fashion

"I tried wearing bright colours and bold clashing prints to see if it would make me happier at work."

Let’s face it. We’re all looking for ways to be happier at work, right?

Even if you bloody love your job and wouldn’t want to do anything else, I dare you to tell me you’ve never had a day you wished you’d stayed home and eaten your weight in cheese (we’ve all been there).

I’ll be the first to chuck my hand up in the air and admit, on the odd occasion, work doesn’t look or feel as shiny as it might appear on Instagram.

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Me some days. Shh, don't tell my boss. Image: Giphy.

But we're not here to dwell - I've come with a proposal.

One thing we all have to do every morning before going to work, regardless of what industry we work in, is put on clothes.

But what if the clothes you chose changed how you feel about yourself at work? Yep, I'm talking about colour psychology.

Before you doze off and reach for the same black trousers and jacket you wear everyday, hear me out.

Colour psychology isn't the most exact of the sciences. In fact, almost all of the research is either a) inconclusive or b) contradictory. But what we do know is wearing bright, bold colours can have an impact on your emotions.

Part of how colours make us feel comes from marketing cliches (some of which are outdated) - pink for girls, blue for boys, green with envy, purple symbolising regal authority and yellow exuding sunshine.

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Oh, didn't you get the memo? Image: Giphy.
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But specifically, let's talk about the kinds of colours that propel you out of bed on a Monday and into the morning meeting with gusto. Heck, the type that might get you there a few minutes early. Those colours (and prints) are not necessarily just bright, but saturated.

Psychology Today found colours are made up saturation (how pure a colour is) and brightness (how light a colour is). Wearing colours that are more saturated than bright (e.g. a bold blue, deep red or a vibrant pink) are more energising to look at.

We also know the clothes women choose directly reflect and dictate our emotions. A 2012 study by Professor Karen Pine from the psychology department at the University of Hertfordshire in Britain found 57 per cent of women said they'd wear a baggy top when feeling depressed. Similarly, 62 per cent would put on their favourite bright dress when they're feeling happy.

Need some style inspiration? Check out how the Mamamia team pairs colours and prints in the Style Street video below. Post continues after video.

Video by MWN
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This right here is where the idea to reverse engineer my emotions and trick myself into changing my mood at work came from.

I already wear colours and prints to work (my favourite's leopard), but I wondered: could I feel infinitely happier, brighter and more positive if I amped things up and made a conscious effort to wear the boldest things in my wardrobe to the office for a week?

Let's find out.

How to wear bright colours and clashing prints 101.

Before embarking on my fashion challenge, I consulted former Cosmopolitan Australia fashion editor, stylist and brand consultant Denis Todorovic (you can follow Deni on Instagram here) because...

I am not an expert in fashion, nor style. But the idea here is to consciously throw together bright colour and bold prints in a way that's wearable for work/going out in public, rather than shoving every colour and print in existence on your body at once.

In Deni's experience, there are some very easy ways to introduce bold colour and prints.

1. Pick primary colours and jewel tones.

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"Primary colours and neons are definitely still a thing, but probably less so than they were last season. I would go for primary coloured pieces - a cobalt blue knit, reds or oranges. Pink is also key - last year, it was millennial pink, but this year, especially after the awards season, everyone is doing that bright fuchsia, bubblegum pink."

"There's also something very sexy and elegant about jewel tones - emerald green, burgundy, deep sapphire, amethyst. These are the colours Beyonce or J.Lo will wear when they don't want to be just another woman on the red carpet."

2. Wear all the prints, but keep the colours tonal.

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Solange Knowles at the 2019 Met Gala. Image: Getty.
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"I love clashing prints, but it takes skill. My general rule of thumb for the everyday person is, if you're going to clash prints, keep the colour palette tonal (in the same family of colours). For example, if you want to wear a spot and a stripe together, choose items in the same colour or different shades (lighter/darker tones) of the same colour."

"To me, leopard is a neutral. Approach it as if it's black or khaki, you can pair leopard with any colour. You can also mix different animal prints, like snake skin and leopard print, but make sure they're in the same tone, too."

3. Start small with accessories.

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"Accessories, accessories, accessories. Always. If you are someone who likes to wear monochrome colours (and that's fine), bags and shoes are the quickest and easiest way to incorporate any kind of trend into your outfit. And you can get away with spending less on those items, especially if you won't wear it again the following season."

Alrighty, now onto how I went put this advice into action and documenting it through a series of faux-influencer photos.

My working week of colour and clashing prints.

Day 1: Monday, a statement jumper.

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Just to be clear, I'm not a model. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
Nope, just a regular girl standing in front of a colourful wall, waiting for a friend to take her picture. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
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This statement jumper is the easiest way to wear colour in winter, hands down. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.

Wardrobe breakdown:

How I felt in this outfit:

  • Comfortable - confession, I've worn this outfit before in my non-mandatory colour life. Fresh white sneakers always help with this, too.
  • Cool - Midi skirts are one of the easiest silhouettes to wear because they nip you in at the waist and skim over your legs in a ridiculously flattering way. But the thing that made me feel cool while wearing it was how I did a French tuck with the jumper (tucked it in at the front). And the matching red lippie.
  • Relaxed - the statement jumper is basically unf*ckupable, so I didn't have to think too hard about nailing the colour brief.

