Discover How To Understand Color For Dress Designing

By Kathy Amarati

Today most colors are produced chemically in great quantities from coal tars or aniline, oxygen, hydrogen, sulfur, and many other organic and inorganic substances, giving a tremendous variety of many more brilliant hues than were possible in the past.


Throughout the ages color has had many meanings – many of them based on superstitions, and many on actual physical reactions of the individual due to association of ideas such as:

Red – Fire – Heat

Blue – Sky – Water – Cool

Green – Grass – Nature – Peace

Yellow – Sun – Gaiety

Purple – Shadow – Mystery

WARM COLORS: red, red-orange, red-purple, yellow-orange, yellow, and yellow-green are stimulating and exciting, and seem to come forward or advance. When these colors are used in full intensity in large areas they seem to make the mass appear larger.

COLD COLORS: blue violet, blue, blue green, and certain shades of green and purple. These colors are more restful than exciting – used in large areas without any accents of warmer colors they can be too restful and even give a feeling of futility or rejection. Cool colors appear to recede and give a minimizing effect to the mass. In general, receding, silent colors are inconspicuous, such as the less intense, low value shades of secondary and tertiary colors or hues; and, the more intense the hue, the louder or more overpowering it becomes.

Traditionally the colors of spring have been pink and yellow green; of summer – yellow, blue and green; of autumn – orange and brown; and winter – red and black.

RED indicates excitement, heat, bravery; and appeals to most basic instincts.

BLUE indicates distance, calm, truth, sincerity; and appeals to the spiritual or intellectual aspects of personality.

GREEN is the color of nature and indicates coolness, youth, and hope of eternal life. In the proper hue, value, and intensity this is the most restful color without being too depressing.

YELLOW and gold colors indicate sunshine, gaiety, honor, loyalty.

VIOLET indicates mystery, sorrow, high rank, royalty:

RED VIOLET indicates luxury, elegance, and sacrifice.

ORANGE indicates cheerfulness, strength, endurance.

WHITE indicates light, innocence, purity, faith, joy, and glory.

BLACK indicates grief and sorrow.


Each fashion collection features a “new” color – actually this means that some particular hue is being used more often. The designer interested in creating attractive clothes will in practice, however, develop and use the colors most becoming to the wearer. Color should enhance the natural qualities inherent in the color of skin, hair, and eyes.

In general, the following can be easily observed:

Light colors appear lighter when placed next to dark colors.

Gray combined with any color assumes a tinge of that color’s complement, as for example: a gray used with blue will have an orangey tinge or cast, and a gray used with red will seem to have a greenish tinge. Any color seems brighter when placed next to its complement. In fact when placed next to each other in full intensity they will appear to fight or jump.

In choosing colors for a costume it is important to know whether the garment will be worn in the daytime or at night, or will it be worn at both times, because the effect of light on color has to be kept in mind.

ALL COLORS WILL APPEAR MORE INTENSE AND BRILLIANT WHEN VIEWED IN THE DAYLIGHT. In artificial light the same colors will be subdued. Candlelight will soften colors, incandescent light slightly brighten, and fluorescent will change the apparent hue.

AMBER LIGHTING will seem to make yellow more intense, green seem tinged with yellow, blue very dull, and purple slightly reddish.

BLUE LIGHTS will dull green and yellow, intensify blue, apparently change red to purple.

UNDER A RED LIGHT yellow will seem almost red and both green and blue will appear dull, while red will be very intense.

VIEWED UNDER A GREEN LIGHT yellow will seem almost green and all other colors very dull except for the green itself which will be intensified.

Gain a good understanding of color and your ability to design well will increase.

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