The Power of Red

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on

Red is a daring color. It reminds me of royalty, roses, Christmas, valentines, cardinals that come to play in my yard, happy faces after a walk along the beach in summer or a hike through the mountains in winter. It is one of my favorite colors to wear because it enhances my lips, my fingers, my toes and the sallow tones of my pale skin. Red is one of nature’s most wonderful hues that brightens even the dreariest of days. It is striking and cheerful and bold, but should never be overdone. All it takes is a hint of red here and there to catch the eye and stand out in the midst of the more commonplace neutral shades. When used properly it is magnificent. When overdone or in the wrong shade it can ruin an otherwise perfect canvas.

I remember being invited to a going away party for a friend who was sadly moving away from our group. The host of the gathering had just remodeled an older home with stunning success. All of the walls in every room were gray with white trim. They served as a canvas for his furnishings and artwork. There was a coherent theme of using a sparse but stunning shock of red throughout the house. In one room there might be bright red pillows along with a huge modern painting with a slash of the same hue. In another room the red might show up in dinnerware or a rug. There was just enough and not too much to be incredibly cohesive and striking. He had used red the way it should always be presented. 

A woman can be stunning in a red dress, but the effect fades if she also paints her nails and her lips a bright red then adds red shoes and a scarlet purse. On the other hand if she does a mani/pedi in red then that should blend with her clothing rather than match it exactly. Too much red looks cheap, but red used in just the right way is breathtaking. 

I am a lover of all of the old Alfred Hitchcock movies. In fact, I own a collection of CDs that I often take in our trailer when we go on trips in the winter when the evenings become too cold to stay outside. While I love them all, I have always been fascinated with Vertigo, a classic thriller in which the lead character attempts to transform a woman from ordinary to elegant. The first thing he does is soften the color of her hair and remove the excess of red from her wardrobe and makeup. The result is miraculous and even as a girl I marveled at how red can be either beautiful or ugly depending on how it is used.

Red also comes in many different hues. There are some that seem to have hints of yellow and others with a dash of blue. My own skin will die if there is even a smidgen of yellow but shine beautifully with the bluish reds. We older women have to be very careful with colors because our skin is not as vibrant as it was in our youth. Choosing what goes best with our skin tones is more important than picking something that delights us. 

Long ago my mother advised me to choose classic fashions rather than trendy pieces. She insisted that it was best to choose items that compliment the hair, skin and body type of the wearer rather than attempting to fit in with the most current ways of doing things. For me that means wearing neutral tones accented with what I call the jewel tones of red, royal blue, deep turquoise and burgundy. I adore a lovely green but it is very difficult to find a shade that does not make me appear to be ill. The right red, on the other hand, is easy to obtain and it does wonders for the way I look as well as my disposition. 

I often wonder what it is about us humans that we quite naturally have tendencies to decorate ourselves and the world around us. We might just as well have kept everything in our lives utilitarian but even in ancient civilizations humans attempted to go beyond the basic need for clothing and shelter with colors and creations of the imagination. It is as though it is instinctive to want to express ourselves and our surroundings with more than just the neutral shades of nature. We look at the birds and the butterflies and transform ourselves with the colors of their feathers and wings. 

There is a red cardinal figurine in my sitting room that once belonged to my husband’s Aunt Elsie, a most delightful woman who took me under her wing when I was still a very young bride almost overcome by all of my new relatives. She knew to invite me to work with her in her kitchen where we were able to talk without all of the noise of the twittering crowd waiting in the living room for one of her feasts. She welcomed me by confiding that she was so very happy that her nephew had found someone like me with whom to spend his life. I loved her deeply from that moment and the bright red of that bird that once sat in her living room catches my eye every single day and reminds me of my good fortune in spending time with her. 

Red is the color of our life blood. It is one of our most treasured hues. I for one love it and plan to display it in my home and on myself, but I’ve decided never to get a red car no matter how cute one is. Studies show that people in red cars get stopped for speeding more often than any other color. I don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg, but with my sometimes heavy foot I won’t take any chances on standing out. I’ll just admire those zippy red sports cars from afar and get my fix of red in small of brilliant doses.