After Elijah’s death, friends and family members who wanted to demonstrate solidarity with me wore red. Online friends posted pictures of themselves and their children in red clothes and hats, and someone coined the Twitter hashtag #wear_red. Naturally, journalists wanted to understand where the red fetish had originated, and as that was one of the few quirks that I haven’t previously written about, I was asked about it several times.

One optimistic journalist from the local paper sat outside the front of the house in her car, waiting patiently in the hopes that I would emerge and explain it all to her, but I never did. Not only was I refusing to talk to the media, but I hadn’t properly analysed my own red wardrobe and didn’t have a satisfactory answer to her question.

Why do I wear red? It’s just something that I do, something that I am. I’m “the red blogger” — a nickname David affectionately bestowed upon me.

Lauren in red, September 2012
"When in doubt, wear red." — Bill Blass

I can remember looking at my selection of clothes that travelled with us when we started our small loop of northern NSW and Queensland’s outback in 2010, and red was the prevalent colour. Once travelling full-time, you learn to pare down your personal effects to the bare minimum, and my wardrobe quickly lost the clothes that didn’t match the majority of the others. Soon it was almost all red, and I liked looking back at pictures of myself in Mt Morgan or Carnarvon National Park and seeing myself as a crimson splash against the sometimes pale landscape of Australia’s natural beauty.

At the start of 2011, when we decided to keep travelling full-time, I asked David if he minded if I adopted an OCD approach to wearing red. I’ve long displayed obsessive compulsive tendencies in housekeeping matters, and these have slowly eroded away with the arrival of children, moving out of a house and deliberately trying to free myself from the shackles to which I was bound.

Colour-coding was not something new to me. I had arranged the children’s books in a beautiful rainbow of spines, organised my hanging work clothes according to their hues and even hung the laundry on the lines according to their colours. My pegs were colour-coded — green on the inside lines, yellow on the outside, my crockery were all white, and I constantly carried the Plaintain colour swatch in my purse to allow me to find home accessories that were the exact-same shade as the green David had painted on the walls.

So now I’m red. It’s the colour of power, of passion, of Valentines, good luck in China and blood. I wonder how much my colour of choice is subconscious, and how much is a product of the compliments I’ve received while wearing it.

It’s ironic that I receive the most favourable comments while wearing red because I was always told as a girls to not wear any shade of crimson — because it clashes with my hair. Ludicrous, of course, but this was the same foundational fashion advice that taught me “blue and green should never be seen”.

Left alone at boarding school to try to find my own sense of style, I was a victim to the popular taunts of the time, and since my freckles already made me stand out among the dark-skinned Africans and the even-toned North Americans, I didn’t want to make a spectacle of myself any longer. I wanted to blend in, to merge with the background, to remain unremarkable except for my mental feats. So as a girl, I wore blue and green because they were safe colours, though at some point I even gave up the green when my sister Renee appropriated it has her identifying colour.

As an adult, I moved very slowly into reds. First I flirted with plums and oranges. But there really aren’t very nice clothes in orange colours, and although I didn’t to be distinctive, I didn’t want to look daggy either. The orange quickly moved into coral, and after birthing daughters, I even started wearing pink. Gradually, I acquired more red — it matched the colour of the pram and other baby accessories I had, and so even then my OCD was a driving force. I wanted to match, even if it went against the taunts of my childhood.

There was a specific point at which I realised that I needed to raise my daughters without passing onto them the foolish style constraints that tormented me, and so I started to give myself similar freedoms. I no longer had to wear the items that featured in the department-store catalogs. In fact, upon reflecting on the women around me, the ones that didn’t try to wear contemporary fashions were the most stylish.

All my life I’ve tried to be stylish by imitating others who look good. Now I’ve discovered that the women who look the best are the ones who confidently display their own personal style, and I’m happy to make my own up — in red.

Once I wanted to fit in — so badly! Now I embrace red as a brilliant option with which to stand out from the monochromatic crowds around me.

So, going back to the journalist’s question, why do I wear red? I’m not really certain. Others can psychoanalyse it to their heart’s content. For me, it’s just something that I enjoy and will continue to do as long as it keeps being fun.

What about you? In what ways have you created a distinctive style for yourself?