Black as layering vehicle only

Black can look severe, lifeless and dull when worn close to the face, especially as you get older. But there are ways of bringing a bit of life back into a black top so that the colour doesn’t look as strict and harsh. This is achieved by creating eye catching contrasts with colour and texture. By breaking up the expanse of flat back against the face, you add depth to the hue thereby making it look alive and interesting.

When I wear black tops and frocks I always use one the following six tricks to soften the look:

  1. Use black as a layering vehicle only: you can cover up most of a black top by layering over it in another colour. That way the black top becomes the textural interest of the ensemble. I like black best paired with white and cream. I also like it with grey, ink blue, cobalt and saturated bright colours as long as there is white or cream in the mix as well.
  2. Combine a lower neckline and a contrasting necklace: the lower neckline distances the black from your face, while the necklace adds contrasting interest. A pearl necklace of sorts in my preference because I’m obsessed with pearls, and because there is something magical about a white pearl against a black background. But you could use any necklace that tickles your fancy as long as there is the effect of a contrast.
  3. Choose tops in sheer black fabric: black looks less severe when the fabric is transparent. The see-through parts of the top act like another colour which once again breaks up the black. Opt for a bit of textural and layering interest too. The camisole adds layering interest and the nobby fabric, ruffles and satin bow on this particular blouse adds textural interest. This frilly blouse might not be to your taste, but you get the idea.
  4. Add a contrasting necklace between the top and your face: the same rule of contrast applies, but this neckline is higher. This top has the added advantage of textured ruffles giving an otherwise dull flat black chiffon a lot more movement. This adds depth to the colour by creating shadows.
  5. Choose tops with textural interest: the Chanel-esque cardigan has stitch interest, contrast piping and gold buttons all of which break up the black.
  6. Add a scarf: this trick works with most types of black tops, but I’ve shown it with a button down shirt and turtle neck. I’ve tied the scarf inside the collar of the button down shirt so that the colours are directly against my face. I’ve tied the scarf close to my neck with the turtle neck to achieve the same effect. I could have also taken the necklace I used in #2 and worn it over the turtle neck to create another form of contrast.

You can use these guidelines for any type of dark top or dress that needs a boost. Also, never underestimate the power of lipstick and rosy cheeks. A bit of extra facial polish goes a long way in making a black top pop.

Lower neckline and contrasting necklace Sheer fabric Necklace between the top and your face
Textural interest Scarf Scarf

There’s a lot of black around this season and hopefully these tips will help you to use it in your wardrobe. But if black is still not your thing, opt for softer dark colours like charcoal grey, bitter dark brown or ink blue instead.