Color Me Correctly, Please

Whether you are a woman just entering the workforce, the first woman to rise up the ranks and head your department or company, or one negotiating multi-million dollar deals, the impression that you make is going to determine the outcome. An important part of that impression is influenced by the colors you choose. 

You think you choose colors that make you look good. You think you choose what you wear based on the results in the mirror. You don’t. Your color and fashion choices resonate from the depths of your primitive DNA. Socio-biologists tell us that your decisions about what you wear are based on the most basic survival instincts. It’s in your DNA.

In other words, you dress to be safe. Figuratively speaking, when you leave the cave each morning, you dress to keep dangerous predators from noticing you. We do it all over the world. 

• Big city inhabitants dress in the dark colors of tall skyscrapers. 

• In the South, everyone wears floral prints and pastels. 

• People in the Midwest adorn themselves in earthy tones.

• In the Southwest, desert colors like terra cotta and mustard yellow prevail.

Our efforts to go unnoticed aren’t confined to colors. Abraham Lincoln wore a stovepipe hat so he would blend in with the skyline that was dotted with stovepipes. Houses were heated with coal in that era, so it was a safe “camouflage.” 

It’s hard to be objective about yourself when it comes to choosing colors that make you look better. Asking a trusted friend for help may not yield any better results. Both you and your friends are likely to be mesmerized by “false harmony” and can’t reliably evaluate what truly looks good on you.

False harmony is the term for the method used by nearly the entire world for choosing colors. False harmony occurs every time you:

• Wear garments that match your superficial appearance. For example, wearing pale colors to “match” your pale skin and hair. It’s called harmony, but it’s actually monotony, and the face disappears into the garments because there is no contrast between face and garments. Opt for fuchsia and ditch baby pink! 

• Wear drab moss green garments because you have “matching” green eyes. This color is popular, but it’s unflattering to most people because of its drabness. 

• Wear pastels because you have a soft feminine “matching” personality. Pastels are often viewed as passive. Ramp up your colors and you’ll make more impact! 

• Wear rust because you have “matching” red hair. In reality, this color is one of the worst colors for a redhead because it makes her skin look sickly pale. The garment also competes with the hair for attention; hair always loses! It’s far better to wear royal purple and let the hair pop and the face glow with vibrant color. 

False harmony has been around forever. It’s deeply imbedded in your ancient survival instincts, serving to keep you from standing out too much. This instinct trumps “good taste” every time. 

Fashion designers, makeup artists, stylists, and image consultants are all under the spell of false harmony. They rave over washed-out pale blondes in baby pink, strawberry blondes in coral, and brown-skinned beauties in brown-toned leopard prints. 

Modern-day image and color consultants compound the error of our ways. Color analysis burst on the scene in the 1980s and every book on the subject promised to make getting dressed easier. They did. You simply wore colors that matched your personality or your superficial appearance—specifically your hair and eye color.

They also promised to make you look better. In retrospect, a few people did. However, for most, it caused confusion and didn’t work. Redheads weren’t certain whether they were Autumns or Springs. A myriad of blondes from New York City and Paris noticed that they could wear black, contrary to what all the “experts” said. A great many people wondered why some colors,  periwinkle blue, for example, were relegated to all four seasons. 

Yet, the color concept caught on because at a certain level, it made us feel smug. “I knew it,” said all the redheads. “Rust, coral, and camel are my colors!” 

Blondes read it and smiled. “Yes, I’ve always known pastels were for me; especially blush pink.” Sandy-haired men confirmed that their light brown suits were better than navy blue or black. 

Raven-haired beauties read that they were among the few who truly looked good in black, so they were especially smug. They knew it all along.

In reality, dressing to match the superficial appearance feels safe because we don’t stand out too much. It seems so natural, and no wonder. We’re simply doing what our primitive ancestors have always done. 

Today, survival depends on being noticed. If you’re applying for a job or vying for a promotion, you need to stand out from the competition so you’ll be remembered. 

Here are a few tried and proven methods for looking memorable and attractive: 

• Avoid drab colors. They make you look drab. This includes moss green, mustard yellow, most beiges and browns, and drab shades of teal and burgundy.

• The majority of people look better in cool colors than warm ones. Wear cool navy blue suits instead of warm brown or beige ones, for example.

• Primary colors suit the majority of people. Wear black, navy, and charcoal for basics, but also consider jewel tones. Remember, food colors like lemon, lime, orange and pea green are warm and less classy than cool jewel tones such as ruby, emerald, amethyst, sapphire, and magenta. Tailored garments look more powerful and professional. Men, make certain your suit and shirt collar do not pull away noticeably at the neck. Women, avoid garments that are shapeless and made of limp fabrics.

