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Colour Psychology Fashion Trends

Dr. Janetius, Department of Psychology, Sree Saraswathi Thyagaraja College, Pollachi, Ms. Shenbagam, Department of Psychology, Sree Saraswathi Thyagaraja College, Pollachi & Ms. Shilpa Ayu, S.T.., Department of Management Studies

 January 2015

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AbstractIndia today is becoming a fertile hub for budding fashion designers as youngsters are becoming increasingly fashion conscious, owing to exposure to media influence. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the dress colour and dressing style preference of rural adolescents. The study conducted among college students from rural areas of Perur, Pollachi and Udumalpet taluks of Coimbatore districts suggests considerable gender differences in regard to fashion consciousness, preference of colour and choice of dress on different occasions. This study further stimulates avenue for future research in the area of dress and fashion consciousness.

Keywords: Adolescent dressing, dress colour preference, fashion and rural youth, gender and fashion trends.

Introduction and the problem: How many distinct colours and shades can the human eye distinguish or the number of colours perceptible to the human eye? The International Commission on Illumination (CIE - Commission internationale de l'éclairage) suggests that the human eye can detect approximately 2.38 million colours. The ability of human eye to distinguish meaningful difference in colour tone and shade is limited by visual capability of the individual. The powerful influence of colour regulates our choices from selection of phone we use, bike we ride, car we drive, food we eat, clothes we wear and house we dwell.

Preference for particular colour or dress is a deeply rooted emotional response which may not offer any apparent rational answer. Psychologists down through the centuries maintain that colour preference is related to human personality and colours have an impact on our moods, feelings and behaviour. Colour or colour preference is a silent vibration giving specific meaning and message to the person who uses and, it sends a strong message to people who see (Mahnke, 1996).  

Scientific studies in the field of colour psychology have found that different colours can provoke very different reactions in people. Faber Birren (1997), pioneer in the field of colour study, argues that colours affect our personality and mood and, it is possible to make precise judgments about the meaning of colour preferences and their revelations of personality traits. Although individual differences are emphatically pronounced in perception and preference of colours, psychologists figure out some personality attributes behind this differences and also commonality among choices (Ritberger, 2005). There are days a person prefers warm shades and s/he prefers cold and pale shades on certain other occasions. Added to that, people prefer some colours appropriate to certain occasions even if they do not like the colours and shades altogether. While some people hate certain colours, there are people who prefer such colours in their day to day dressing.  For example, people are biased against black colour in the society, often it is associated with death, mourning and sadness. However, there are people who find it classy, fashionable, and professional and even attractive (Rebecca Willis, 2011). A study on Carl Jung’s (1962) ancestral inheritance, collective unconscious and its role on social labelling of colours is far from the scope of this study, however, the unconscious motives behind colour preference is easy for comprehension. A good judgment of the way colour and personality interact can help us choosing appropriate clothing, and making our daily interactions pleasant and pleasing to others.

This study focuses on two objects: what is the major colour preference among college students as far as their dressing style is concerned and what is the preferred dressing style of college students.

Human eye and colour vision: Human vision is one of the most complex visual systems in the evolution of species giving humans the ability to see physical environment. Humans,  apes and some monkey species have trichromatic vision, with eyes containing three colour receptors, sensitive to blue, green and yellow-red whereas  many species of mammals only have blue and green receptors, and can distinguish fewer colours (Kleiner, 2004). The receptor cells rods and cones in human eye which take light rays as physical stimuli inside and transforms them into electrical and chemical signals to the brain. There are roughly 120 million rods and 6 to 7 million cones in human eye. Colour sensors cones respond to a broader colour of red, green, and blue (RGB). These three colours are called primary colours. All other colours in between are perceived as different linear combinations The cones also have three sets which correspond to the red, blue and green light that fall on the retina and the perception of colours resulting from their combinations are called secondary colours.

Colour vision plays an important role in both perception and communication. In fact colour perception is a complex thing which depends not only on the wavelength of the light that the sensors in the eye receive, but also the circumstances or environment in which we perceive, such as background   lighting, familiarity, and lighting in the surroundings. The chemicals in the objects reflect the pale sunlight in a particular wavelength and the rods and cones which are stimulated in a specific way send the message to the brain to identify in Red, Green, Blue (RGB) variations as colours. Colour blindness is a vision deficiency in which a person is not differentiates or distinguishes colour shades. There are different causes of colour blindness, majority of it is genetic and has been inherited from their mother. Colour blind people are generally able to see as clearly as normal people but unable to differentiate red, green or blue shades fully; they are also people who can’t see any colour at all. Colour vision deficiency CVD (colour blindness) affects approximately 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women in the world (Robin, 2014).

Colour psychology: Traditionally colours are identified from rainbow and the seven colours of the spectrum. Today the three predominant colours identified for computer and modern day technology related display are primary colours RGB or Red, Green and Blue. By varying the amount of each of these colours, the human eye can be tricked to see a spectrum of colours, including white and black. Because these primary colours occur frequently in nature, they have corresponding psychological properties that can change our behaviour and emotions. Psychologists in the field of colour and personality or colour psychology bring out the following description for various colours. The following table collected from various sources gives a general picture of some of the popular colours and their psychological interpretation.

