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Decoding the clothing code

The cut and colour of a person's outfit not only reveal his personality, but also the amount of effort that goes into choosing it.

fashion-and-trends Updated: Nov 23, 2007 13:24 IST

"Clothes maketh the man" - goes the old adage, and it's still valid the world over. Many people believe clothing choice will say much about character as well as social ties.

The cut and colour of a person's outfit not only reveals what he or she was thinking about when dressing in the morning. They also illustrate the amount of effort which went into choosing the garments. Many a colour, fabric or combination can also reinforce time-honoured prejudices.

<b1>People tend to adopt some kind of uniform in daily life, usually because they are trying to fit in with certain surroundings or show their allegiance to a particular group, said German image consultant Beatrix Isabel Lied.

This means that people use clothing to send signals to those around them: The wearer of a black polo-neck sweater is inevitably an artist, an intellectual or an architect. Outdoor and nature-loving types tend to opt for sensible weatherproof jackets and trekking sandals instead.

French authors Catherine Joubert and Sarah Stern have written a whole book about such types, with their insights relying heavily on the work of Sigmund Freud.

Joubert and Stern believe there's no need for men to mentally analyse a new party acquaintance or female colleague. A woman's outfit speaks loudly enough, assuming the observer understands the language. "Clothing is an expression of taste - and that can be an expression of attitude," said Lied.

According to style advisor Lisa Zimmermann from Berlin, there is nothing superficial about judging people by the clothes they wear.

"We're talking here about the famous first 10 seconds which is all it takes to make an impression," she says.

"Remarkably few people give serious thought to the effect of the colours they wear," said the trained psychologist. "Whether consciously or unconsciously, they choose a shade which they believe suits them and the situation in which they find themselves."

Before selecting an outfit it is as well be aware of the effects, which different colours can produce. Black, for instance, has a powerful aura. "It signals aloofness and a sense of being something special," said Zimmermann.

People who want to stand out in a crowd tend to choose black clothing. The colour also stands for concentration and minimalism. "Black is a kind of anti-colour and allows people to keep their options open", said Gisla Gniech from Bremen.

Blue, the colour of the sky, is seen as being much more open than black, the so-called "colour of power," said Zimmermann.

Gniech believes that blue stands for pragmatism and intellect. The list of colours and their alleged psychological ramifications is a long one - red clothing gets the wearer noticed and can indicate an extrovert or even eccentric character. Yellow stands for cheerfulness and optimism, while pink is naturally the most romantic of colours.

Experts say it is important to be aware of the meanings of particular hues, which can vary a lot between different cultures, and to keep these in mind. Not every item of clothing is appropriate to a particular situation yet most people select what they wear with little conscious thought.

"The whole thing has much more to do with a person's habits and inborn feeling for what clothes go well with each other", said Gniech. At the same time, the decision not to wear a particular garment is generally intuitive. "The dress may be a great fit and flatter the figure but if you do not feel comfortable with a certain outfit you probably never will," she said.

"People who plump for the wrong colours tend to have simply no feeling for them at all", said Zimmermann. "Of course such choices may represent a personal protest against accepted dress conventions." It seems some people are just determined to get noticed.

First Published: Nov 23, 2007 12:51 IST

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