Style Therapy: The secret power of red

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Red is an intense, emotionally charged color representing the full spectrum between Cupid and the Devil. It is a color that attracts attention.

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Generally, men see red as the color of sexuality, romance, and lust. It’s so powerful.

Women who wear red do so for many more reasons than to seduce a man. They favor red because generally they are open, enthusiastic, optimistic, strong and confident. They want to live life to the full.

You can’t help noticing the red. It is a primary color and corresponds to the longest wavelength of light perceptible to humans. Red is the first color a baby sees.

Let me tell you a deeply personal story about the impact of red on my emotions, self-perception, and well-being.

My granddaughter Zoe, when she was only two years old and just potty trained, started jumping around the mall like she was dancing on a bed of hot coals. I took this as a sign that she needed to leave, so I took her to the nearest restroom. She did it. Yay!

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I congratulated her, told her how proud I was of her, that she was a big girl now and that she didn’t have to wear pull-ups anymore. With a huge smile on her face and a clear sense of accomplishment, she became very excited and animated when she told me she had lots of beautiful panties – her favorite being her purple Dora panties.

We all know it’s common to talk about bathroom habits with young children. So it was no surprise that just as we walked past a checkout line, she innocently used her loud outside voice and asked, “What color are your panties, grand- mother ?”

Everyone laughed. I blushed and made sure not to make eye contact with anyone. I leaned over and whispered into her sweet little face, “My panties are red, honey, and please use your inner voice.”

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Wearing red can give women confidence and a sense of power, even when worn secretly under clothing.  Getty Images/iStockphoto
Wearing red can give women confidence and a sense of power, even when worn secretly under clothing. Getty Images/iStockphoto Photo by Chaay_Tee /Getty Images/iStockphoto

What Zoe didn’t know that day was the true history of red and my relationship to color.

In different cultures, red has different meanings, ranging from purity, joy, celebration, luck, happiness and prosperity to the color of mourning and communism.

Researchers from the University of Rochester conducted a study in which men saw pictures of women wearing an identical dress in three different colors, these being blue, green and red. Men viewed women dressed in red as particularly attractive, more sexually interested and available than they appeared when wearing the other colors. It’s no wonder Chris de Burgh’s 1986 song “The Lady in Red” resonates with both genders. Men want to be with her, women want to be her.

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I’ve always loved color; he represented the “chic” in my life. But years before Zoe was born, I was going through a particularly painful and unpleasant divorce. Those were dark times. My confidence and self-esteem suffered. I was not emotionally ready to possess the power that red represents. It was just too much. I was at the end of my energy cord. I didn’t feel powerful, enthusiastic or exciting. I didn’t feel brave either. I felt fractured and didn’t want to focus on myself. I disagreed.

I had to master my emotions to become the fun, confident, energetic, optimistic person I naturally am. Using the power of red was one of the tools I used to find my way back to myself. Whenever I needed a psychological boost, I wore red panties. Most of the time I wore my Bridget Jones panties. Other days I called my panties electric. Not those provocative locks we think we should wear for our partner — but the ones we wear for ourselves to celebrate stepping out of childhood and embracing femininity. Wearing them made me feel invincible, like a superhero. My (not so tiny) red panties were my hidden superpower.

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As I regained my power and my life, I began to incorporate more red into my wardrobe to represent the courage and increased enthusiasm I felt. First nail polish, then handbags and shoes, and finally clothes. Red was a confidence booster that made me feel vibrant and full of life. It’s always like that.

On days when I need to stand a little taller and be a little braver, I always reach for red.

Helene Oseen is a longtime fashion editor and sought-after stylist. She helps women find confidence and style as they make friends with themselves and with fashion. What is your wardrobe identity? Take the quiz and find out at www.heleneoseen.com

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