White

·         Symbol of purity, balance, unity harmoniously

·         Popularly used in wedding gowns and events symbolising peace

·         In fashion and daily setting it is jarring, unfriendly

·         Culturally in India widows are given white colour dress; symbolising austerity and cultural religious connotations

Black

·         Absence of light and colour

·         Western cultures symbolises death; associated with mourning and grief, hatred

·         Symbolises powerful and provocative in dressing

·         Wearing black makes impression and project seriousness

Orange

·         Odd colour, provokes mixed reactions; feelings of warmth and enthusiasm

·         Its slight variation -brown creates feelings of comfort, relaxing and security

·         Indian culture it is the colour of austerity used by monks

·         Today often associated with fundamental religious view in India

Purple

·         Feels soothing and peaceful and can help relieve anxiety

·         Traditionally associated with royalty and nobility, an exotic colour

·         Purple tie give dash to your look; however, a purple suit probably look weird

Green

·         Colour of life and nature, often associated with health and prosperity

·         Promote relaxation, peace, and calm; stimulates a restful, secure and balanced feeling

·         Green clothing could make people think of you as positive and relaxed

Pink

·         Western culture made pink a feminine colour

·         Symbolizes innocence of childhood, gentle side of human nature and youth.

·         Thinking life should be constantly romantic and generous.

Yellow

·         Tends to be a colour that promotes optimism, energy, alertness

·         Happiness and joy in people

·         And associated with adventurousness

·         People use this colour to promote optimism and enjoyment

·         Wearing a yellow dress can brighten up the day

Blue

·         Represent sky and ocean; soothing to body and reduce heart rate

·         Good colour to use in a bedroom to lull to sleep

·         Associated with wisdom, loyalty and royalty

Red

·         Most intense and arousing colour associated with both love and hatred

·         Denotes extroversion of a person with desire, appetite, will to live life fully.

·         Aggressive, impulsive, surely quick to release feelings and emotions.

·         Red lipstick, dress, or tie can attract attention

 Table 1: Popular colour and psychological interpretation

Fashion and dressing: Fashion is a general term for a popular style or practice, especially in clothing, hairstyle, footwear accessories, make up, etc...  Fashion refers to a distinctive and customary trend in the style with which a person dresses, as well as to prevailing styles in behaviour. Popularly it denotes costume and dressing style of people. Clothing serves for much more than covering and protection. It is a means of communication to reflect social status, lifestyle. Down through the centuries, people tend to dress according to occasion and need. The clothing style can be divided into different categories: it could be traditional, casual, trendy, casual and professional or elegant. Some are designed for comfort; some clothes are for informal occasions and emphasize relaxation and often referred as casual wear. Some clothes bring seriousness, youthfulness, superiority, attitude, culture and status. Among students, it mostly suggests the sense of dress.

Adolescents allocate more time for their public appearance than to studies. The peer influence, hero-worship which become part of adolescent identity creation is the primary reason why adolescents aspire for more fashion concerns than any other age group. Colleges generally project the picture of current trend in fashion. As soon as adolescents join college, a spectacular change occurs in their self-appearance consciousness. Therefore it is normal for a college student who is in the identity creation stage of Erikson’s psychosocial development to look for trendy dress choices (1968). When a particular style of dress comes in vogue or used by film stars and models, it is blindly followed by college students (Pathak, 2013). Fashion trend today does not give precedence to comforts and practicality. Sometimes the dress, that goes beyond modesty and simplicity, which does not allow someone to sit or walk properly, is attracted by youth. Untidy, shabby looking hair-styles, which are trendy, attract adolescents.

Methodology: The data was collected from 536 college students from rural areas of Perur, Pollachi and Udumalpet taluks of Coimbatore districts to examine the processes in clothing choices, fashion trends and how their purchase of clothing is affected by external influences. The data was collected using convenient sampling (those who were willing to participate) in the months of December 2014 and January 2015. Simple statistical analysis, rank order and significant differences were identified.

Results and Discussion: This study on psychology behind colour and fashion, among rural college students, was aimed at identifying the major colour preference and dressing style. A total of 536 students were studied (34% of the students studied were boys and 66% girls).

For the purchase of dress, 54% of the boys did everything by themselves. For example, they chose the colour and style of their dress. But 60% of the girls report that the choice was done by their parents. The following graph shows the different buying decision making and colour preference of costumes.
As per the choice of colour in their costumes, the highly favoured colours of the boys are black, orange and white shades where as for girls it is pink, white and violet. One commonality seen between rural boys and girls is white. This shows the traditional, conservative outlook among the rural population.

