How To Use The Psychology Of Color In Outfits To Your Advantage At Work

Did you know it’s been scientifically proven that colors have an influential psychological effect on our moods, emotions, and behaviors?

By Melody Rose5 min read

There’s a reason artists and brand designers are particular about what colors they select for their work – they want to instill a certain reaction in their consumers. 

Think about the non-verbal signals certain colors give, like bold red means “emergency” or “stop” and wearing black to a funeral signifies “mourning” and “grief.” In other more subjective scenarios, maybe you’ve noticed a shift in sensation around particular colors, like relaxation while sitting in a blue doctor’s office or happiness when looking at a yellow daffodil.

Colors have been a significant part of human culture and sense of self-expression for a long time. In fact, several ancient cultures including the Egyptians and Chinese practiced chromotherapy – the use of colors as a modality for healing. Unfortunately, color psychology hasn’t received the depth of research it deserves, but it has certainly been recognized as a powerful influence across a variety of cultures and settings.

The History of Color

Color research dates back as far as 1666, when English scientist Sir Isaac Newton first discovered the passing of white light through a prism. He noticed the white light separated out into other colors, forming a rainbow, and concluded that each color on the spectrum was made up of a single wavelength and couldn’t be separated out any further.

As experts continued to investigate his discovery, they found that while the dispersed wavelengths couldn’t be separated further, they could be combined to form other colors. The combination of light wavelengths and frequencies is what gives us different shades and hues. Obviously, it would be difficult to pinpoint specific emotional responses for every color that exists. (If you’ve ever seen the mega Crayola Crayon boxes with an abundance of unique options like “macaroni and cheese” and “cotton candy pink,” then you can imagine how difficult it would be to assign a specific emotion to every single shade of color!) Yet that’s not to say a generalization of basic colors doesn't have influence because it certainly does.

And when it comes to fashion, this knowledge can be used to your benefit. Having a specially curated color capsule wardrobe to enhance your professional attire could be a crucial element in finding success! Want to land that next promotion? Make a good impression at an interview? Or stand out at an upcoming corporate event? Guaranteed, there’s a color for that!  

Check out this staple color palette below that every woman must have in her closet to ensure she finds the perfect match for every mood.

Green: Tranquility, Wealth, and Creativity

The general depiction of the color green is that of tranquility and health, due to it’s overwhelming association with the natural world like trees, grass, and vegetables. In ancient mythology, it was even associated with fruitful fertility for women. Maybe you’ve come across menu items at your local café like “Green Goddess Smoothie” or “The Green Juice Glow,” and for good reason! We know ingesting greens will certainly keep our skin radiant and overall wellness supercharged.

Green is also symbolic for money, wealth, luck, and creativity. Therefore, if you’re looking to receive a raise or bring a new idea to the table at your next board meeting, green is the color for you! Be careful though, it’s also known to provoke jealousy…your newfound success could also put you in the spotlight of envy among your co-workers.

Purple: Royalty and Imagination

All the royals are wearing this one! In addition to luxury and extravagance, the color purple also claims the crown for imagination and spirituality. It's been known that the color purple can promote a deeper introspection that aids in accessing higher ideals, which is why many philosophers and spiritual gurus have claimed it one of their favorites. It’s a transformative color that has a reputation for promoting compassion and sensitivity.

If you’ve been put in charge of an emotionally heavy case that needs an approach of poise, compassion, and unique realms of interpretation, then purple could be the shade for you.

Orange: High Energy, Danger, Caution

Orange is known to bring high energy and vibrancy to any social setting. So if you’re invited to a prestigious work event where you want to stand out and make a good impression, this color will definitely do the trick! It’s an activated color that heightens emotions, increases activity, and sharpens awareness. 

In contrast, it's negatively associated with perceptions of danger, attention-seeking, and being too overpowering. In fact, many people report orange as being one of their least favorite colors. To air on the side of caution, be selective and conservative when choosing orange. Use it to really optimize your intention on special occasions, and it will prove to be a stunning stance to take!

