As the season changes and we return to in-person work and in-person social gatherings, you should consider how your color palette can help you navigate through these interactions. Knowing what colors to wear can be hard for some people — especially as many have taken a break from having to pay close attention to their wardrobe during the pandemic — but knowing and understanding the appropriate colors to wear can help you elevate energy levels, provide confidence and create a professional and curated presence in the office.
Colors can have these wonderful effects because they are powerful transmitters of meaning. Associations with age, energy and mood are all easily made through color. One’s leadership temperament can even be associated with being either serious or playful depending on the colors you choose to wear.
Take for example how a brightly dressed woman might look much more friendly and approachable than one dressed in dusty, muted colors. Both images speak to the strategy of color and how it can be used to send a message.
So, how can you harness the power of color in a business setting?
Follow these steps to find colors that you can feel confident wearing and best suit your personal image:
1. Determine whether you have a warm (gold) or cool (silver) skin tone
People who typically wear gold jewelry have warm skin tones, and people who opt for silver, typically have cool skin tones. When choosing jewelry for the workplace, it’s recommended that you appear understated and polished for your industry. Choosing the jewelry tone that best suits your skin, hair color and face shape will create a dynamic first impression and help you command the room.
If your skin tone is very much in between cool and warm, you can choose to opt for a darker metallic piece. Finding the right accessories can help you more easily project your personality and self-confidence as a leader.
2. Determine your season
Seasons in fashion are used to determine a palette of colors that best suits your skin type. Once you have determined your skin tone, locate which season you are in. If you have cool skin tones, you are considered summer or winter. If you have warm skin tones, you are considered a spring or fall.
If your skin tone is primarily beige, ranging from deep to fair with underlying pink tones, you may look best in muted, softer colors such as lilac, light pink, turquoise and mint green.
If your skin tone is primarily milky white with slight red tones, beige, light to deep rose or olive, clear, brighter colors can look best. A hot pink, vibrant purple, forest green, or navy to royal blue would be some colors to consider wearing.
If your skin is light to medium beige, pale ivory with pink tones, or peaches and cream, then clear, bright yellow, purple, green and turquoise with more yellow than green will help you stand out.
If your skin tone is bronze, apricot, light to dark beige, or light to deep peach, then muted, soft orange, brown, olive green and navy colors may be the best match.
Once you have determined the appropriate palette, choose colors within this group that will work for your various professional needs. Wearing colors that balance with your personal skin tone gives you a unified appearance from head to toe and is the foundation to building a personal brand.
3. Determine the message you want to send
Just like other aspects in the workplace, including your body posture or office decorations, colors express a variety of non-verbal messages. Think of color as being approachable or authoritative. For example, black can make you appear sophisticated, powerful, assertive, strong and commanding. While white is prone to make you appear more fresh, hopeful, reliable, artistic and expressive.
You may appear aggressive, dominant and dynamic in bright red, but you can still come off as elegant, approachable and trusting if you are wearing another touch of something considered a friendlier color, like tan. Depending on the setting you find yourself in, whether it’s presenting your company’s new strategic mission to the board or meeting with a supplier to address problems in their performance, choosing the right color to wear plays an immediate role in the way you are perceived.
While neutral colors are often more acceptable in a formal business setting, like investment banking, and brighter colors more appropriate in a casual setting, like technology, choosing the appropriate colors truly depends on the specific occasion and what you are trying to accomplish. You can also add hints or splashes of an appropriate color to an otherwise basic outfit.
4. Find your unique color combination
Find moments where you can highlight your outfits with appropriate colors. Knowing your industry and understanding what is acceptable professional attire should always be considered along with anything I have outlined in this guide. Different situations and industries will accept varying dress codes, and some colors may be industry dependent.
The implications of color for professional attire are numerous. If you are trying to win a piece of business, negotiate a deal or rally your team around an important initiative, the color you wear speaks volumes about your intentions.
Not everyone fits exactly into one color palette, so the most important takeaway is to find colors that match or contrast your physical attributes and transmit the message you want to convey. Feeling confident and energetic is the ultimate end result you want in order to increase your chances of success. Recognize how colors can create a strong first and last impression in the business world.
For more inspiration, check our blog post, Our List of the Three Must-Haves for Formal and Business Casual Workplaces!
Book a Color Analysis with Stephanie to expand your understanding of what colors look best on you!