Yesterday I bought a black skirt and a black dress. They are the only two items of all-black I own and they look sad in my wardrobe.
I was press-ganged into this tawdry purchase by my job, which has an all-black dress code. A black t-shirt is provided but you have to handle the rest. And no, I don’t own a pair of jeans.
I don’t think of myself as a colour person particularly, so it came as a shock to me when I went to find some black clothes amongst my belongings and came up empty-handed. There was a black dress with pink and blue flowers and one covered in a fox print and one with black and white stripes, or were those stripes navy? I was clutching at straws.
Black first became ubiquitous in Western fashion in the 14th Century and as with all trends at the time, it began with royalty and then gradually worked its way down the line. Style-inspiration had not changed by the twentieth century, but the definition of what constituted royalty had; our monarchs were now Coco Chanel and Johnny Cash.
Countless colours have been hailed as ‘the new black’ but the truth is, Wednesday Addams’ favourite shade isn’t going anywhere. Each new fashion week heralds the arrival of innovatively-drab collections and countless think pieces attesting to black’s timelessly-chic, effortlessly-slimming qualities.
But what about those of us who can’t get into bleak-chic? Where’s the support network? Where are the endless magazine articles advising us on how to break the cycle? What if your whole wardrobe is a ‘pop of colour’?
Thankfully for me, black is something of a Melburnian uniform so I didn’t have to look far for my alternative wardrobe palette. In fact, once I was looking, black was absolutely everywhere; racks upon racks of dark material that were not so much lurking in the shadows, as creating them.
Vogue believe wearing colour can improve your mood, and have a colour therapy expert to back themselves up. While the Guardian’s Invisible Woman columnist argues that wearing head-to-toe colour draws too much attention. But just to be clear, colour doesn’t mean dressing like a crazy parrot lady, it just means, you know, not black. Navy and burgundy and olive – they’re all colours too.
And the problem with fashion advice is that it is, at its core, a spinning vortex of contradictions in which every colour has been the colour at some point and what’s ‘in’ will spin around to what’s ‘out’ and then back again before you can say “Ugg boots”.
This lack of certainty is a problem for over-thinkers such as myself whose style development has been almost entirely subconscious and has only recently been called into question by a professionally-inflicted dress code.
However, having added a few small black pieces to my wardrobe, I now feel good about my uniform. Just like at school, a uniform is the great equaliser. And, just like at school, the real joy of it is being able to come home after a long day and change into your own clothes, to show your true colours.
Image credit: Tech Glimpse