Last week, we discussed how to step away from rigid color rules and use observation and intuition to build your personal color palette.
I am not interested in dictating what colors someone else should wear.
Instead, I’m setting out the ways I think about color and opening up a discussion about our use of color in wardrobing as sewists. I like making color palettes, it’s fun to play with color inspiration. The idea is that if you see one or two colors on a palette that you like and work well together, you may just find another new “color friend.”
Some guy who had a way with words once said “All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” What does your set, your stage, your backdrop look like? Do your clothes contrast, camouflage, or clash with the world around you? The idea that my environment serves as a backdrop for my life appeals to my imagination. It makes sense to dress in a way that reflects my climate and environment. This extends to the way I use color in my sewing.
One of the main influences of color perception is light. I’m intrigued by this relationship, especially how it helps determine color preferences in latitudes that experience brighter or softer sunlight. I drew color palettes from photos of Paris and Queensland- examples of two places with differing qualities of light.
Contrast- How Do You Want To Stand Out?
Black against limestone, glass or steel cityscapes with low-to-medium light creates a strong, clear, sharp silhouette of the wearer. It’s pleasing to the eye. It’s powerful. It’s favored by sophisticated urbanites in “northern” latitude cities like Paris, New York, London, and copied widely.
Black where I live absorbs the sunlight- that means it’s HOT to wear, and also the sun tends to bleach the color out of all but the deepest, truest blacks. Otherwise sophisticated black garments may show themselves a faded shade of purple, blue or green. It’s not a good look, especially head-to-toe. Please disagree with me if you will, I’m interested in hearing other perspectives.
Conversely, white is often shunned as a wardrobe staple in the aforementioned cityscapes for a variety of reasons- among them the “grit” factor. White in a medium light can very easily look grubby, and doesn’t provide a lot of contrast with the neutral colors one usually finds in a cityscape.
Personally, I’m a convert to dressing in white/ivory. “Tropical Whites” are traditionally favored in hot climates for a reason. This is due to the reflective property of white in bright sunlight. Just as the sun bleaches out black, it glosses over small smudges and fingerprints on whites. A white garment dazzles the eye in a tropical (or sub-tropic) summer, nothing looks cooler or fresher walking down the street or along the beach.
Last summer, I wore a maxi-circle skirt of bright white hemp nearly every day. It was a magical skirt, perhaps one of my favorite garments ever. It felt cool and bright in the sunlight, and generated its own breeze while I walked. I’m planning to make another one this summer.
Camoflauge- If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them
Some areas of the planet receive more sunlight than others; this affects perception of color as well as the types of flora and fauna found in a specific region.
Consider flowers as an example of effective use of color in a given environment. Why do native tropical flowers so often grow in supersaturated color, while higher latitudes nurture flowers with more delicate, hopeful tones? The color of flowers serves as an advertisement to pollinators, attracting bees and butterflies and other helpful animals to aid in plant reproduction. (Click here for a somewhat more scientifically correct assessment of flower color and pollination from the Vermont Extension Service.)
Since living in Queensland, I’ve learned that blazing sunlight bleaches all but the bravest colors. Around here in summer, only the aggressive green foliage, the blinding blue above and the lividly colored flowers below stand up to the brilliant sunlight. Other colors fade to dingy, tired shades of their former glory. It’s early spring now, I’ll start taking pictures of the bloomings for my banner so you can see what I mean. (Jacarandas are just around the corner!)
I think there’s a strong relationship between light and “naturally occurring color” which in turn shapes regional color preferences. Brightly colored Hawaiian shirts, sarongs and fruit are associated with the tropics for a reason. If I wear a shade of pink any paler than obnoxious fucshia around these parts in summer, I feel grubby and invisible. It’s depressing. Bright colors seem “right” for the environment where I find myself, though I never used to favor brights as a rule.
If you’re not sure what the “naturally occurring colors” for your region might be, I encourage you to take note of the colors of flowers, fruits and animals that are native to your region. The color of the land, trees, and water may also offer some inspiration.
Clash- Troubled Zone
This one is tricky, and entirely subjective. It’s wearing colors that might look good on you but may not look good on your “stage set.” Or, it means playing too much matchy-matchy with your background even if the colors don’t suit you.
My clash colors are pale-to-medium pinks and light blues. I used to favor these colors heavily, but I can’t quite make them work for me since I hopped hemispheres. It’s not because they don’t suit my coloring, but because my environment requires more saturated colors in general.
On the other hand, I could try wearing bright tropical oranges or yellows because it’s suited to my environment. I don’t because those colors don’t work for me. (Though I’m contemplating trying them as accent colors…)
What do you think?
Of course, that could be all in my head. At the end of the day it matters more that I’m wearing clothes than what color they are. However, I think it’s an interesting consideration and can lead to new and interesting color considerations for those of us who can make clothes in any color fabric we find.
What’s the light like where you live? Do you ever wear head-to-toe black or white? How does that work out? What colors are the flowers where you live?
Next week: Wardrobing and Color. I’ve been writing about Lila’s wardrobing project lately, but I want to look at a few different ways to put together colors for wardrobe, and show what I do when I’m not sewing for a 4-year-old. This should be a more “practical” post than this week’s!
Also- if you haven’t already, please do sign up to test Tiramisu. The deadline is tomorrow! I’m keeping track of everyone who signs up, and I really appreciate your support, enthusiasm and encouragement. If you don’t get pinged to test Tiramisu, you’ll have a better chance of helping me out with the next one, Pavlova. It’s rollover points or something. Or testing the one after that.