She comes in colors everywhere
She's like a rainbow…
Color is a powerful force that influences us not only visually, but also mentally, emotionally, and even physically. It’s no secret that certain colors have an almost universal effect on human beings. Even if you think you don’t know a lot about the psychology of color, your subconscious does know.
Notice that many nations in the world use red prominently on their flags. This is because red is considered a color of power - it looks important- consider the effect of a stop sign. Put a woman in a red suit, and she’s “dressed for success”, but put the same woman in a red dress, and the subliminal messages of influence and control becomes overtly sexual!
Blue has a calming effect, which is why it is often used for medical and governmental signage and logos. Yellow is vibrant and visible, which is probably why it became “the” color for taxis. It’s also used quite often in children’s toys. Orange and yellow are often use restaurant décor and fast food chains because these colors used together are known to stimulate the appetite.
Traditionally, brides wear white because it symbolizes purity, but during the middle Ages, brides often wore green because that color was associated with fertility. And most of us realize that black frequently connotes mourning.
I’ve always been fascinated by color because I’ve painted and drawn since I was a child- but also because my entire life, I’ve had synesthesia.
Wikpedia describes synesthesia like this:
“Synesthesia from the ancient Greek σύν (syn), "together," and αἴσθησις (aisthēsis), "sensation," is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes… In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme → color synesthesia or color-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored.”
Yes… my whole life has been “colored” by synesthesia. Case in point: for me, the number five always had to be red, three was blue, and the letter “R” had to be yellow. If I ever saw one of those old-school magnetic alphabet and numbers sets for kids and the colors were “wrong”, I would get upset. And usually, when my mother spoke to me, I always saw a mental image of blue-gray smoke rising from a white cup of coffee. Ok, yeah, I know this sounds a little far out, but it was normal to me!
However, it wasn’t until I started dancing that I began to really considering the effects of color- not just on myself but on my audience.
Pre-dancing, I wore primarily black or blue, and it was always a toss-up as to which of those colors I would pick as my favorite. As a rock and roll chick, those colors were easy to wear- think denim and leather. Red probably came in a close third, but more as an accent color rather than something I would think of wearing head-to-toe. There were also certain colors I would avoid completely- such as brown, green, orange, yellow, gray or pink… but I wear all of them now often, both onstage and offstage.
|Photo By Lapis|
Curiously, people always seem to associate me –or more often, my "royal" dance persona-with the color pink. True, the background of this blog is pink and the main page of my website has a hot pink background- but both of those graphics happened after I was already being associated with that color. I also have a lot of pink things- clothing and accessories. But I wasn’t sure why I was being connected with that color in particular; especially cause through the ages, purple has typically represented royalty- hello… Prince, anyone? In my entire dance career, I’ve owned maybe three pink costumes-one of them is pictured here- and it made me really ponder about why my image or persona was so heavily connected with pink.
Then it hit me- it was because of the “Princess” part of Princess Farhana! Pink is a color that is linked with femininity. When faced with the color pink, most people think of romance, glamour, little girls, breast cancer awareness and of course, fairy princesses. Then I realized that most of the pink things I own- cell phone cases, coffee mugs, hip scarves, jewelry, t-shirts, pot holders, flasks, iPad covers…you name it…have all been given to me!
When people hear the word “princess” they associate it with the color pink.
So…what do your costume colors say about you? Do they go with the intention you had in mind for your performance? Are you picking out these specific colors because they make you feel good, or because of what you want to convey to your audience?
Here’s a list of just some colors in alphabetical order- and what they subliminally represent to the general public. I’ve also included what their unique properties-or hazards- may be on stage, or when worn by performers with different types of coloring:
This soft, fresh-looking mixture of blues and greens has most of the properties of true blue- it sends out calming and serene vibrations. Onstage, aqua costumes might remind the audience of youth, springtime, or even mermaids, among many other things. Aqua is a terrific color in performance because it flatters so many skin tones, from very fair to extremely dark. On a large stage with full lighting this color may appear white unless the lighting looks natural.
In real life, black is an imposing color that signifies authority. As we all know, black is often worn for funerals, but it also implies elegance and timelessness. Onstage it can represent a variety of things, from poverty to evil…which is why this color is so popular among Goths! Black absorbs light and can wash out a fair-skinned performer; it usually takes someone with very strong features and high coloring to carry it off.
If the background of the performance area is black, a black costume can cause the performer’s skin (which is always lighter than the costume, no matter what your race is!) to produce an unpleasant optical illusion. The black costume pieces will appear to recede and the performer’s lighter skin will appear to jump forward, causing the performer to look oddly heavy. This effect is doubled if the performer has dark hair, which will also recede into the background. In order to avoid this, make sure your black costume ( and dark hair, if that's what you have) are decorated with a contrast color or colors, or are very sparkly. Either of these will add texture and dimension to the black, and cancel out the effects listed above.
The color blue actually causes the body to produce chemicals that promote a feeling of serenity and tranquility, that’s why it is so often used to paint bedrooms and hospital rooms. The phrase “true blue” is right on because blue also symbolizes loyalty. Blue is also supposed to increase productivity.
Onstage, a nice, bright medium-to-royal blue colored costume will retain its color accurately under almost any sort of lighting...and also looks very nice on a wide range of skin and hair colors.
Abundant in nature, brown symbolizes the earth as well as sincerity and dependability. It is considered a “friendly” color. Brown costuming onstage can appear muddy and sallow, especially if it has yellow or gray undertones, however, a rich warm brown with a red or orange undertone can look beautiful.
