How Not to Wear Black!

Courtesy of Jules Standish

How do you wear black? Most of us love to use it on a daily basis and as a core part of our wardrobes. Here, colour expert Jules Standish sheds light on some of our alternatives and on some new ways to bring the black we wear to life.....

As the new season approaches shops, designers and magazines all start to promote "black" as the colour to be seen in from autumn through to spring. It happens every year at the same time, which can understandably encourage women to gravitate towards the constant safety-net of wearing black. 

Why is this? Black has the reputation of being chic, slimming, smart, easy and functional, sexy and stylish.  On the other hand, women may also choose to wear it to hide behind during times of stress and depression. However, this colour (worn by itself) tends to only truly suit those with a very cool skin tone - and as we age black can be very damaging to our looks.

Let's take a look at some of the history behind our connection to the colour black. We often associate black with death and funerals - it became the colour of mourning during Queen Victoria's reign. After her husband Albert died, she grieved in black for the rest of her life, which then set a precedent for widows of that time. Black became a fashionable colour in the early 1920's when French designer Coco Chanel revolutionised Haute Couture by introducing the simple, unstructured black shift dress.  This was made famous when Audrey Hepburn wore the "little black dress" in the film "Breakfast at Tiffanys" and black remains a classic and favourite staple in most women's wardrobes today.   

So why are the various colours we wear so important to our wellbeing? Colours have very powerful properties that can affect our looks, personality and emotions. One of the ways we receive colour and light is through our eyes. Primarily via the pupil - then the lens where it goes to the back of the eye, known as the retina, consisting of light sensors which respond to the three primary colours of red, green and blue.  This transmits approximately 80% of the stimulus to the back of the brain and the visual cortex for sight, where these three colours become a range of more varied ones.  The other 20% stimulates the glands - i.e. the hypothalamus, pituitary and pineal, which in turn affects our hormonal system and emotional senses. 

Photo courtesy of ShutterstockAs well as seeing colours through our eyes, we also absorb colours through our skin, which is why it is so important we wear colours that make us both look and feel fabulous. Why is it that some days people comment on how well we look in a certain colour, and yet others we feel completely invisible?  Why do certain colours make us feel happy and confident whilst others make us tired, drained and exhausted? This is because colour has the power to put life back into fading looks, to lift spirits and physically balance hormones whilst also boosting emotions. In short, colours are vital for our wellbeing. 

It was the great philosopher Johanne Wolfgang Goethe in the late 18th Century who believed that colour had an immediate effect on our emotions.  Then in the early 20th Century, Max Luscher a professor of psychology from Switzerland, measured people's preferences for chosen colours and how they related to their personality traits.  He used this knowledge to treat physical and psychological conditions which provided us with a scientific basis for understanding the power of colour.

So, if you choose to wear black this season, do it consciously. As human beings, we all need light - particularly when there is a lack of it in the darker months. Black represents the absence of all light and it can also be incredibly ageing up against the face.  This is because black highlights (particularly on a warm yellow/golden based skin tone) and indeed searches for all the negative signs of ageing - wrinkles, dark shadows under the chin, panda eyes, lines on the forehead and dark roots in highlighted hair! Colours up against our complexion will reflect the basic underlying skin-tone - either making it glow with health and radiance or look dull, drained and older!

So, if you are a lover of all things black, how can you continue to wear it without ageing yourself prematurely and looking washed out?  Here are my top tips:

Photo courtesy of ShutterstockEven really beautiful celebrities can struggle with wearing black.  Joanna Lumley is a stunning woman with a warm golden skin tone and outgoing personality who looks much older in black.  However, when we see her in one of her best colours, such as orange, she glows with health and an attractive youthfulness.

So which celebrity does have the right colouring to wear black and look fabulous? Nigella Lawson has the cool skin tone and dramatic dark features to wear black and its related colours to maximum effect - and she does! Joan Collins is another cool lady with a very classic style who looks fabulous in black and white. Ditta Von Teese wows everyone when she appears looking sultry and dramatic in black too.

Whatever your colouring and preference this winter, please do consider other dark shades instead of black that can be kinder to complexions, such as greys, blues and browns.  Combine these with gorgeous colours you love and wear and watch the compliments come flooding in!

For more information on what colours suit you best and whether you have the right skin tone and personality type to wear black Jules's book "How Not to Wear Black" is available on Amazon - or go to her website http://www.colourconsultancy.co.uk/ for more information on colour and style analysis.

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