From Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to contemporary icons like Grace Coddington and Alexander Wang, nothing screams “New York!” like an all-black ensemble. I should know, I live here and I wear head-to-toe black like it’s going out of style (it definitely isn’t). But what feels effortless and on-trend in NYC can feel boring or even harsh in other cities, especially those with more forgiving climates. Still, nothing makes getting dressed easier than piling on a bunch of black and calling it a day. Think about it: Black is hard to stain, flattering on every figure and skin tone, and best of all, you know it all matches. So why should New York women get to be the only ones to relish such a simple route to sophistication? Read on for our tips on how to pull off all-black anywhere you are.
It’s all about accessories
If you’re wearing all black but don’t want to blend into the background, focus on accessories–the bolder, the better. A colorful neck scarf, oversized earrings, and a statement bag or shoes can instantly elevate the look, especially when combined. Think red boots with big gold hoops, or a printed silk scarf with a flashy belt. All black provides a clean canvas for showing off an investment piece. After all, if you’re going to drop half your paycheck on a pair of shoes, then you want people to notice them, right?
Play with textures
According to fashion stylist Molly Dickson, who we caught up with at a SIX:02 preview, the biggest thing that keeps an all-black outfit from looking too monotone is texture. “All-black is a constant go-to look for me, particularly when I’m running between client appointments,” she shared. “I love breaking up the all-black look by using noticeable textures or a pop of color, such as these Ivy Park Net Leggings from SIX:02 with fishnet detailing on the outer legs.” We’d also suggest incorporating textures like leather, mohair, faux fur, or suede to make for a look that’s interesting without trying too hard. And, no matter where you live, never, ever attempt an all-black outfit that’s entirely stretch cotton. Nothing looks cheaper or less considered.
When in doubt, do denim
While this admittedly might not fly in a conservative work environment, one easy way to make all-black seem approachable is to throw in a pop of denim. Dickson suggests a denim jacket or this season’s ever-popular high-waisted boyfriend jeans. Even if you just pair jeans with a black top, jacket, and boots, it will seem much lighter and more considered than if you did the same outfit with black pants.
Show some skin
Another way to break up an all-black look is to show off legs, arms, stomach, or even just a glimpse of ankle. While we tend to think of black as being best suited for cooler weather, if you live in a warmer climate, you actually have an advantage here. Pick one (or two!) body parts you feel especially good about and want to show off, then shroud the rest of your body in black. The black keeps the skin from looking too sexy and the skin keeps the black from looking too severe. Call it sartorial symbiosis!
Photo: Dries Van Noten
Consider the floral
Dark, moody florals are having a serious moment thanks to labels like Dries Van Noten, Jill Stuart, and Altuzarra. Adding a romantic floral to an otherwise all-black ensemble is a great way for more traditionally feminine dressers to feel comfortable embracing their dark side. Plus, with a print, you probably want to keep the rest of the outfit relatively simple anyway. Pairing it with black accessories keeps the focus on your flowers.