Color at the office: We’ve talked about it in specific contexts — pants, suits, nails, tights, shoes, and even how to start buying colorful prints — and in today’s guest post, my old friend Theresa Lesh gives you some helpful guidelines on how to wear color to work. Theresa is one of the best dressed ladies I’ve known since high school — she actually has a background in fashion design and currently works at a creative products company in product development. A huge thanks for the tips, Theresa! – Kat.
I love color and am very picky about it — always have been. I LOVED my mega box of crayons and the range of hues it offered up: red-violet, magenta, violet-red, violet… and I used each one differently. I scoffed at red, blue, and green as basics and instead used brick red, midnight blue, and forest (or pine) green for cars, sky, or trees. Today I am still quite particular about specific tones or hues I prefer; however, I am much more open-minded, and even look at “odd” colors as challenges. With what other color could I pair that bizarre chartreuse to make it sing? What would be a great pop against a (drab) grey?
I admit going through a period of time where I wore all black — didn’t we all? But when I did, I always liked to choose one thing to accent/pop or stand out in a small way. Favorites were items such as a black Nicole Miller scarf peppered with all sorts of Barbie icons (shoes, lipstick, her iconic signature) which I still have (and wear) today, or floral patterned tights (typically worn under a long black skirt). I saw these things as private jokes with myself, as you could only see the Barbie icons when you were close to me, or the flowers on my tights when I sat down and crossed my legs. (Pictured: Nicole Miller scarf, available on eBay for $149.)
Over the years, I grew away from the all-black ensembles — I do still wear black, and sometimes head to toe, but not all day, every day — and I started to play with color in a bigger and bolder way. After college, I fell in love with lime green, which I think became my gateway to COLOR, as it opened my eyes to all sorts of fun, vibrant shades, and each year I get more and more adventurous and more and more colorful in my wardrobe. During the gray winters of Ohio, I feel as if bright color can be a fantastic pick-me-up, both for me wearing it and those that may pass me in the hall.
Granted, I work for a creative company, where one may see a mix of suits and ties to jeans and Chuck Taylors in a single meeting (though not TERRIBLY often), so while I am not IN the creative division, per se, there is probably more flexibility in my office than a “big law” firm. How far is too far with color? That is up to you, but it’s not to say you cannot make forays into color in a more conservative working environment.
If you want to experiment but are not sure where to start, take chances — start small. There are so many fun necklaces and earrings available at various price points, so you can easily get a great statement piece to “try it out.” If you are scared to commit, or don’t have the funds to commit, start at Charming Charlie’s or Francesca’s for a fun, chunky necklace in a bold color.
Scarves or pashminas are a GREAT way to add color, and it’s not as big of a color commitment since you can limit the wear for your trip into the office under a (black or tan) coat, or throw it on in your office if it gets cold. Plus, while scarves are “IN” now, they are always a classic accessory, depending on how they are worn. Whether you are looping it around your neck, using one as a belt or headband, or tying it to your purse, it can add a touch of fun and whimsy, and if your office is as cold as mine is, you’ll be glad to have that pashmina handy to wrap around your neck and shoulders while you shiver at your desk.
Once again, it doesn’t have to be a large financial commitment, especially if you are unsure of HOW MUCH color is right for you. I’ve grabbed some great shawls from street vendors in the city over the years, which I wear all the time (my favorites are either hot pink or bright orange) and get constant compliments. If you are a little more timid, there are plenty of pretty pastels out there that are soft, more neutral, and not as shocking.
Shoes are another great way to play with color. As Kat herself notes, purple is a great color shoe to pair with a navy suit. It starts the experimentation, and one day, you might find yourself wearing those purple shoes with a GREY suit. If you prefer flats, ballet flats come in a multitude of colors and patterns, offering great options for a bit of whimsy, especially if you choose a color or pattern that doesn’t completely match the rest of your ensemble. Leopard flats are great with all black as well as with colors like darker red or teal. It’s a way to have fun on a smaller scale away from eye level.
If you are a bargain hunter, look for sales on colorful shells or camis to wear under black or navy suits. A fun color can brighten up your face and your view of the day, especially when the winter is long and dark and gloomy. Reactions to others SEEING your pops of color can help change your attitude, because as they smile over the jelly bean colors, you can’t help but smile back. And over time, as you come to feel more comfortable experimenting, you’ll get a better feel for how far you can push it, how far you WANT to push it, and eventually, you may end up wearing kelly green cords and a pink plaid shirt (together!). Have fun with it!
* As always, this guest poster has been invited by Kat to post on a subject of interest to the community. We value having different and diverse voices here, and indeed part of the benefit of guest bloggers is broadening the dialog beyond Kat’s own views. To that end, please note that opinions expressed by guest bloggers, like opinions expressed in comments, do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Kat, Katfry LLC, or any of our sponsors or other contributors.
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