outfit matters.  If your daily work requires you to get grubby, you still need to pull things together.


  • Make a uniform.   Buy clothes that suit the work to be done, clothes that fit, in colors that flatter you.  These don’t have to be expensive clothes – if jeans (or shorts) and a t-shirt is what you’re wearing, fine.   You should like what you’re putting on.
  • DON’T wear clothing that you hate.
  • Mothers of small children often find peasant skirts useful.  They’re nice looking, comfortable, you can bend in them, and they block doorways neatly.
  • If you have really grubby work, don’t wear your work clothes anywhere but work.
  • Consider getting a *real* uniform – scrubs, coveralls, special aprons – something that communicates the task to be accomplished.  This will tell your subconscious that your work life and your “real self” aren’t the same person.
  • Dial up the style in your off-work hours – you’re not spending your wardrobe allowance on work-clothes, so you are perfectly set to spend a bit extra on great loungewear, cute clubbing clothes, or a nice hat to wear to church.
  • Accessorize!  If your work allows, earrings, a nice neat neck-scarf, something in your hair – any little touch will help you feel more like yourself… and more intentional.
  • Do something cute with your hair.
  • Groom well – a neat, pulled together look will go far in helping you own your style.



When Shoes Betray

credit: online world of wrestling

One of the great rules of fashion in the modern era is that shoes make the outfit.  That’s great for those women rocking the Jimmy Choos, but what about the rest of us?  Not everyone can (or should) run around in stilettos all the time.  Some of us can’t even manage a kitten heel.  Life happens, and our feet and knees sometimes say, “time for something comfy”.

Insofar as I’m concerned, one of the great overlooked markets in 2018 is supportive and/or orthopedic shoes that have some style to them.  I’m someone who struggles with my footwear, and I know there are a lot of women out there who do likewise.   The usual fashion advice, “Oh, you can just wear a ballet flat!” is ridiculous – ballet flats have no support at all.

There are thousand different shoe issues, and I’m not going to attempt to make specific shoe recommendations in a general article.   However, there are pathways to greater style … at least until the shoe manufacturers get a clue.

  • Find out what your rules are, and when (and if) they will change
    • Do you need a firm sole?  Ankle support?  A low heel?
    • Once you know the rules, be creative with them.  Maybe you have to have a flat shoe with ankle support that covers an orthotic insert.  Well, that could very well be a bootie, and there are cute booties to be had.  Maybe oxfords could work for you – there are cute oxfords to be had.
  • Talk to a professional – go to the store that specializes in supportive shoes, not the regular store.
    • These folks can often help you make shoes that fit the rules *really* work for you, and they know their product.  They’re also usually happy to make special orders.
    • Normal shoe-stores will be confused and just sell you anything that kind of works, and when you have a medical issue, “kind of” doesn’t cut it.
  • Create outfits around the shoe, not the other way ’round
    • If you’re stuck wearing combat boots (this happened to me) because that’s all you can find that fits the doctor’s orders (I didn’t know about step 2), you need to change your style around a bit to accommodate the combat boots.
    • This will frequently mean that you want to switch to pants or long skirts to blend your footwear in with your outfit, rather than the footwear being the star of the show.
  • Embrace attitude.
    • Sometimes you just have to Cybill Shepherd at the Oscars and wear your tennis shoes with a ballgown, chin up and smiling.
    • Cyndi’s wearing sensible shoes… she’s not free of style.  Be like Cyndi.
    • Bedazzle the darn things if it makes you smile.
  • Remember who YOU are.
    • Select shoes, when possible, that match your colors and your elements.
    • Whatever your style type is, if you’re being asked to wear shoes that bring you down, you’ll want to dial up the rest of your look.  Be you, just a little louder than you were before.

And finally – remember that your attitude is more important than what you have on your feet.