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Shady goings-on at the office

One day this week, our daughter pulled out a lime green dress to wear to school, and I -- without thinking much about it -- grabbed a lime green cardigan to wear to work.

That same day, two women in the art department I talk to daily here at The Buffalo News showed up in the unusual shade. We looked at each other strangely and wondered what was going on. We certainly hadn't phoned each other. We hadn't shared Granny Smith apples. We had simply all chosen, in the privacy of our own homes, the same unusual color to wear on the same day.

Co-workers looked at us strangely, too, and made a few wisecracks.

This often happens. A bunch of people will wear cobalt one day. Or orange. Or pink. It's as if, standing in their closets in the morning, they receive some sort of signal from the fashion gods.

And it's not just at work. I'll make plans with friends or relatives, and we'll all show up in black-and-white houndstooth with a splash of red!

And this is not a rare occurrence. People I know show up wearing the same color all the time, and they have been for years.

When Green Day happened earlier this week, I was reminded of a conversation I had some years back with Leatrice Eiseman, a color consultant and executive director of the Pantone Color Institute who is always fielding oddball questions from style reporters.

After experiencing a run of same-color days in the office, I called her up and asked about this very thing so I could explain it to readers. She didn't think it was a weird question; she knew exactly what I was talking about.

You may have more in common with your co-workers than you may think, she told me at the time.

"Hmmmmmm . . .," I thought.

Co-workers often share similar talents, tend to think on the same levels about certain things and are exposed to the same general atmosphere around the office.

Think about it. On a day they know they will need a jolt of energy, they may grab something red from their closets, for example.

On a day they want to, say, keep a low profile, they may wear gray. On a day they have plans for a special lunch with female co-workers, the color du jour may be pink.

Or they may choose the same color in response to the weather or day of the week.

"It's not something we're doing consciously. It's an unconscious choice," Eiseman said.

And for those people who spend time together -- in or out of the office -- suggestibility may also come into play.

It could be something that someone said that triggered a whole line of thought, Eiseman told me.

Did someone mention "green with envy" lately -- and a few of us stored it away in our subconscious minds? I wonder.

What also keeps crossing my mind is that certain colors are the "it" color in any given season. Pink was everywhere for several seasons, so of course it showed up frequently at the office -- and elsewhere. It was fresh and new. That shade of green I'm talking about -- lime and similar shades -- is also on the newer side.

Two years ago, I didn't have anything close to that shade in my closet. A year from now, I may look at it and wonder what in the world I was thinking.

But for now, I have several items that color and tend to gravitate to them because 1) the shade still feels new, and 2) it seems like a good transitional shade from summer to fall.

Today, I am wearing something turquoise. Last night, my daughter and I picked out her outfit for today. It's turquoise.

And on it goes. I'm off now to see what everyone else is wearing.

e-mail: smartin@buffnews.com

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