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Made in the shade

Colors send messages. Red is the most exciting color. Studies show that galvanic skin response _ sweat _ increases and the heart rate goes up when someone sees red. "There's a feeling of motion with red, even if someone is standing still," Tina Sutton, color consultant for the off-price chain Hit or Miss, says. "It's a passionate color."

Hot pink is a trendy, frivolous color, but soft pink is seen as light and sweet. If a manager has to fire someone, he or she is advised to wear a pink shirt, Sutton says: "Somehow it is seen as compassionate. It can soften a bad situation."

Black is considered serious and authoritative.

Leatrice Eiseman, director of Pantone, a color-forecasting company in Moonachie, N.J., tells the story of a vacuum cleaner company that offered the same new model in both pink and black. Customers said they thought the pink model weighed less.

Orange is seen as vital and fun-loving. Soft peaches and apricots are seen as appealing to the affluent and are termed fresh, warm and inviting.

Blue is trustworthy and dependable and will be a big part of upcoming designer looks, Eiseman predicts.

Yellowish green is perceived as the most negative color. Consumers think it is slimy. But for the past few years, chartreuse, the most reptilian of colors, has been a big seller.

"Kids loved it because adults hated it, so it sold and sold," Phyllis Johansen, vice president of creative merchandising for G. Fox & Co., says.

"The designers trotted it out five years ago."

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