The all black outfit is an old nemesis of mine. It was the uniform of the million terrible waitressing jobs I had in my twenties, and it was the colour of the sea of suits I used to swim through during my investment banking days. Now you’ll struggle to find anything black in my wardrobe besides my extensive collection of opaque black tights. I don’t own a pair of black dress pants, a black t-shirt, or even *gasp* a little black dress. There are so many more exciting, beautiful, colourful options; why would I wear all black?
A lot people tell me black goes with everything, that wearing all black is easy. Actually any neutral – navy, brown, cream, white – could be included in the goes-with-everything group, and any of them would do it with more subtlety and softness than black. And black may be easy, but I think we’ve all learned enough hard life lessons to know that the easy way is often not the best way. Like the time I cycled 20 minutes out of my way just to avoid riding up a steep hill on my way home, only to realise that I actually live at a high elevation and every way home is up. Never has the adage “the lazy man works hardest” stung quite so much.
A lot of people think that wearing all black hides (often invented) flaws. If hiding is your only goal, you may fall into the trap of looking like a disembodied head floating on top of a pile of fabric. Cleverly cut clothes, and well-placed patterns do a much better job of hiding those invented flaws than black does.
If however an all black ensemble is your favourite in the world ever and nobody better take it away from you or else what’s the point of living, then you best take a lesson from one of the pros. Take Emmanuelle Alt, editor of French Vogue. While the rest of us mere mortals may not have such effortless style in our blood (no one but a Parisienne can pull off scraggly hair and a bare face so beautifully), we can always try to emulate those who do.
The keys to all black outfits, and actually all outfits, are texture and shape. Notice that when Emmanuelle wears all black, she mixes textures: leather, wool, silk, denim; and flattering shapes: military coats with nipped in waists, slim sleeves, enormous fur collars, floppy, worn-in t-shirts, cropped pants. Her body never disappears, and her outfit is always interesting. In this case my old nemesis looks pretty good.
Even though I can’t fault Emmanuelle Alt for being a one-shade pony, I will always enthusiastically fly the colour flag. Just imagine how awesome it would be to live in a world like this: