I have had a long and complicated relationship with colour, and especially colour and clothes, and lately Project Spectrum has made me think about it. I've always loved colour, especially rich, saturated colour. From what I recall, as a shy, self-effacing girl I didn't really wear colour in a particularly adventurous way in my teens (though I did have a slightly hippyish thing going on) but then I took a gap year in Namibia, living in the township I got used to standing out, being the white European girl. Standing out ceased to be a scary thing and when I came back I was freshly confident in my grungy sandals that had hitched round southern Africa and my jangly anklet I got from Cape Town and my bright purple sarong. I bought clothes just because I loved the colour, deliberately clashed because it was fun and enjoyed the sideways glances. ('Yeah fuck you normal person I'm hip and colourful and don't give a shit what you think.' I see teenagers doing the same thing now and have to supress a grin of recognition.)
Then I went off to uni and became known for being colourful. My best friend would introduce me like this; 'this is Maythe do you know her?' 'no' they would say 'oh you do, she's the girl with the rainbow hat' 'oh that's you is it? cool!' they would answer. I went to a small uni so most people really would have seen me around somewhere, or at least most of the people we were likely to be friendly with. I wore purple PVC snakeskin trousers and an orange top with BANG! on it in red letters and hung around with goths and metallers. But you know, I didn't dress like that the whole time. I wore jeans a lot and black jumpers and black DM's. It's just even if I wore that I had the rainbow hat stuck on top and rainbow laces in the DMs. When I was feeling shy or upset or having a hard time (which I always try to avoid expressing - I'm a bottle it up and internally combust kinda person) I would hide behind it 'Look at the COLOUR don't look at me, the HAT is more interesting than me I'm quite boring really, look COLOUR!' Until perhaps I became a bit of a caricature of myself at times.
After uni I did the whole growing up thing, realised at some point orange tights with green fish from the kids department looked firkin ridiculous on a grown woman, lost my way a bit, got depression, got into a job where I wear combats, fleeces and big boots all day, turned 30, recovered from depression and gradually found myself again. At some point in this process I looked back and noticed how I'd used colour as a shield/mask throughout uni and as a result lost confidence in dressing colourfully though I'd sometimes still wear one colourful thing, with a lot of black or denim, or I'd have an awkward burst of colourfulness in an attempt to feel like myself again. Recently though I've been fumbling my way back to colourful, expressive dressing, rediscovering the fun that colourful dressing gave me in my late teens and early twenties, while bringing in an adult appreciation that flattering styles are a good thing too and a shapeless rainbow coloured jumper is still a shapeless jumper. And, I hope, not hiding behind colour anymore.