When Your Best Colours Are Not Your Best Colours

The Importance of Colour In Business


That stands for Oh My Goodness, by the way; as I don’t do profanity or taking the name of the Lord in vain.

It was a real light-bulb moment; sitting in in front of the mirror with several other consultants draping colours over me and suddenly realising just what had gone wrong a couple of years ago.

Let me explain. A couple of summers ago I had been asked to give a talk to a group of young people, aged 18 – 25, all of whom had been picked out for their leadership potential. The course they were on was a sort of Outward Bound kind of thing at Grafham Water Outdoor Centre. The talk was on the importance of personal presentation and, although I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, it fell as flat as a pancake!

The young people were obviously utterly underwhelmed by my presentation and one of them even questioned my choice of colours. I was wearing a corn yellow jacket with mint green trousers and knew from previous feedback that this particular outfit is a particularly flattering one on me.

At the time I just made a mental note that young people are obviously hopelessly conservative and that I would wear a more obviously business-like outfit if an opportunity to give a talk to a similar audience occurred!

But now I understand!

Corn Yellow is one of my double stars. I look healthy, bright-eyed, uplifted: but, and this is important, I don’t look powerful and authoritative. Corn Yellow is a wonderful colour for a casual look, but it doesn’t do formality, and it certainly doesn’t do business; at least, not for me.

And it’s important to know your best formal and business colours even though you may not be a corporate executive or need to carry authority in your working position or even be in business at all. There are times for all of us when we absolutely want and need to be taken seriously. You can appreciate that for me, being a 5’1″ bubbly blond, that’s always been a bit of a challenge!

I cover part of this on the Style Day when I teach about dressing points and how you can increase your presence and standing by appropriate use of accessories (I’m sure you have all seen, at one point or another, my “strip-tease routine” where I take off all my accessories and gradually change from being an Image Consultant to being “just a mum”), but colour also has a powerful impact, as you will see.

 I now offer a Business Colour Rating. With this rating we go through all the colours, just as we did with the standard rating, but this time we are considering them in terms of business.  We look at whether each colour has impact, authority, whether it is formal or more appropriate for Business Casual or if it is always going to look casual, no matter how formal its tailoring. After that and within that context we give it the normal rating you are used to, with ticks and stars at 100%, 75% and so on.

 The big news is that your double stars don’t necessarily work as double stars for business. Mine certainly don’t as you will see below.

I am a Golden Spring. All the Spring colours are at the very top of the page and you will appreciate that they are not the colours one normally associates with formality and business in the first place. As a Golden Spring, my best colours are Tan, Cinnamon, Tangerine, Coral, Geranium Red, Geranium Pink, Kerry Green and Corn. Here they all are:


 Ah, love ’em all! Gorgeous, gorgeous colours; but maybe not for every occasion…

In the past I have owned a business suit in tan, because my deepest brown, chocolate, is really a bit deep. Here they are…


You can see that Tan is clearly the better colour because Chocolate is not adding anything; it’s just pushing me back (and by the way, Chocolate is so, so much better than Black), so no impact and no authority for Chocolate and, being honest, not much for Tan either (although I do look nice and friendly in it) Onto a colour I just don’t have at all in my wardrobe, Dove Grey. No reason, because, when I look back at my original ratings, it got a star at 50%, but I think I had spent so much of my adult business life in drab grey that I just ignored it at first and then that ignoring became a habit. I’m so sorry DG, I apologise humbly to you right now, because you’re actually very nice.

 What’s more, can you see that you can take me far more seriously in Dove Grey than in Tan? It has a formality about it and an authority. It’s not as uplifting as the Tan (this is why I’ve kept the Tan on, so you can see), but it’s better than the Chocolate.

 Moving onto my two blues, Bright Navy and Oxford


  You can see that Bright Navy is definitely my “Wow” colour for business. It has impact, authority and formality. I think I’m going to be looking for more of it in the wardrobe (especially for speaking to uppity youngsters). the Oxford on the right doesn’t have the formality or quite the impact, but again, does have authority.

 Now, that’s the end of any traditional suit and business colours, but it’s not quite the end of the surprises. The next discovery was about reds. My best red is Geranium, on my right shoulder, but the colour that definitely has the impact and authority is Poppy. My fellow consultants also gave it formality too.

 It’s certainly more powerful, isn’t it?

 Lastly (because I have to confess to feeling terribly narcissistic here, my greens. Again, Kerry is the double star (left) and Leaf (on the right) the one I’m going to be making my next jacket purchase. You can probably see why.

 It just has more – gravitas – doesn’t it?

 One thing I am definitely not going to do again (at least in a business context) is this:

 Even if I was giving a presentation to the Canary Fanciers of Rotherham!


One thought on “When Your Best Colours Are Not Your Best Colours

  1. Excellent post. I had my colours done years ago by a House of Colours lady. I’ll definitely go through them for the business angle.

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