What do you wear to work when your colouring doesn’t suit the traditional light/dark and neutrals of corporate classic dressing. Especially for people with light colouring and low value contrast that still need to be “in charge” and taken seriously. I’m working on this now and find it hard to find the sweet spot between enough contrast and darker colour to be professional vs too much and not looking my very best in smart casual to smart to professional situations…lighter colours just seem to lend themselves better to more casual situations. Thank you!
When you are colour dominant and really need to wear colour, combine that with a light ideal value, and lower value contrast, it can be tricky to look amazing and be wearing colours that flatter you, when the work environment demands dark colours and high value contrast outfits.
Here are four simple ways to wear more colour in the workplace and still look professional and be taken seriously.
1. Up Your Value Contrast
A higher value contrast will make colours look more different, and we read a high value contrast as more authoritative and yang. This is why a high value contrast is traditional in the professional workplace. So how to fake it when it doesn’t suit your light colouring and low value contrast?
Instead of wearing really dark with really light – the traditional high value contrast, instead look for medium-dark colours (which will look plenty dark enough for you) and team them with your lighter colours and neutrals.
As much as an overall light outfit with low value contrast may suit, instead choose light, with medium and then dark to step through the value contrast scale (and again, don’t choose the really dark, just medium-dark neutrals or colours) which will give you more gravitas, and not overwhelm your colouring.
2. Wear A Multi-Coloured Patterned Item With Solid Neutrals
A second option is to include a multicoloured patterned top or blouse into your outfit. This can add some value contrast and at the same time introduce your ideal level of colour contrast without the bold and less professional colour blocking of garments. Like a man might wear a multi-coloured striped tie with his neutral suit and shirt, your multi-coloured patterned blouse under a neutral jacket will have the same impact.
Team your multi-coloured item with neutrals for that Classic professional look. Or if your patterned item is in traditional business colours of blue and white, you can then add an alternate coloured jacket to provide you with your much-needed colour contrast.
3. Wear Structured Garments
Structured and collared garments always say “business” so by wearing these kinds of clothes you’ll be adding in that professional edge. A jacket in a colour is more authoritative than a knit top in a neutral. This way you can add in your colour, but in a professionally appropriate way. It’s particularly useful when the rest of your outfit is more neutral in its palette.
4. Add Accessories in Colour
Don’t forget to accessorise. This is the easiest way to add additional colours to your outfit without looking garish or clown-like in a more subdued environment.
Are all great ways to add those extra colour elements to your outfit and can really pack a punch. If you need more tips on accessorising – check out my book The Finishing Touch.
Professional work attire doesn’t have to be boring, neutral and plain, and as few workplaces still have very traditional corporate dress codes, colour is easier to wear to the office than it’s ever been before!
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