What happened in this outfit:

Nothing overly dramatic or different to any other Monday. Other than a co-worker commented how much she loved me in that colour red, which made me feel pretty great.

Day 2: Tuesday, a bright power suit.

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THIS was really out of my comfort zone. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
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SO UNCOMFORTABLE. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
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I 100 per cent dug myself in this shade of green, though. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.

Wardrobe breakdown:

Hot tip - this M&S suit also comes in a bright pink.

How I felt in this outfit:

  • Like a boss - my whole demeanour changed when I put on this bright green suit. I was... strutting. Then, as the day went on, I felt...
  • Like a tosser - I don't know why but the loudness and brightness of this suit started to make me question myself. Who was I to wear such an audacious suit?
  • Conspicuous - if there was ever a day I was acutely aware of my existence and place in the world, it was the day I wore this suit.

What happened in this outfit:

This day was quite a busy one, and I felt like my suit conveyed that to people (adding to the tosser-ness of it all). By the time I got home, I felt like a clammy, flustered penguin. That said, I've never got more compliments or comments from both co-workers and strangers than I did wearing this suit.

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Day 3: Wednesday, clashing prints.

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Oh hey, I'm just waiting for a coffee. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
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I call this, 'ocean leopard'. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
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I'm obsessed with the cowl (drooped) neckline on this dress. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
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Wardrobe breakdown:

How I felt in this outfit:

  • Sexy - I LOVED the cut of this dress. Not only is the cowl neckline really flattering, but the cut of the dress cinched in at the waist and flared out over the hips in the best way. And animal print is always a bit saucy.
  • Comfortable - thanks to the T-shirt, I could wear my regular thick-strap bra and I considered that a major win.
  • Fun - I felt like a young, quirky 'creative' out of The Bold Type in this outfit.

What happened in this outfit:

I really dug myself in this outfit, but no-one blinked twice at the bright blue stripes paired with a blue and green leopard print dress. I felt really happy in this and I'd wear it again.

Day 4: Thursday, a hot pink moment.

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On Thursdays (?), we wear pink. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
Regina George would not be impressed. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
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This dress did not feel like me. At all. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.

Wardrobe breakdown:

How I felt in this outfit:

  • Like a... child? - something about the bright fuchsia pink matched with the half-up high ponytail and hair scarf made me feel like I was in primary school again.
  • Happy - this colour was genuinely a joy to wear.
  • Obvious - again, this bold colour made me feel like I was slapping people in their eyes (not physically possible, but OK).

What happened in this outfit:

This work day was particularly standard (no events or meetings, I even packed my lunch that day). It felt nice to dress up for no reason and I really enjoyed the red lipstick and pink combination because it's my favourite fashion rule to break.

Day 5: Friday, a lazy graphic t-shirt.

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This is what it looks like when a person who loves colour and leopard is... done with colour and leopard. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
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At least the doggo is cute. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
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This is my version of casual Fridays. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
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Wardrobe breakdown:

How I felt in this outfit:

  • Enough - ignore if this makes no zero sense, but pairing the satin leopard skirt with the emerald green T-shirt made me feel like I was making just enough of a statement with my outfit. I participated in fashion that day, but was by no means running the show.
  • Relaxed - I'd wear this again for brunch or going indoor plant shopping.
  • Like I'd given up on my challenge - I got a bit lazy!

What happened in this outfit:

I'm so sorry but by day five, I ran out of multi-coloured, leopard print steam. I also want to apologise for the over-saturation of Adidas sneakers (not sponsored). A woman on the train told me the colour of my green T-shirt looked lovely with my red hair. She then proceeded to pat the dog. Not sure if there was an agenda there.

Final verdict - did wearing bright colours and prints make me feel happier at work?

Yes, but there's a but.

Comparing the thoughts and feelings I jotted down for each day, a pattern emerged.

On the days I went all out with my colour efforts - the green suit on day two and day four's hot pink dress - I felt like a bit of an imposter. To wheel a cliche out of retirement, I didn't feel like me, you know?

Working a look so bold and bright also comes with a lot of admin. I'm not going to go as far as saying it was a strain on my mental load, but brights and clashing prints can be high maintenance.

But on days one, three and five when I made an effort to wear either one statement colour or print piece paired with a more wearable item? Jackpot.

Sure, I could've gone harder and worn canary yellow or brilliant blue. A shocking purple, even. And I probably will in the future - maybe as a top tucked into a black skirt or a great pair of jeans rather than a matching suit (not that there's anything wrong with that whatsoever).

The colour and clashing prints challenge made my work week really fun, mostly because personally, I really enjoy thinking about clothes and the different combinations I can pull out of my arse in the morning to not feel like I'm wearing the same old thing again.

Probably more powerful an affect on my mood than the bright colours was just having a change.

Do you wear colours and prints in your everyday wardrobe? Tell us about your style in the comments below!

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