Brown: Dependable, Responsible, Approachable

Security, protection, dependability – brown is the color of groundedness and responsibility. All amazing qualities to bring into the workplace. When the office feels like it’s all hustle, bustle, and chaos, your colleagues will be running toward someone who’s level-headed. This earthy tone exudes warmth which will have you appearing irresistibly approachable. The ability to remain rooted in a strong position of stability and sincerity is the makings of a quality leader, and could very well make brown garments your ticket to the head of the conference table!

White: Pure, Simple, Cold

The color white symbolizes all that’s pure, clean, and simplistic. It’s also associated with illumination and knowledge. So if you’re looking to conclude a strong argument in regards to research you’ve recently discovered or make some waves with a fresh new opinion, then white clothing will be your wingwoman. 

While being such a powerful representative of morality and conductor of bringing truth to light, white can unintentionally take a negative turn by creating the illusion of being cold, distant, or sterile. So be sure to compliment your white attire with the warmth of your personality to create a wholesome stance that can’t help but be heard.

Black: Sophistication, Elegance, Classic

From the infamous Little Black Dress to the classic black suit and tie, this versatile color carries the essence of sophistication. With adjectives like strong, formal, and mysterious, it’s no wonder it’s a consistent closet staple and one of the most worn colors of all time. Not only does it pair well with a number of accessories, but it’s also the ultimate “boss lady bold” any office would aspire to have. For these reasons, black does a number on a woman’s confidence. Therefore, if you’re looking for the ideal go-to outfit for your upcoming interview, look no further. Black is the answer!

Red: Passion, Power, Courage

If you want to grab the attention of a room by simply walking into it, red is the statement color to achieve just that. Connoting confidence, power, and passion, red infuses a level of intensity into everything it touches. Get ready to heat up the office with fiery ideas and bold moves that will be sure to turn heads. Red doesn’t go unnoticed, and neither will you. With an added flair of femininity (think crimson roses and romance) as well as top-shelf luxury (hey, red-bottom Louboutins!), you’ll be ready to conquer the world with the courage of a Leading Lady.

Yellow: Youthful, Happiness, Creativity

More so than any other color, yellow is top ranked to be a serotonin inducer, which we know to be the fountain of youth. Paired with unmatched levels of optimism and analytical thinking, yellow targets the typically rigid left side of the brain in all ways fun and freeing. 

If you’re looking to stimulate mental activity and energy levels to tackle that big paper or research project you’ve been putting off, there’s no better color than that of the sun. Get ready to say goodbye to feelings of overwhelm when you’re wearing this color, as you’ll be channeling any obstacles into problem-solving tactics. Happiness is always a plus when approaching any career-related task!

Pink: Understanding, Soft, Hopeful

In light of the timeless 1986 film starring Molly Ringwald, who stitched together the most beautiful pink dress, this color is feminine, charming, and elegant. It’s known to capture unconditional love and nurturance. 

When wearing pink, you’ll be softened in tone in all ways empowering. This subtler approach in the workspace will have you listening deeper to your colleagues and empathizing with customers, which can lead to new, groundbreaking realizations you may have missed before. In the presence of pink, prepare for your colleagues to feel understood, relieved, and hopeful. Using this color to elevate the office atmosphere is highly recommended.

Blue: Inspiring, Trustworthy, Serenity

Like the exhale you take when looking out over a sparkling blue ocean or up at a cloudless, crystal blue sky, blue evokes feelings of serenity, peace, and calm. Quiet, inspiring, and reflective, blue doesn’t require much action to receive its deserved attention. In fact, in the state of blue, onlookers tend to come to their own self-discoveries and realizations with little to no verbal engagement at all. If you’re desiring to receive well-earned praise for all your hard work at your upcoming annual review, this could be just the color to bring out that air of acknowledged professionalism and composure!

Closing Thoughts

With the psychology of color in mind, you can now design your outfits accordingly to find personal and professional success! The energetic waves of various colors can hold a lot more power than just making you look good. Now you have the research to back the underlying framework of how different colors can make you feel and influence those around you. Begin collecting signature pieces to keep in your closet, even colors you wouldn’t typically buy, so you have each of the above to pull from when the need arises. Then, see what kind of response you receive. You may surprise yourself with what you find!

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