Cult of a Color: How to Wear All Black

It’s time for another episode of Unsolicited Styling Advice from Claire!

With all the beautiful colors in the world, all the hues and the variety of fabrics, I still find myself clad head-to-toe in black.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  1. It is unfailingly chic.
  2. Once you know how to wear all black, it’s ridiculously flattering.
  3. When you’re not an heiress it’s what looks best at fashion week.
  4. No one messes with a woman clad in all black.
  5. Neiman Marcus once said: “Women who wear black lead colorful lives.”

That being said, there is an art to wearing black. Otherwise you look like a depressed tap dancer or a bag of fabric shuffling around. If you do manage to master your black on black layering, you’ll find you begin to look beyond classic, perhaps even trendy or—dare I say—stylish?

Shades of black


Not all shades of black are equal. See above where my coat and shirt are two different shades, but they work since they’re different materials and aren’t meant to seem monochromatic. Also they have the same blue-ish undertone—undertones are everything.

Parks & Rec does a fun job of reminding of us of this fact.

While this segment is funny both because it points out that Jerry is inept when it comes to stylistic elements, but also because it does seem ridiculous that there would be so many hues to the color that represents the very limit to color.

And yet, there are many, many shades of black (name that song!)


The variability in shades is what makes a careful pairing of them vital to pulling off a truly elegant all-black ensemble: it’s best to match your shades or do some clever manipulation…

Define, contour, fit

As a clever segue into what that manipulation might be, let’s talk about fit.

Our bodies may be the fleshy cages that imprison us and while we can eat certain ways, work out (or not), and pray our genetics favor us, we can construct a lot of optical illusions with our clothing.

You can lengthen your legs, shorten your torso, emphasize your waist, or create a cute boxy figure for Thanksgiving so that you can eat copiously and look chic. Anything is possible when you believe in the power of sneaky dressing!

When it comes to wearing this color head to toe, we’re trying to remain sleek and slim instead of looking like a garbage bag. The cardinal rule, as with most things, is going to be that magical waistline, where you’ll want to draw in tightly with a belt or a cropped jacket or the height of your pants/skirt.

If you’ll be sticking with flowing garments, you’ll need to balance the excess fabric with thin legs (or thin where it matters, i.e. thighs) or a shortened length of dress/skirt. Above I’m wearing high-waisted pants that flare at the bottom with a fitted tee. Effectively I made myself look taller (I need all the help I can get) but I’ve kept the rest of myself looking as trim as possible. Balance, the magical word.

With all fitted black garments, you’d never know I’d just rolled out of bed.

Another possibility: wear all black with all fitted garments: skinny jeans with standard tee/sweater/etc. This is your best bet for the best slimming effect. If you’re wearing a dress, well the LBD is never a bad option and you won’t even have to put in any work at all.

Texture is your friend

Another way to create interesting variety in your all black ensemble is by utilizing interesting textures. In the above photo it’s not that easy to see, but the top of the dress here is mesh with embroidery and my skirt is a flowy polyester. I’ve got bulk on top with the cotton turtleneck and delicacy on the bottom, while the embroidery on my torso makes for some intriguing but subtle texture.

When it comes to other options while facing down the same old cotton tee and denim combination (a classic in any case), you can create some interesting looks using wool, knitwear, silks (the height of chic, honestly), or mesh if you’re really edgy. Layering sheer pieces is a great way to do this and the overboard textures of some pieces make for eye-catching, but wearable outfits.

You can see such basic examples of layerable and malleable pieces below from transparent brand Everlane below.

Are you shocked yet by the multitude of options that lay before you should you decide to wear monochromatic black? Are you planning an outfit so complex that it will have those hippy-dippy lovers of color on their knees?

Don’t let people tell you that wearing all black is some sort of boring, easy task. It can be a very interesting venture if you branch out and experiment.

And no matter what you’ll look as haughty and haute couture as possible. Or just really and truly badass.





Questions? Comments? Miscellania?

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