Of course gold symbolizes richness, wealth, and a touch of the precious or exotic. This beautiful warm metallic will look terrific in performance, retain it’s true tone under any manner-or lack-of lighting, and is universally flattering.
|Photo by Celeste Hines|
The color of ashes, storm clouds and lead, gray can be a somber tone, signifying dignity modesty and intelligence. The equal mixture of black and white, some people consider gray dull and colorless, but gray is also an elegant hue that is often worn by the elite- think military uniforms, fencing suits and tuxedos at the Kentucky Derby. Depending on the shade of gray being worn by a performer, it can signify many things. This color can have many undertones, even appearing to be a light purple on stage, depending on the scenery, back drop or lighting. A dove gray costume trimmed in silver can be gorgeous on a pale brunette, or cool and removed on a blonde. It doesn’t look too great on redheads, and it can make deep olive to African American skin tones look ashy and sickly.
Green is another calming color, probably because it symbolizes nature; it’s the color of plants, grass and trees. For these reasons, green, like blue, has a calming effect and is often used in interior decoration. Green symbolizes luck, youth, hope, peace and prosperity…ever wonder why dressing rooms are often called “green rooms”? Now you know! It also has the subliminal projection of money… and whenever I have worn a green belly dance costume, I’ve gotten a lot of tips! This color in it’s many shades looks lush on redheads, whether for street wear or the stage. if you have olive skin or are very tanned, you can rock a neon lime green costume like nobody's business! When performing in shades of green, avoid green or yellow stage lights, as they will both wash out the true tones.
A romantic and calming color, lavender is a mixture of soft blues, reds and whites. Depending on whether it has more blue or red, undertones, lavender can look very cool or extremely warm. Onstage, lavender lighting when mixed with pink and amber looks soft and yummy. This color is considered feminine and inviting without being seductive. Lavender in it’s many varieties looks very beautiful on a huge range of performers.
Stimulating and energizing, red is a warm color that appears “friendly”. This color can be hard to pull off for pale dancers because it is so intense and can overpower dancers. If you are very light-skinned, try a subtle peach tone instead of a true, citrus orange. However, orange, coral or metallic copper look fabulous on those with darker skin and hair, providing a warm glow that looks healthy and glamorous.
As I said before, pink is associated with femininity and youth… but it doesn’t have to be a frou-frou color! Pink comes in so many shades from pale ballet slipper pink to hot magenta, there is literally a tone for everyone… it can look great no matter what your hair or skin tone is. It’s a vital, fresh color that looks happy and fun onstage. If hot, bright lights illuminate your light pink costume, it may fade to appear white. Whether wearing extremely pale or stronger tones of pink, make sure your stage make up is sufficient so that you don’t appear washed out or over-powered.
Equal mixtures of red and blue, this secondary color is considered dreamy, elusive, mysterious, and rich. Signifying royalty, purple is the deeper cousin to lavender, and also can look great on a variety of dancers, depending on its undertones. Elizabeth Taylor favored purple clothing and costumes in many shades because it brought out her lavender eyes. A nice deep purple costume, especially of satin, velvet or metallic lycra has the same properties as blue in performance- it looks wonderful on almost anyone, under many different lighting washes.
You already know that red stands for power and authority, but this strong and passionate color- the color of blood and fire- also signifies speed and prestige…which is why fire engines are red and also why so many men buy red sports cars in the midst of their mid-life crisis! A true bright red can be hard to pull off for blonde performers, but looks dazzling on brunettes and those with darker skin. Red with blue undertones will make everything from teeth to skin look whiter, so compensate for this by using strong make up with a lot of blush. Red with yellow undertones can make olive skinned performers appear sallow.
Silver is a rich metallic color that has many of the properties of gray, but with a touch of playfulness. Just like gold it symbolizes richness, but is often associated with a sleek modern feel. Onstage, silver appears much cooler than gold. Silver costumes will flatter paler skin tones, but might make those with olive to dark skin look ashy unless the make up is intense and warm.
|Photo by Pixie Vision|
TEAL AND TURQUOISE
These cousins of blue are considered jewel tones, and share many of the properties of aqua. True, deep turquoise, even though it’s technically a cool tone, is a also a hot tropical color that will look fantastic on anyone with a tan, real or fake-bake. Slightly deeper and with green undertones, teal will be a little more difficult for lighter-skinned performers to pull off but looks fabulous on brunettes and red heads.
Cheerful, exciting and hopeful, yellow is the color of daffodils and many other flowers. The color practically screams, “notice me”, which is why it is used so often on taxis and emergency vehicles. Because it keeps the viewer on alert, it is also a popular color for writing paper. Yellow comes in so many shades that you’d be hard-pressed not to find a shade to flatter your skin tone. Yellow can sometimes be overwhelming to wear, but those with darker skins will look great in “hot” yellows that have a little red or orange in their base- like the meat of a mango. Pale lemon yellow looks great on fair skin, and compliments many shades of hair or eyes. Make sure to check your yellow costume out under stage lights and adjust your make up and contrasting accessories so that you do not appear sallow or sickly.
White is the color of brides and the good guy hero. It signifies purity and innocence, and reminds the viewer of summer time. Clean, modern-looking and efficient white can also connote cleanliness and sterility- think lab coats and nurse’s uniforms. In performance and in day to day wear, this radiant color reflects light, and can look pretty and crisp on almost anyone. Remember that a white costume will take on the colors of your stage lighting, so plan accordingly.
** Read the entire Wikipedia article on synesthesia here: