I had a couple of hours to kill in Rotterdam last week when I had it in mind to go to a museum, but it was raining hard and I didn't get very far. Instead I ended up sheltering in one of those impossibly haute-fashion boutiques where all the clothes are black and all the decor is white. The staff must have seen me coming and recognised me as one of their own because they sprang into action as soon as I crossed the threshold. Fortunately there were several clearance rails so I was saved the embarassment of a hasty exit and I negotiated a two for one deal on a couple of pieces from my personal wishlist, a black faux-leather skirt and a pair of black culottes.

I've been wearing much more black lately and trying to direct myself towards a more avant-garde modernism without sacrificing my arty eclectic signatures. These two pieces take me further in that direction and I think they're both going to work hard well into spring. Here are two looks with the new acquisitions, contrasted with another look in the same vein. I'm seeing the start of a mix-and-match capsule based on black statement skirts.

I'm challenging myself to balance out the unusual proportions with perennial staples and I'd like to bring their sharp modern styling into line with the softer classicism I'm used to. I'm thinking a retro vibe could work for the faux-leather skirt, with a high-contrast fitted/cropped sweater (something like #3) and creepers. I'm a bit stumped by the culottes though. They work very well with a long fluid jacket as well as the more boxy style I've used here, but I'd really like to wear them with something that gives more definition at the waist and so far nothing I've tried feels very contemporary. I think maybe I'm stuck for reference points because culottes are trending right now after years of absence.

1. Faux leather skirt by Ann-Sofie Back. I'm not usually a fan of conspicuous branding but this is done with the brand's trademark humour. I like the playful merging of the boxing and moto styling with the go-faster strip down the side. I have a few other pieces from this designer already and I like what she does. I wore this day-to-evening on Friday and got a lot of compliments. Layered with the Pitagora cardigan and booties from Topshop.

2. Gabardine culottes allegedly by Comme des Garcons. I got a good deal on these because for some reason they'd lost their tags so I can't say for sure if they're genuine. Whetever they are, the cut, material and finish are nice enough for me not to mind their murky provenance. These look to be the same design in cotton.

Worn here with a leather and wool sweatshirt I made myself, metallic leggings from the roller derby, boots by MMM and a Uniqlo HeatTech turtleneck.

3. Pleated skirt by Dries van Noten. I've had this about 10 years and it works hard every winter. If anything, this piece prompted the purchase of the other two, because I know the shape works for me an it made sense to update it now that it's back in style. Worn here with Topshop booties again and a Connie Groenewegen sweater. She’s a Dutch designer who’s doing some wonderfully innovative things with knitwear. You can’t see in the photos but it’s blue silk-mix fine knit bonded to black felted angora. It’s quite special.

Please tell me what you think, any feedback and further styling ideas are welcome. Thanks for looking!

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