 

Male

Female

Favourite dress colours

Black

Pink

Orange

White

White

Violet

Dress colours don’t like

Red

Yellow

 

Yellow

Black

Table 2: Showing preferred and less preferred dress colours

Psychologists understand the preference for white colour in many people is a recall of their youth and innocence. Probably the preference for white colour tells the innocence of rural life and thinking. As for the dislike of other colours, there are gender difference which is also noticed. Boys although prefer red colour to impress people by their dress, generally dislike red and yellow shades in their common choice. Girls on the contrary dislike yellow and black. A commonality seen in both boys and girls is dislike for yellow. Colour yellow is associated with happiness and joy. This colour is also related with optimism, energy, alertness, and adventurousness. However, rural students do not like this colour.

Psychologists argue that the colours one dislike can tell a lot about personality, often reflecting weaknesses and vulnerabilities (Ritberger, 2005). The most disliked colour will relate to areas in life that need to be given attention or past hurts that need to be healed. Freudian psychodynamic psychologists associate unconscious and childhood memories for this dislike. Hatred for a colour or rejecting a colour altogether can create imbalances in life. They further suggest people, to incorporate a disliked colour into life, by using them in small amounts to balance one’s energies.

Dress preference for Occasion

Boys

Girls

Dress to look nice & impress others

White

White

Red

Pink

When go out with friends

White

White

Black

Pink

Temple & religious functions

White

White

 

Pink

Marriage or family functions

White

Pink

 

Red

 

Violet

Tour or go out

Black

Black

Red

Pink

Table 3: Showing favoured dress colour as per occasions

White is the colour favoured by both the gender to impress people and to look nice. On many occasions like visiting a temple, participating in functions at home and out, girls prefer the traditional female colour pink together with white. Boys on the contrary look for more aggressive black or red. This is a well pronounced gender difference. The extroversion, desire, appetite and dynamism linked to red colour is the popular favourite of boys. This shows, boys like to be somewhat aggressive, impulsive, athletic, and quick to release their feelings and emotions.  On the contrary, girls look for pink and rose shades. In the Western culture pink is often referred as a feminine colour, stressing vulnerability and child-like emotions. It also symbolizes the gentle side of human nature, health, abundance and youth. Psychologists suggest two types of people like pink a) people who led a very sheltered life and, b) those who seek to regain the innocence of childhood. Overall, in pink there is affection, delicacy and an inner conviction, devoid of trials and tribulations.

When asked about the dressing style, the rural college boys prefer modern trendy dress as the dominant style where as girls want to be in casual and relaxed styles. Boys select casual and relaxed dressing style as their secondary choice where as girls go for traditional and classical style.

 

Male

Female

Favourite Dressing Style

Modern & trendy

Causal & relaxed

Causal & relaxed

Traditional & classical

Table 4:  Showing the favourite dressing style

Modern and trendy styles denote the consciousness of the boys in latest, cutting-edge fashion designs in clothing. Impressing the attention of others seen in adolescent identity creation, elaborated by Psychologist Erikson is clearly seen among boys in their trendy fashion and personality. Trendy also describes the boys who prefer the latest, most up-to-date fashion available, often used by film stars in popular movies.

As regards the casual and relaxed dressing style of girls, it is evident that the girls look for comfort, practicality and ease which are important factors in their dress.  It clearly reflects the rural mood that they do not venture into modern trends and cutting edge styles. Psychologists define people who prefer casual style as those who are reserved, unpretentious, approachable, easy-going and down-to-earth. Another choice of girl students - classic and traditional outfit preference- tells about people who wish to be simple, more conservative and the style pronounces the message ‘neat and tidy person’. Both casual and traditional style suits well and projects clearly the personality of rural mind-set.

Conclusion: The study conducted among college students from rural areas of Coimbatore and nearby districts to examine the dress colour choice and fashion trends suggest that there are considerable gender differences in fashion consciousness, colour preference and choice of dress on different occasions. College boys prefer white shades more than anything else where as girls prefer white and pink coloured costumes. Boys tend to favour trendy and modern outfit where as girls choose casual and relaxed costumes. Boys take freedom to choose their dressing materials where as a girl’s choices are limited by the interference of parents. Further studies could be done in broader avenues like demographic variables, urban – rural differences and place of education for detailed understanding of dress and fashion consciousness.

References

Birren, F. (1997). The Power of Color: How It Can Reduce Fatigue, Relieve Monotony, Enhance Sexuality and More, Citadel publishers.

Erikson, Erik H. (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton

Jung, C. G., & Jaffe A. (1962). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. London: Collins.

Kleiner, K. (2004). What we gave up for colour vision. New Scientist, January 24, 2004: 12.

Mahnke, F. (1996). Colour, Environment, and Human Response: An Interdisciplinary Understanding of Color and Its Use as a Beneficial Element in the Design of the Architectural Environment, John Wiley & Sons

Pathak, V. (2013). Fashion among students, posted in Essays, Paragraphs and Articles, retrieved on January 3, 2015 from http://www.importantindia.com

Rebecca Willis. (2011). Why black is addictive. Intelligent life magazine, November/December 2011.

Ritberger, C. (2005). What colour is your personality, Hay House Publishers

Robin (2014). What Is Colour-blindness and the Different Types?, Colour Vision Testing, retrieved on December 14, 2014 from http://colorvisiontesting.com/color2.htm