• Experts agree that professional makeup gives you more credibility and clout. It also gets you 17 percent higher income. Avoid unflattering brown-toned lipstick, gaudy blue eye shadow and, especially, black eyeliner, which only makes the eyes look smaller, even mean. Powerful women wear lipstick, and favored colors are fuchsia and cherry red. Take the time to find a foundation that goes with your undertone, so it looks translucent.  There’s nothing worse than makeup that looks heavy and orange-toned.

Today there aren’t any ferocious predators lurking at our doorsteps, so it’s okay to stop dressing to look invisible. We don’t need to match our superficial appearance. We don’t need to match our surroundings either, so get out there and start turning heads today! 

Sandy Dumont has spent a lifetime researching the effect color has on our judgment of others. She’s been a model and image consultant for Fortune 500 companies. Her eBook “Color Me Correctly, Please” is the culmination of her years of research and hands-on experience. Sandy’s eBook is available on her website: 

Sandy Dumont

Sandy Dumont, The Image Architect, is a sought-after stylist and image consultant in the arena of corporate, political and celebrity image and has spoken to audiences throughout the USA, Europe and Asia. Sandy is a prolific writer and has published numerous books, eBooks and DVDs. Her books and speaking style employ psychological insights into how we perceive color, judge wardrobes and incorporate (or don't) social norms into our daily lives.

Sandy is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and Past President of NSA Virginia, and Past President of the SE Virginia chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO. She consults with individuals and corporations and also conducts corporate and individual image makeover workshops on the subject of impression management and image skills. Sandy is also a keynote speaker at conferences both nationally and in Europe and Asia. She also does online image consulting and image makeovers for individuals and groups. 

Sandy Dumont has appeared on radio, TV and in print throughout the world. She was recently featured in a cover story with Money Magazine. In December 2009, she was the recipient of the Women in Business Achievement Award.

Sandy Dumont, The Image Architect, is MORE than an Image Consultant. For information, visit or call 757-627-6669.

back to top

More from Lifestyle

Weaving the Threads of Life

Weaving the Threads of Life

Art Folks 03-01-2018

Artist, managing editor of Op-Ed News, and author of 90-Minute Quilts, Meryl Ann Butler teaches and creates art in her studio in Ocean View... Read more

Instilling Excellence at GSA

Instilling Excellence at GSA

Art Folks 02-01-2018

Deborah Thorpe has been a passionate advocate for the Governor’s School for the Arts (GSA) since its initial pilot program in 1984. Today, Deborah... Read more

Changing the Arts Landscape

Changing the Arts Landscape

Art Folks 12-30-2017

The Virginia Arts Festival was founded nearly 23 years ago by Virginia Beach native Robert Cross, a man many call a visionary. He stays... Read more

Artist Paints Eclectic Mix

Artist Paints Eclectic Mix

Art Folks 09-30-2017

One exhibit you won’t want to miss this month is artist Elaine Fleck’s captivating work on display through Oct. 21, 2017, at Norfolk’s Transit... Read more

In the Moment with Court Watson

In the Moment with Court Watson

Art Folks 08-30-2017

Court Watson grew up in Chesapeake and studied acting with the Hurrah Players. In college Court studied scene design and costume design and graduated... Read more

Juggling Art and Life

Juggling Art and Life

Art Folks 05-30-2017

A flash of saturated color; bold ink lines; a curvy, spirited mermaid; a grumpy blue crab who looks ready to pinch your fingers. You’ll... Read more

Saving Elephants with Art

Saving Elephants with Art

Art Folks 10-29-2016

Tidewater Women’s Stephanie Allen sat down with California-based artist, educator, and furniture maker Wendy Maruyama at the site of her latest exhibition, The WildLIFE... Read more

Theresa Caputo: Embracing Gifts

Theresa Caputo: Embracing Gifts

Art Folks 09-22-2016

Tidewater Women’s Stephanie Allen had the opportunity to chat with Theresa Caputo, star of TLC’s hit television series Long Island Medium, who appears in... Read more

Meet Chris Hanna

Meet Chris Hanna

Art Folks 08-30-2016

Tidewater Women’s Stephanie Allen spoke with Chris Hanna, artistic director for the Virginia Stage Company, about his experiences in the theatre business and VSC’s... Read more