For many of us, selecting the right colour combination of clothes is a frustrating experience.
Do I depend on my intuition? Do I take the colour wheel with me to select the outfit? Should I choose complementary colours or contrasting ones? Is this the right season to buy a mikado and smaragdine combination? Or is the more analogous coquelicot and falu combination a better choice?
Somehow you take a decision and buy an outfit only to find that you have chosen the worst combination, according to your friends. Your confidence goes down with every new purchase, and to top it all, your hard-earned money is lost buying clothes that impressed no one.
So how do you avoid being the Vidya Balan of your group?
Let us look at the confusion created around us. This is Lady Gaga, the pop queen.
And this is the Queen of England.
How do we choose from millions of colours that complement each other or are the right shade and contrast? Should it be something out of Lady Gaga’s bizarre collection or a prim and proper dress chosen by the Queen.
There are thousands of studies conducted to tell us the best colour combinations. Some suggest staying away from mixing warm and cool colours and wearing print on print; others advice sticking to shades that match your skin’s undertones, and still others recommend consulting websites or apps where designers suggest colour palettes. But, instead of helping us, these studies confuse us even more, because on many occasions you find that what one researcher says is the opposite of what the other writes.
So, how do we get out of this dilemma? Here’s my solution:
Why not stick to the oldest research available to us; research from nature that cannot be challenged at all?
While taking my morning walk one day, I saw a young jogger approaching from the opposite side. She was wearing a magenta T-shirt which had the exact same shade as the pink banana flower to the left of the walking track. I was so excited by what I saw that I stopped her on her next round and showed her the pink banana flower. When I got home, I learnt that the plant is called Musa velutina, named after a Greek botanist and physician Antonius Musa. What a coincidence that the jogger too was training to be a physician!
Plants and fish started experimenting with colour combinations some 540 million years ago during a period called the Cambrian Explosion, resulting in the spellbinding diversity in colouration in the natural world.
This development of colour in the plant and animal kingdom has played an important evolutionary role in camouflage, attracting mates and in differentiating between species.
If you decide to go down nature’s route, nobody can look down upon your choice of colours. Your choice is now backed by millions of years of solid evidence. Goodbye fashion faux pas!
Here’s an example: if you choose a tuscany-coloured top (RGB 252 209 42), what colour pants should you team it with? I would say opt for concorde grape (RGB 102, 1, 152). How am I so sure? Because my statement is backed by research done by the flowers of a plant called Passiflora lutea. So when you buy this combination and let people know it is a Passiflora lutea colour combination, would they object?
The moment you adopt this strategy of curating your wardrobe, your closet trauma will vanish and it will be the start of your new journey into the natural world; a new way of discovering its beauty. Moreover, you’re sure to sound authoritative when you’re heard saying things like, “Oh it was a steal yesterday; I bought a Black Eyed Susan skirt, a Bleeding Heart sari, and Sneezewort Yarrow shorts.”
Here’s a lookbook featuring some more never-fail colour combinations identified for you by plants:
This is Indian Clock Vine (Thunbergia mysorensis). Take it to the mall when buying your next dress.
This is Prickly Blue Poppy (Meconopsis horridula). Show this picture to the wide-eyed store attendant. Surf the Internet and you will find around hundreds of thousands of colour combinations to choose from.
Fish too started evolving a variety of colour combinations around the same time as plants, as a means to adapt to their underwater environments. So you could take the help of their research too when buying your clothes. The triggerfish above is called Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, and is an example of the complex patterns and striking colours occurring in nature.
Coming back to Vidya Balan, veteran Bollywood actress, who is on the top of the charts for her recurring fashion disasters. But Vidya has hope now. She can turn the tables on her critics using this formula. This is one of the outfits which gained her the title of worst dressed actress.
Now, all she has to say is, “It’s a Scarus guacamaia combination” for the world to sit up and take notice of her nuanced colour pairing choices.
Prabodh is a retired HR executive who regularly blogs. You can read more of his writing here.