'Elegant' is not a color property!
Have you ever heard someone refer to a color as ‘elegant’ or ‘sophisticated’? Interestingly, when we hear this, our immediate response might be – wow, isn’t my favorite color elegant?
This happened to me the other day – a woman I was working with kept referring to colors with greyed undertones as ‘more elegant’ than saturated colors. I just smiled. But here is what I should have said…
Guess what? ‘Elegant’ is not a color property!
That’s right! Colors with greyed undertones are not ‘elegant’. Black is not ‘sophisticated’. Pink is not ‘childish’. Olive green is not ‘drab’. Orange is not ‘garish’.
These adjectives are not color properties, they are judgements of how a color makes you feel, and how you think the color looks on you. But here is the catch – a color that looks elegant on you, might look drab or mucky or garish on your friend. A color that feels childish to you, might feel sophisticated and alive to her.
Sadly, when we perpetuate these adjectives, we run the risk of shutting down our colors of joy. Worse, we pass on our judgement, our bias, to other people whose joyful colors are different than ours. We inhibit experimentation, and become afraid to follow our own voice. We shut down our deep emotional response to color and succumb to the bias of others.
When we attach a judgmental adjective onto a color – we start to believe it, as do those who are listening. We start to believe that black is elegant. But is it? Would you call Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress elegant? Sure. How about a black burqa? Maybe not so much. You see, it isn’t the color that is elegant, it is the style and how the person wearing it appears to your eyes, or more importantly to her own eyes. ‘Black’ itself isn’t elegant. Audrey Hepburn looked elegant in her little black dress... and in her red dress, and in her peach dress and in her baby blue skirt and… well, perhaps she just looked elegant because that’s how she saw and carried herself no matter what color she was wearing!
It isn’t the color that is elegant, it's how you see yourself
Tell a woman in India that fuchsia and purple and pink aren’t sophisticated – and she will roll her eyes as she elegantly strolls through the market draped in a red and fuchsia sari. Try to convince a woman in Africa that grey is elegant and orange is not, and she will laugh at you while wrapped in orange, red, green and yellow.
This distinction is huge. When we appreciate that all colors have the ability to make us feel elegant or sophisticated or childish or drab – and that it isn’t a property of the color, but rather a personal bias – we are free to consider that all colors are potentially joyful!
Our choice of words is so powerful! And a slight shift has the ability to expand our colors of joy!
If I could go back and talk with the woman I would tell her:
‘You look elegant in grey!’
‘However, grey makes me look drab and washed-out. I look elegant in olive-green and chocolate-brown.'
'And orange makes me feel alive!’