Black is the darkest neutral. The absence of colour. It is an extremely popular neutral for good reason. But black is not the only dark neutral. Shades of dark blue, brown and grey can be equally effective. 

Black wardrobe items can look extremely dressy, dramatic, edgy, slimming, chic, elegant, classic, urban, appropriate, avant-garde and powerful. Black wardrobe pieces can complement a complexion, and bookend an outfit if you have black or salt & pepper hair. Black items can be versatile and practical, and bring out colours, like shades of white, grey, cobalt and red. Black can be the perfect background colour to a pattern, provide an effective background to white pearls, and accent a palette in just the right way. Some items simply look best in black. And when all is said and done, you might feel happiest when you wear black.

On the other hand, black wardrobe items can also look very harsh, flat, boring, dowdy, flat, hard-edged, overwhelming, and predictable. Black does not suit every complexion, sometimes looking unflattering and dull. It does not create a crisp or fresh effect, nor does it look radiant when worn flat and on its own. Black items can attract lint, dust and light marks, and be impractical. You might feel unhappy and not your best when you wear black.

Don’t assume that black is best, suits you no matter what, and will always work. Don’t settle for black just because you think it’s versatile, easy and practical. Don’t get black because it’s the only colour available. And on the flipside, don’t omit black items from your style just because you think they will never work.

Think about how much black you want to wear, and when you want to wear it. For example, is it seasonal? In large or small doses? Think about how you want to wear black. As an item against your face, as a bottom, as a column of colour, as an accessory, as shoes, or as an accent in an outfit? Think about whether black flatters your complexion and creates the outfit effects that you aspire to. But most importantly, assess whether you feel happy when you wear black. Listen to your feelings and get the quantity of black that is represented in your wardrobe aligned with how you really want to dress.

My clients, friends and family run the gamut when it comes to the amount of black that they wear and have represented in their wardrobes. Some clients and friends wear black, grey and a bit of white exclusively because they feel their best in the palette with few exceptions. People like Greg love to wear black and charcoal, but with lots of dark blue, and light grey. Some clients wear black in some form daily, whereas others wear it more moderately. Some will wear black as an accent, as a bottom, in a bottom or as footwear, but not as a wardrobe item against their face. And some have very few black wardrobe items because they’ve chosen navy and brown as their dark neutrals, and don’t like to wear black.

As I reflected at the end of last year, I’ve been on a mission to limit the amount of black in my wardrobe for several years. A wardrobe rich in black does not make me happy. I do not want to create a hard-edged effect, preferring crisp, fresh and colourful outfits over too much dark neutral. I am MUCH happier combining all sorts of other neutrals and colours in outfits than falling back on black. For the most part, “dark blue is my black.” That said, I do wear black because it complements shades of white (my favourite neutral). I have a very deliberate set of wardrobe items that I love to wear in black. Most of them are old, but a few are new, and the exact items from my wardrobe are represented in the collection.

A black turtleneck is a wardrobe essential for my style, and yummy with white jeans and navy pants. A gauzy black polo shirt has a fun equestrian vibe. A black dress, dressy top, and lace top are magical with a pile of white pearls. A pair of tall black riding boots with matching belt are classics. A black mixed media moto jacket is useful, and I love the gold hardware. Sailor pants, cropped flares, and harem pants look dressiest in black. I adore my avant-garde black pants suit that I bought in Tokyo because it shows the right amount of skin so that I don’t feel like I’m drowning in black. And I wear black patterned items, because they look fab with white, blue denim, olive and tomato red.

Over to you. How is black represented in your style and wardrobe? Is it the right amount for the look you want to emulate? Does wearing black make you happy?