Can Bright Colors Change Your Mood?To find out, White + Warren’s Editorial Manager, Maria Ward, spent a week in the season’s most feel-good shades.
Getting dressed each morning has always brought me joy, no matter the occasion. Dressing up for a decadent party brings me as much pleasure as walking across the street for a morning coffee from the farmer’s market. But in March, I left my Park Slope, Brooklyn apartment to join my family at their home on the North Carolina coast. I packed in a hurry and only brought with me enough clothes for a (very casual) two week stint. Nothing close enough to cover what is now going on four months’ time—much less a seasonal shift from fall to summer.
Without the little thrill of waking up and deciding who I sartorially wanted to be each day, I was left feeling uninspired, mentally and physically. Most mornings, I found myself “trying,” for lack of a better word, to decide between which black or beige sweater I should throw on. But black has become too dark for what can feel like already bleak times. I call in an expert. A Color therapy expert, to be exact, and founder of , who explains that color can be a gateway to becoming the best version of ourselves, with mood, energy and more results. To put the theory to the test, I decide that I will wear color—and lots of it—for a week straight and chart the results.
I ease into the workweek with coral. Warm and inviting, it gets people thinking and talking. Its base color, orange, explains Hart, relates to social communication, so I’m eager to see if it makes a statement at my Monday morning Zoom meeting. My team has a tradition of playing a round of “Peak and Pit” with highlights and any low points from the weekend. But my quickly finds its way into the conversation: “Oh, this look is fun!” (And I’m inclined to agree.)
During quarantine, you’ve likely noticed that T-shirts, hoodies, caftans, bikinis—everything is getting the treatment, and for good reason. My back-to-back meetings are no match for kinetic color. As the unofficial symbol of chill, you can’t be stressed in a swirl of feel-good hues, can you? According to Hart, the presence of pink opens you up to self-love. Yellow puts you in an optimistic, joyous mood. The addition of white in pastels creates a sense of wholeness.
If you recall from high-school physics, when Isaac Newton put pure white light through a prism, it produced the rainbow of colors that make up the visible light spectrum. “I call white the mother of all colors,” Hart says. “It’s almost like you are getting the whole kit and caboodle.” In fact, as a color therapist, Hart works exclusively in a wardrobe of head-to-toe whites.
I channel the ’60s vibe with denim culottes and clear spin on Dr. Scholl’s. Perhaps it’s pink’s self-love taking shape, but I can’t bear to choose between a and a —two trends that before now, I’d never been hip to try. Instead of limiting myself to just one statement piece, I have twice as much fun wearing both.
Despite the gray overcast and torrential downpour, my outlook today is decidedly sunny in comparison. The moment I put on a my entire mindset shifted. I’m upbeat and uncharacteristically energized, considering I’m pre-caffeine. It was almost electric. To round out the technicolor mix of green blasted with yellow, I add hoop earrings and with a floating petal detail suspended within each heel. For an extra jolt of color, I reach for my that’s practically ripe with optimism.
Fun fact: Yellow is believed to stimulate the mind, providing you with a sense of clarity as it relates to thoughts and ideas. Historically speaking, it was a happy accident that legal pads are manufactured in yellow, but there is a paper trail connecting countless writers that suggest the cognitive cue put them in work-mode. Margaret Mitchell spent ten years scribbling on yellow legal pads to pen Gone with the Wind. Susan Sontag wrote longhand in the same fashion, even dubbing it “the fetish of American writers.” John Steinbeck. Roald Dahl. The list goes on. With a looming deadline on my iCal, I jot down my to-dos on, yes, a yellow legal pad. Maybe it’s the hit of neon, but the dizzying number of assignments I checked off by end of day is a little shocking.
The need for green, Hart says, is rooted in our deep-seeded connection to nature. Emotionally and imaginatively, green sends the message of new beginnings and wide-open spaces where we can unplug and refocus. At the center of the color spectrum, Hart notes that exposure to green has a balancing, neutralizing, harmonizing effect that, simply put, makes you feel more alive.
These days, when most of us are stuck indoors and tethered to devices, the struggle is real. I’m instantly drawn to a White + Warren shade called . Admittedly, my definition of healing jade is a gua sha face massager. Yet the sartorial version is a familiar lift from within. In naturally sustainable, lightweight linen, my looks—and feels—like a breath of fresh air. I ground it with Cult Gaia mules that I’d been eyeing for an eternity in lockdown. Sure, turquoise silk faille and sculptural heels weren’t exactly made for the great outdoors, but it puts a literal spring in my step that I deemed necessary for my commute downstairs. Barefoot dreams, be damned.
For a summer Friday, I select a sundress in pale blue imbued with a sense of relaxation. Blue is imprinted in our psyches as a quiescent, soothing color. Think: clear skies, clam waters, leisurely vacations. Naturally, people with blue bedrooms, adds Hart, “always tend to sleep better.” Offering more proof that a little color goes a long way, I’m told sipping coffee from a blue mug, writing notes with a blue pen, or better yet on blue Post-its, will have a similar ripple effect. Visual cues, Hart explains, will allow me to experience that color surrounding my whole day.
For an added dose of reverie, I’m in , and an almost cloud-like stitched with micro daisies. I feel even more at peace with the aesthetic when a colleague quips, “You look so glam!” Small but mighty, they injected personality into a simple cotton dress, and I spent the rest of the afternoon coasting.
According to Hart, magenta balances emotions and energy. “It takes what you are feeling to the best version of itself.” Some describe it as color high; Hart likens it to a spiritual awakening. I live for lazy Saturdays, so it feels a bit like a chore to get dressed to go to the living room. I reward myself for the extra effort with some quality couch-time,
Hart informs me that there is no such thing as “clashing” in the world of color therapy; however, the ultimate combinations are a study in contrasts that appear that much brighter together. With green being the balancer of magenta, I match a cashmere tee to an embellished clutch with a palm-tree motif and a satin headband in an equally lush color scheme. After all, fashion has always been a form of extreme escapism—and halfway through Funny Face’s sing-song opening number, my world certainly started to look more bright and rosy. The power of pink!