Can a colour set your mood for the day ahead? Can one item in your wardrobe change the way you feel and have the power to make your confidence soar? That sounds a little far-fetched but I think there’s something to it. Certainly research has been done linking colours to behaviour and retail and hospitality industries have acted upon it. Just think of the colour schemes used by fast food chains in contrast to a lounge bar. As I write this I am sat in a cosy curved armchair in a hotel lounge, surrounded by shades of beige, brown and deep plum, all illuminated by the amber glow from strategically placed wall lamps. The expectation certainly appears to be that people would linger here, pause to sit and unwind and buy a drink or two at the bar that is fortuitously placed alongside.
Transferring the theory from our environment to the clothing we choose to add to our wardrobe, I am now thinking of a purchase I made last summer. In the scheme of things it was quite insignificant- one pair of red ballet pumps for the princely sum of £3 in Primark. Bright red - a bold colour, a bold choice for me and one I needed a nudge to buy. Though attracted to the shoes in the shop, I was deliberating whether to purchase them, believing that they might be indulgent or better worn by a younger woman. A friend’s encouragement led me to make up my mind and once I started to wear them, their magic began to make its mark upon me. Red shoes on and it was a natural step to add a further splash of colour elsewhere- red lipstick, a red and pink handbag, a necklace or scarf and from there a growing confidence blossomed.
I think I grew up with the phrase ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ frequently used to pass negative comment upon a woman who chose not to dress in a way that society decided was befitting of her age. Looking back, different generations seemed to have quite distinct dress codes then and some of that certainly imprinted upon me. Some of the clothes I have worn as an adult have been quite frumpy and it is only in recent years that I have actively tried to address this. Losing weight has certainly made this easier and I am now choosing more fitted clothing and a brighter range of colours. In retrospect, trying to cover your lumps and bumps by wearing a dark coloured tent-like outfit was never fooling anyone and as for leggings, they have never done anyone a fashion favour. When you feel self-conscious about your size and the ‘you’ that you portray to the world, there is a certain safety in the comfort blanket of dark and shapeless clothing.
Taking the decision to wear my red shoes has gone from a ‘what might people think?’ option to a conscious ‘today is a red shoes day.’ What do I mean by that? Well, since leaving teaching I have found that there are days when I need to give myself a positive outlook, a confidence boost to step outside and meet up with friends, attend an appointment or just to show anyone who’s watching that I am in the room and I still have something valid to say. At such times, the seemingly small act of putting on my red shoes is a way of telling myself that I can do this, I matter and I have somewhere to be and an agenda to complete.
All the doubts of the red shoes and their purchase resurfaced last week when I was given a leather jacket to try on. Partly thrilled by the fact that it fitted, I looked at myself in the mirror with the overwhelming question of ‘how old do you think you are?’ Again I found myself seeking family and peer approval before feeling brave enough to wear it outside. Perhaps I shall have the same relationship with this item in my wardrobe as I did with my red shoes? Yes, they are both just material items but it is more than that, it is more about what they’re representing. I need to accept that whilst I am no beauty queen, I can still make an effort to look good. I am not too old to add a little style and a splash of colour to my look and if that’s what I need to do to feel more confident, then that’s a positive step that I should take. So whether I’m rocking a leather jacket look or striding down the street in my red shoes, look out because this woman means business and it’s about time that she knew it!