One tumblr writing prompt I got was to write about colours. First of all, duh, why didn’t I think of this, and second of all YES PERFECT THANK YOU.
You have definitely noticed I love colour. I love colour so much I did my bachelor paper on it for art school (combined with Entfremdung, another fave subject of mine – the link’s Dutch, sorry). I didn’t realise this love for a long time though, but it started to dawn on me during a school visit to Paris’s Centre Pompidou where a blood-red Rothko painting was on display. In book reproductions you kinda just flip through Rothko chapters and go ‘yah I get it I get it’, but as I walked the halls of the Centre I suddenly felt I needed to turn right and there is was: a huge blood-red Rothko painted canvas with darkening red towards the bottom. Colour isn’t something that is not only visual, it is also emotional, and I risk sounding all high up and mighty but you might not understand if you have never seen it and/or you don’t have the same Stendhal-like sentiments towards arts as me, and that’s okay let me tell you what I felt instead; it is almost metaphysical. I felt immersed in red. I was red. Colour can make you feel so much more than a million words, but at the same time Rothko wasn’t telling me a story the way most art does, it just made me feel. Not only did it make me feel something an artist expressively wanted to make me feel, it just made me feel my own feelings, my own personal relationship to red. Vital, lively, powerful, scary and scarily linked to something disturbing and death-like. This may be what a lot of you feel because these connotations are embedded into our society. That doesn’t make the experience less powerful. Instead, we can bond over red.
Colour can just be colour and it can overwhelm you.
In general day to day life now I love, what you might call, unexpected colour combinations, but these colour combos aren’t unexcected at all; look at birds, look at flowers. One of my most hated art school tutors who I still had an immense respect for (aside from her disastrous teaching methods) once prompted the entire class to pick out a black and white photo, a bird, then re-paint the black and white picture in the bird’s colours: one at night, one at noon and one at day. That’s one of the most beautiful colour-oriented assignments I’ve ever heard, and if you’re an (aspiring) artist or are interested in colour I suggest you do it too. By looking at nature you start to really understand colour. It’s in constant evolution, it’s a play, and it has practically no rules. This is why I love it.
Since colour is so strongly linked and born out of my love for art how did colour came in my wardrobe though? Let me tell you a tale.
When I was eleven I wanted so badly to experiment with clothing but my family had no money and we were only able to buy the necessities. With my pocket money I scrounged up for Vogues and found the same nature-influenced colour patterns. Even in Elle they’d advise you to dress up in fall colours when it’s fall; brown, yellow, red, orange. But there’s more to fall than that. There’s still bright green grass, there’s fancy birds flapping above your head. Sometimes a late flower is still blooming. Bright white gulls will steal your fries straight out of your hands. This is nature calling you to fuck off with your rules, because there are none but society’s expectations.
Nevethteless, this didn’t cross my eleven-year-old mind. (Dinosaur blogger talking here!) When I was fifteen, I still believed in made-up these rules. I finally got some money scraped together for clothes, but all I did was buy muted colours. I didn’t admit it to myself but I felt disappointed because as a child I did nothing but find all the rags in whichever colour and draped them on me as I was some high designer genius kid and pouted cutely in the mirror. I stole my mom’s coloured clothes (& later put them back neatly) and transformed myself into an 80s queen. I finally had some money and all I did was buy shades of brown and beige?
I was in a high school for art at the time and saw all the colours, mixed them into more beautiful colours, placed them by other colours, I learnt about colour theory. I saw learnt about neoimpressionists, fauvism (I just love it all except the orientalism but of it), German expressionism. As I got older I grew more towards bold, bright supposedly “naive” colours, patterns, lines. Who know what I’ll evolve to love later? I can’t wait what I’ll find.
But what really got me over the edge is realising that even though I’d finally visually blended in the crowd I still stood out as a sore thumb, a weird introverted quiet teen. I was cute and pretty but whenever people tried to reach out to me I could give them nothing but silence. It takes a long time for me to earn your trust, it takes long for me to warm up to you. Especially then, when I went through the aftermath of a family trauma and decided to upheavel my own life to a different city by communting daily. I am very very introverted (I’m getting better at it though). So basically I realised: no matter what I’m gonna do or how I’m gonna look I will always stick out so I might as well dress however I wanted. Combined with Prince’s lyrics in Uptown:
Now where I come from
We don’t let society
Tell us how it’s supposed to be
Our clothes, our hair
We don’t care
It’s all about being there
Everybody’s going Uptown
That’s where I wanna be
Around this time I met some people who turned out to be my life-long friends. We all sort of didn’t fit in, and as time went by and the more we got to know each other the more we encouraged each other to be the best version of ourselves. We created our own Uptown.
A couple of my friends were equally obsessed with fashion so we started making a habit of finding the cheapest clothes possible, experimenting, cutting up clothes doing everything to try and fit our persona in it. The years of experimentation. The more I experimented, the more I veered towards a strong preference for colour.
I remember telling a friend “I will either grow more dull, or get way more confident and extravagant”. I’m so happy I went the latter route, because it’s quitessentially me. My relationship to colour is very important. Colour is all about merging my inner-being into my outer-being.
I now arrange my closet colour-wise. I shop colour-wise. When I’m sure I want to wear something but not with what I simply pair it next to any and all colours I have and go for it when it feels good. I have a ‘colours’ tag on tumblr for days I’m not sure what colour combination would inspire my day most. Or just to make me happy. My latest faves:
Beyoncé’s Countdown video is one of the best videos out there colour-wise for me (and the cute dancing and outfitssss!!!!!!!), and I love Blow as well. But Countdown, gets it perfect, I can’t get enough of it!
My own go-to easy to wear colour combos are (I am mostly linking to my pinterest collection of my personal fave outfits, which is here, but you I wear many variations on all of these combos photographed or not – mostly not):
1. A strong red and vibrant and/or deep blue (not dark! important distinction but if you like it, go for it!). I wear a ton of variations on this because it’s a totally non-daring colour combo and is perfect for days you don’t want to be bothered, but I also truly adore it. Two deep and beautiful classic colours.
2. Any pink and any red; girlish, cute and I have tons of those colours in my wardrobe
3. Green and red; for a year I used to wear nothing but dark/muted green with red but that’s over, now I’m all about bright green or a softer, closer to pastel green.
4. Orange and pink — none of that orange bordering on brown or red – I’m talking true orange all the way through. and pink; bordering on seventies & sixties, can’t go wrong – throw some yellow in there and you’re too cute to handle.
5. A soft green and sweet pink; it just reminds me of a cute flower, you know?
6. Bright green and orange; shout-out to one of my IRL friends continually inspiring me with her aqually great sense of colour. Colour soulmates.
8. The there are more I am continually trying out. Currently I’m really trying to make black + colour happen.
I wish I could theorize for you, give you smart tips, but what I learnt from my bachelor paper is that colour is heavily coded within society and its expectations. You know, pink used to be for boys, blue for girls. Yellow is supposed to be cheerful. Blue sad or heavenly. So all I can give you as a tip is: fuck all that, go with what your gut tells you. Also look at some flowers or birds if you feel uninspired or if you feel your colour combo might be a little “too much”.