The fashion designer Mouret famously described colour as ‘like sunshine on your face’. My wedding was a celebration in orange. I have a lifelong love of emerald green. And I have been known to repaint a wall at midnight if the selected swatch tests ‘lied’ and failed to deliver the colour my eyes and soul need.
Colour can be felt in sounds and words. Dave, the artist that has given me renewed love of both music and poetry, famously sings about his own synaesthesia. Classical composer Liszt saw his scores in colours too. Some of us interpret emotions in colour. Infact, David Baldacci created a whole detective series with the central character viewing crime senses through his internal kaleidoscope
Researchers have long looked to prove what we instinctively feel; that there must be a link between colour and mood. Spoiler alert..their conclusion is a little underwhelming: apparently the real impact is momentary at best.
Yet, we do have cultural cues that apply meaning to colours. From Monet turning his palette and his lilies black in the depths of grief, art historians evaluating Van Gogh’s work based on the symbolism of the colours he chose - even if the science doesn’t show it shifts mood, we definitely read it.
Which is why I’m fascinated about whether our relationship with colour evolves during menopause.
Retailer buyers will tell you our appetite for bright colours fades over time: the best selling hues become the blacks and blues. But I’m not sure that is a real representation of what we really want. Perhaps we just need the rainbow presented to us- to feel we have permission to shine.
Karen Arthur , founder of the brilliant podcast series Menopausal Whilst Black also runs courses to help individuals ’wear their happy’. Her philosophy is that our wardrobe carries memories. In an interview as part of our Phenomenal Women journal series she reflected;
"It’s time we had fun with fashion. It’s time we showed up for life. Society may expect us to be silent as we age. But this is when we have the most to say."
I personally believe that part of the reframing of midlife is rooted in how we reframe our relationship with ourselves. And how we show up for the world. Colour, for me, is about reclaiming my space in it. We’ve too much to do to hide in the shadows!
If I could paint menopause, it most certainly would not be purple. I’ve nothing against it, but bristle at the fact it seems to be the foundation colour, alongside pink, of pretty much any midlife brand. Instead I’d reach for the colours of optimism and new beginnings. The yellows and oranges of hope; the symbolism of the light.
So, as summer heat brings an excuse for a rummage in your wardrobe, why not try a few of Karen’s tips to reintroduce joy into your clothes?
Start by thinking what colours generate an emotional response in you. Which hues make you smile? Which feel soothing?
What stories do you associate with key items in your wardrobe? What times in your life do they reflect? What events? If you have items you don’t wear, but you can’t bear to throw away, ask yourself why you keep them? And why you can’t rethink how you use them.
- DIG DEEP
Don’t focus on the clothes you’re cycling through regularly (most of us only use a small fraction of what we own). Instead look to the edges of the wardrobe and the back of the drawers. Why are there items there that you ignore? What prompted you to buy them in the first place?
- THINK VINTAGE
Karen believes that repurposing vintage clothing allows us to place new memories on top of pre-owned for an extra special experience.
Online shopping means we increasingly discount how stuff feels on our skin in our purchase process. Return to texture. Think about how different materials make you feel. Think about the sound they make too. How they move.
Don’t discount the bottom of your body! What will bring you joy when you look down. What feels comfortable? What makes you want to stand tall? Think about how the shoes you own make you feel. Think about sound here too. Is there a way of incorporating more play and joy into your footwear?
If you can, get yourself properly measured so that you’re wearing the right bra for now. So many of us don’t. Then, rationalise your knicker drawer. Anything that doesn’t fit, doesn’t feel good, has greyed in the wash, has no place. Again, this isn’t about buying more - but most of us have weeks' worth of pants in our drawers! And if you do decide to buy some more, think about the material you want closest to your skin. Think about what colours you’d like to wear (not what is sensible to wear). Here is an opportunity to have real fun - just for you. Dressed in corporate attire, only you will know if you’re wearing a bright canary yellow matching set! And just that fact can lift your day.
- HEAD DRESSING
Finally, think about how you dress your head. Karen is a lover of head wraps and hats. You can play with how you style your hair too. Adorning your head with colour and playing with shape and accessories brings a regality. We all stand taller.
Wear your wisdom in full colour.
With love Rebekah