Below are 3 photos of a lady who I am going to call Alice. She is wearing black, dark grey and light grey. I will explain when it may be appropriate to wear each colour, and when it might not. Then to prove the same points but differently, I have 3 photos of Helen Mirren on the red carpet in gowns of the same colours. The photos are as small as possible to highlight that decisions can be made even with only a hint of colour. The black shirt Alice is wearing in this photo automatically conveys authority, we see a professional, a job title but we are diverted from seeing ‘Alice, the whole person’.
Black builds barriers and creates impact which is perfect if you are in charge or you want to be, soon. It may also be important that your job title precedes you into a room especially if you are slim or short or if you work in a male-dominated profession where the black suit for women is the equivalent of the dark blue or grey suit for men – a uniform.
However, be careful of that ‘uniform’ though, it’s definition meaning also ‘standard’. Black can also make you invisible, it can overshadow you, if it isn’t one of your great colours. When looking at the photo of Helen Mirren I struggle to concentrate on her face.
If you are ‘Your Own Personal Brand’ you want to stand out for being YOU.
Here is a second photo of Alice. Dressed in mid grey she seems more approachable, less threatening than when wearing black. I find I am less diverted by the colour grey in the photo of Helen Mirren too.
So in corporate-land when might it be appropriate to wear a less ‘assertive’ colour than black ? When you are in a position of power but want to be seen as a participant, to put others at ease and show a more open, relaxed though still professional persona – especially in difficult or hostile situations.
The easiest way to create a more approachable, open look is to put together outfits in tone on tone colours, think harmony rather than contrast although this only works well if you find that same harmony in your features.
And here is the third photo of Alice. She is wearing one of her ‘perfect’ colours and when you wear yours, just like in the photo, a ‘real’ person appears. Helen Mirren shines too.
Everyone needs to look friendly and approachable at some times but if that is the point of your job then wearing black will send the wrong message.
However, if you are part of the ‘booted and suited’ corporate culture and black is not your best friend what can you do to be ‘seen’ as a professional, efficient leader ?
One way would be to swap your black for suiting fabrics in patters such as houndstooth or fine stripes and letting as much ‘light’ mix with the darker colours as possible. Consider scarves in your perfect colours to put some distance between the darker colours and your skin. Donate any black turtlenecks 😉
Do you know what colours you should be wearing to best promote Your Own Personal Brand ?
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