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Tuesday, 21 August, 2001, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Colour me professional
Workers dressed in different colours
By BBC News Online's Emma Clark

Ever wondered why you didn't get that job you really wanted? Perhaps it was because you wore the wrong colour shirt to the interview.

For example, if you wore red, you might have inadvertently conveyed that you were untrustworthy, intimidating and prone to angry outbursts.

Calista Flockhart as Fox Network's Ally McBeal
Ally McBeal has no problem wearing red at the office
Or so say some colour experts. They would argue you should have worn a soothing green shirt, or perhaps a lavender blouse if you wanted to spice things up a bit.

"If you wear a red jacket, you will be noticed, so you need to make sure you know what you are talking about - which may not be the case in an interview," quips Veronique Henderson, a director at image consultancy Color Me Beautiful.

Caroline Baxter, the fashion editor at Cosmopolitan magazine adds: "The hotter tones - reds and oranges - are not good for the office environment.

"They are very distracting. People get sidetracked by them and it's not good for making eye contact."

It's not what you say...

In the age of snappy sound bites, high fashion and office politics, it seems more attention needs to be paid to what you wear at work.

According to research from Color Me Beautiful, 55% of the impact you make depends on how you look and behave, 38% on how you speak and only 7% on what you actually say.

Front cover of Cosmopolitan magazine
Cosmo's fashion editor: 'hotter tones are distracting'
"Your clothes will say something about you before you have even spoken," says Cosmo's Ms Baxter.

And attending a job interview or even an important meeting is a potential minefield.

"Judge the situation and think before you pull out the most colourful shirt, if you are trying to impress," advises Ms Baxter.

"Bright colours give off a lot of confidence, but it depends on where you work and your skin tones."

Clash with your clothes and people will assume that you lack self-knowledge, she adds.

How do you feel?

Apparently, the colour of your clothes can also influence the way you feel at work.

Ms Henderson from Color Me Beautiful says that colour definitely influences her mood.

"When I go into management meetings, I always wear red because I want to get my view across."

And if you are in the mood for a little office romance, choosing pink might just do the trick.

A model with pink boa feathers around her head
Wearing pink could mean you have your eye on someone in the office
"Wearing pink or rosy colours conveys romantic notions in your clothes and guarantees he will be yours," says colour specialist Diana Mossop.

But theories on pink abound.

One of the BBC's own journalists admits to wearing coloured blouses or cardigans to cheer herself up if she is feeling tired or bad tempered.

On the whole, however, she saves her favourite colours - deep aquamarine and Miami pink - for life out of the office.

Black, navy and white

Different industries have their own de facto uniform, but black, navy and white are deemed acceptable in most workplaces.

Models dressed in black on the catwalk
You can't go wrong with black
"For men, dark, heavy suits show authority," says Ms Henderson from Color Me Beautiful.

Cosmo's Ms Baxter who prefers to steer workers away from bright colours says that softer palettes are better.

"People tend to be safe, they wear work outfits and take them off as soon as they walk through the door [home]."

The only caveat it seems is to avoid black, black and black.

"Wearing black is not the solution," explains Ms Henderson. "Black is harsh and it doesn't show a lot of creativity."

Colour blind

The virtues of the colours themselves are hotly debated by diehard colour fans.


If you are trying to impress your boss in the first few months of work, green is the colour of genuine commitment, showing your dedication to your work

Diana Mossop
Colour specialist
"If you are trying to impress your boss in the first few months of work, green is the colour of genuine commitment, showing your dedication to your work," says Ms Mossop.

An interactive colour picker on the BBC website corroborates this, describing green as "great for any job, but particularly good for high-powered jobs where stress is a factor".

But it seems the situation is not completely black and white.

"Green is unflattering on most people," counters Ms Baxter.

"It is an organic colour but it doesn't translate well into clothes. Most editors don't put green on covers because it doesn't sell."

What to wear?

So if you are planning your sartorial strategy and are ready to revamp your working wardrobe, what next?

Two black suits
A black suit at Next will cost about 80
A black suit at Ralph Lauren will cost you about 1000

Diane McCarthy, a personal shopping consultant at the department store Barkers in South Kensington, London, advises investing in some nice tops to spruce up existing skirt and trouser suits.

"Red nowadays is considered to be bold under grey and black suits. People are definitely changing and are getting more adventurous," she says.

Alternatively, should you want to avoid a colour faux pas, you could say it with textures - charcoal crepes and brushed wool - says Ms Baxter.

But perhaps the best advice, is wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident, whether it be funereal black, flame red or electric blue.


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