The science of style: study determines the best way to match colors for optimum fashion.

By Seriously Science | September 4, 2014 6:00 am
Image: flickr/kris krüg

Image: flickr/kris krüg

It’s been shown that what we wear can have a big impact on what people think about us and how they treat us. Despite this, there have been remarkably few objective analyses of fashion. These authors stepped up to the plate and tested one of many variables that lead to fashion success (or disaster): color palette. There are two extremes: outfits that completely match and outfits that don’t match at all.  Obviously, many outfits fall somewhere in between. To test which is most fashionable, the scientists randomly assigned outfits of different colors and had them scored by hundreds of participants. We’ll let the authors tell you what they found in their own words: “These data suggest a simple answer to the question ‘what to wear?’ Select a color combination that is neither completely uniform, nor completely different… These results are consistent with both centuries of philosophical thought and more recent psychological studies on the importance of ‘the middle way.’ The Goldilocks principle may also explain aesthetic judgments beyond fashion, reflecting a basic principle of human preference that seeks to balance simplicity and complexity, order and disorder.”

The science of style: in fashion, colors should match only moderately.

“Fashion is an essential part of human experience and an industry worth over $1.7 trillion. Important choices such as hiring or dating someone are often based on the clothing people wear, and yet we understand almost nothing about the objective features that make an outfit fashionable. In this study, we provide an empirical approach to this key aesthetic domain, examining the link between color coordination and fashionableness. Studies reveal a robust quadratic effect, such that that maximum fashionableness is attained when outfits are neither too coordinated nor too different. In other words, fashionable outfits are those that are moderately matched, not those that are ultra-matched (“matchy-matchy”) or zero-matched (“clashing”). This balance of extremes supports a broader hypothesis regarding aesthetic preferences-the Goldilocks principle-that seeks to balance simplicity and complexity.”

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: Why Miss Poland is more beautiful than generic med students.
NCBI ROFL: Double feature: Personalities of punks and perils of their pointy parkas.
Wear what you want: scientific proof that horizontal stripes don’t make you look fatter.

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Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
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