How to Wear Red

How to Wear RedHaving red hair, I don’t wear a lot of red or talk about how to wear red on this blog.  It’s a color I don’t own or wear a lot of, except, maybe, for a few pairs of shoes and a handbag.

However, given it’s that time of the month (no…gross, not that time of the month, but February), I thought I’d give a quick tutorial on how to wear red, along with some color psychology advice for wearing this color.

Is Red Right For You?

How to wear redThe first thing you want to ask yourself when educating yourself on how to wear red is if  it is a color that is right for you.  Undoubtedly, red is a color that calls a lot of attention and focus when worn.  While it is a myth that red cars get into more traffic accidents and more speeding tickets, red is a color that sticks in the eye and can actually change how you see other colors.  When I was a designer and would spend long amounts of time staring at the color red swatches or fabric, I’d have to “cleanse my eyes” by staring at something white for a few seconds before staring at another color to “wash the red out of my vision.”  In fact, even when I analyze the colors of my clients, after draping red fabric across them, I have to follow with a white or ivory colored drape to wash my eyes and ensure that the red drape will not affect how I see the other colors I use during my analysis.

Yes, red can be that powerful.

Therefore, when it comes to  giving advice on how to wear red and my clients, the first thing I assess is if red is a color that is right for their personality.  Can they stand up to the power of red?  Is it a color they will be comfortable wearing?  You need a lot of confidence to wear red as a main color in an outfit, so, first, you need to ask yourself if red is right for you?  If it isn’t, this doesn’t mean you have failed in some way or are a weakling because you can’t rise to the power of red, it just means the color isn’t for you.  Accept that and move on.

If Red is Right, How do I Wear It?

Before we get into all the different ways you can wear red, let’s talk about the psychology of this color, because these can be important points to consider when wearing the color.

The first thing I always tell my clients is to never ask for something wearing red.  Red can often be considered an intense or angry color that has the ability to evoke aggression in others.  Asking for something, like a raise for example, wearing a lot of red isn’t something I’d recommend.

At the same time, red is also energizing; it excites the emotions and motivates us to take action.  Signifying a more pioneering spirit and leadership qualities, it is why you often see male leaders in red ties.

Now, interestingly, you can also read more about The Red Dress Effect, which claims that “red dresses muddle men’s minds” and that “men rate women wearing red clothing as being more interested in sex, hinting that humans may be conditioned to associate the color with fertility.”  In summary, the article encourages women to wear red cautiously and thoughtfully as the color does have the ability to send mixed messages to men.

What Shade of Red Should I Wear?

Another big question I get from clients on the topic of how to wear red is what shade they should wear.  Red can be a tricky color to choose because there are tons of shades of the color.  For the sake of simplicity, I want to talk about the difference between warm and cool reds.  For some people, understanding what makes colors cool or warm is very simple, yet, for others, it is something that takes side-by-side comparison and detailed explanation to make it clear.

How to Wear Red

When you look at a warm red and a cool red side-by-side, you can clearly see that the warm red has more yellow in it.  When a color has more yellow in it, it is warm and when a color has more blue in it, it is cool.   While there are plenty of shades of red in the spectrum, reds that are more muted or vibrant or softer, knowing whether or not a warm or cool red is the best for you to wear is the first thing you need to identify.

People who look best in warm reds are people who look better in warmer colors, like browns, oranges, yellows, russet or fall tones.  Conversely, people who look better in cool reds are those who look best in brighter jewel tones like magenta, royal blue, bright purples and black.  If this is still confusing, think about metallics.  You can either think about if you look more flattering in silver jewelry or gold jewelry.  If silver is more flattering on you, the you’ll most likely look better in a cool red.  If warm golds are the better choice for you, then a warm red will likely be, as well.  If you want to talk it a step further, drape silver and gold metallic fabrics across you while looking in a mirror.  Depending on which metallic shade looks better near your skin can determine  which shade of red is best for you.  When draping these metallic fabrics, look which fabrics make your skin tone look more rested, less ashen or grey or too sallow.   Keep in mind, however, there are some people who can get away wearing either a warm or cool red.  Most often, people of African American descent usually fall into this category.  If you find that both warm and cool look flattering, then you have a little more range.

How Much Red Should I Wear?

The amount of red you should wear is truly a subjective question that has no real firm answer.  I think it is important to consider all the points above and always think about what your goal is for the day.  If you are in a position where you need to be a leader, or show people new ideas, red may be a color that evokes a feeling of confidence in others.  If you’re in a position where you need to sell someone on an idea, or negotiate something you want, red may be something that causes aggravation in the person you are dealing with.  If you’re looking to stand out and can handle all the attention red may cause when you wear it, then wearing a lot of red will probably support that goal.

Yet, the most important thing to consider is how you feel when you wear it.   Regardless of whether  you look good and consider yourself educated on how to wear red, it’s important to make sure this is a color you enjoy wearing.  Long ago, I had a red top that was powerful and bright.  Even though the cut was flattering, every time I wore it, I just didn’t feel like me.  That was the last red top I owned and I’ve never worn the color in my clothing again.  When it comes to getting dressed, no matter what, taking inventory of how you feel when you wear something is the most important part of the equation.

  • Susanna Kay

    Red is supposed to be the Now colour of Winter 2017 so good to discover this post and read it before I buy red!