When I was a child, my mother, who made all our clothes, dressed me in red.
I remember red sunsuits, smocks, Sunday outfits trimmed with rick-rack offset by cotton tights and shiny, round toed, black shoes with single straps.
There were red flannel nighties and red corduroy pants. Cocked red tams. High necked blouses with bows. Solid polyester, long sleeved dresses. Red.
Then, in the 60’s, psychedelia entered the social imagination. It was the new thing. Suddenly: Hot pink; Hot competition – for red. Pink was the new Red.
So, red and, now, pink. The two colors of my wardrobe.
I had a cousin, exactly one month to the day my elder. She wore a lot of purple. This was her “favorite” color, she declared. She had purple polka dots on white; purple bathing suits; purple sunsuits. When we’d reach into the bag for candy Suckers, mine was always cherry; hers would be grape. I liked lime. I even liked grape. But, I would search for the red sucker first, as if it belonged to me.
I never had a favorite of anything. No favorite dessert, no favorite cereal, no favorite. I liked Lucky Charms AND Cap’n Crunch AND Fruit Loops. At Thanksgiving – a little sliver of both pies and the cake. No; red was never my favorite color.
In the 70’s, during the Self Help Revolution, books appeared – everywhere – telling us all how to claim our authentic selves. There were books about our childhoods, and our emotions, our gender, our preferences. And, then, inevitably, fancy that: a book about color!
Turns out, according to my skin tone and hair and eyes, I was a “Winter”.
Navy blue. Royal blue. Ultramarine blue. Periwinkle blue. Teal blue. I was saturated with every blue under the sun, and couldn’t get enough.
Strangely, once blue had found its way into my life, purple became seriously tempting. How odd, to choose somebody else’s favorite color, and actually put my body into it. Quite without warning, I became a lover of blue and purple like nobody else. The pair were destined, or so it seemed; they were calling my name.
Plus, my world had expanded to welcome the curious accessory known as the “accent” color. Mine was orange. Orange, the color of euphoria, so said the newest color “experts”, who were sure that every hue carried its own psychological personality. Blue was the universal antidepressant; yellow, the truth serum; green, the choice of the exceptionally intelligent; and, orange, the euphoric. Red? Something about anger and aggression. I couldn’t be bothered. I never gave red a second thought.
Yes, I was a “Winter”, my colors were cool, not warm, and the only red which fit that scheme was the coldest tint on the table. I avoided it like Scarlet Fever.
Through the 80’s, when disco was king, everything was less about color and more about texture. Sequins. Glitter. The polychromatic shimmer of the rotating ball in the center of the ceiling.
Who said Black?
Now, being of Mediterranean descent, at least according to Ancestry dot com: 55 whole percent, I was born to black as the sparks flew upward. Everybody else just tried to wear it. Black had my name on it.
Being a professional musician, my closets soon burst with every black tunic and pant that had ever been rendered on a designer’s board. And, to the rest of the world, in that decade of homogeneity, the age of the pseudo-sophisticate, there were those who wore black who had never known a moment of privilege or class and who now proudly joined the ranks of the indistinguished.
Whoever said clothes make the man never met a woman. I’d run nearly the gamut of the Pantone palette. And, now the midlife changes crept. Hair, no longer pure dark brown, was threatening to throw a kink in the whole canvas. What colors went with hair that was neither black, brown, nor gray, but some random representation that also seemed to be losing its luster?
And, here came something called Dressing Your Truth. Some New Age analysis of type based in styles of movement. Facial angles, the body’s reactive pace. I was intrigued. Seems I was a Type 3, and my colors were not cool, but warm. Mine were the tones in nature, and black was OUT. Except that the nature in this plan came from the Southwest, where the mountains were purple alright, but the ground was every shade of yellow and there was: no water. What had happened to my blues?
Seems it takes some of us a lifetime to reach autonomy. We think we’re free, because we live in the land of it, and we think because we are independent of thought that, when we get up in the morning, we really do make our own choices. But, we don’t. Not until we are certifiably, undeniably, irrevocably, old.
Yes; I said it. Old. Somewhere in a great book, there’s this quote: “When I am old, I shall wear purple.” My cousin was ahead of her time. My mother had dressed her dark little paper doll with every unfulfilled dream and all the rage that came with it. Her daughter would stand out. Stay out of her way. And so, in dutiful obedience, I’d worn my mother’s red with every breath she took.
About three months ago, after laboring over the “movement in nature” and grieving my blues, I ordered a pair of capris. The color? Maraschino cherry. A red I hadn’t put myself into since childhood. I don’t know if they are cool or warm. I have no idea with whose plan for my wardrobe they agree. But, I will wear them, because I have come of age. Tomorrow, I might just wear pink quartz, with a bit of black!, some sienna, a shot of aqua, and my ever-lovin’ orange. I will color myself with the rainbow, viewed through the prism of wisdom. Thank you very much.
Vive la difference!
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo
1/25/15 all rights reserved. Thanks.