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The Relationship Between Fashion & Psychology

It is rare that we stop to think about the effects of psychology when it comes to what we wear. Often, as consumers, we make purchases that impact to satisfy our psychological needs and desires. Maslow outlined this motivation behind buying behaviour in this theory of hierarchical needs.

There are many psychological influences involved in consumer purchasing decisions. Most of these, we tend not to be aware of.

What is colour psychology?

Little research has been conducted into colour psychology and the effects that it has. Ultimately, it is the study of how colours affect human perceptions and behaviours. Despite a lack of research, colour psychology has become a key tool in marketing and branding. Marketers use colour psychology to understand how consumers are impacted by the colour of a brand and what emotions it provokes.

The Wright Theory suggests that we are all affected by colour psychology. It also identifies that these effects are independent of variables such as culture, gender and age. The theory outlines that each colour affects different specific psychological modes which influence our mood and behaviour.

The problem

The main limitation of colour psychology is that perceptions of colours are subjective. They’re susceptible to individual’s independent thoughts and personal experiences. For example, the colour red is universally associated with Valentine’s Day because of its connotations to the emotions love and passion. However, danger and rage are also symbolised through the use of the colour red. In Spanish bull fighting, a red flag is used by the Matador to provoke the bull. Therefore, it is clear that colours may have the ability to elicit more than one emotion.

Marketers should consider this when choosing colours to be associated with their brand. The psychological effects of colours on us, as consumers, are extremely important and significantly affect our purchasing behaviours.

How does colour psychology impact the fashion industry?

Colour psychology is a huge factor in what we choose to buy and wear. Some individuals choose to wear bold colours, and this is often a representation of their confidence. The colours that we choose to wear help us to express ourselves in a fun and innovative way.

A change in season and retailers adapting to new trends are perhaps the most noticeable times where, we as consumers, see colours changing in the industry. Spring and summer welcome a range of pastel shades and bright, vibrant colours. For example, the colour yellow has a strong link to feelings of optimism and happiness. Many of us also associate the colour yellow with the sun and so it is a great colour to incorporate into summer trends.

Come autumn and winter, we see a shift in the use of colours in the fashion industry. More warm tones are used, burnt oranges, dark greens and rich browns. Each of these warm colours help to encourage feelings of warmth and comfort in the colder months.

How colour psychology takes shape in the fashion industry?

There are colours which are commonly associated with certain social events and occasions. The colour black, is perceived as a sophisticated and sometimes glamorous colour in relation to clothing. For this reason, black is commonly used in the design of suits and long cocktail dresses. Black tie events highlight this, and it is an occasion which truly highlights these aspects of the colour.

Are fashion consumers aware of colour psychology?

The effects that colours can have on our emotions is something that we tend to overlook. It is rare that we take a step back and assess our motives for purchasing specific colours. However, most of us would be able to identify at least one or two colours which dominate our wardrobe.

What effects are colours having during the pandemic?

Here in the UK, we commonly associate our NHS workers with the colour blue. It is the colour of their uniform and the colour of the NHS logo. Without necessarily being aware, this colour was chosen for a reason. The colour blue links to feelings of trust, loyalty and dependability.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, these emotions towards our NHS key workers have been heightened. It is likely that it was no coincidence that the colour blue was chosen to represent our amazing NHS.

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