Every woman has ‘the chair’. Like a large planetary body, the chair is where all loose garments gravitate. It’s the place that opens its arms wide at the end of a long day, empathetically ready to catch the fling of a bra or the peel of a sweater.
The mound of fabric on my chair might as well be a black hole. It is a pile of blurry darkness with rarely a flash of colour, and, so, finding anything quickly is painful. It’s somewhat ironic then, considering the reason I mostly only wear black is pure, unadulterated simplicity: Shopping, dressing, packing…. When everything matches, life is a bit easier.
What people don’t realise is that beyond the ease of having a uniform, wearing all-black allows you to focus on cut, fabric and texture. There is expression there; it’s subtle, but subversive. You can be playful with all black, and not appear ostentatious or vulgar, overdressed, underdressed or loud.
You can be playful with all black, and not appear ostentatious or vulgar, overdressed, underdressed or loud.
As I’ve got older, I value craftmanship more – I care about quality and season-less pieces over flash trends and shouty labels. I’ve learned more about good design from wearing a single shade almost always than I would have if I had been distracted by prints and colours. Ever noticed how easy it is to get away with flimsy fabrics, poor stitching and terrible cuts when you’re working with prints? You will now.
I am a journalist, and my style is generally the same rain, hail, cocktail or shine. High-rotation pieces include black jeans, good quality t-shirts, silk shirts, tailored cropped pants, leather, shift dresses and oversized or super-tailored blazers. Rinse and repeat.
Admittedly, I do sometimes envy those girls who can pull off colour blocking or print clashing so effortlessly. So when PRIMER asked me to be part of a colour experiment – and try colour blocking (wearing not just one colour, but several, at once) I thought, ‘Why not?’ How hard can it be?
My nonchalance faded the moment PRIMER stylist Tara Morris put me in my first outfit: a chic green Zara blazer, pink top and blue jeans. ‘Hooo boy, this was a lot to unpack,’ I thought.
“Denim is the easiest way to experiment with colour,” Tara said helpfully. “It’s the perfect base since it goes with practically everything.” Looking at myself in the mirror, I felt uncomfortable. Objectively, I knew this was ridiculous; I mean, this was a cool and easy look. FFS, I was literally wearing jeans and a nice top; aka the universal go-to!
Likewise, when Tara put me in a gorgeous sorbet-toned geometric print dress by Oroton, I had a similar reaction. This was a quintessential Stealing Beauty summer throw-on – the kind of dress that is as at home on the cobblestones of Rome as it is on a wooden deck in Byron Bay. Everything about this appealed to my sense of ease. Theoretically, I should like this! Alas, I felt unlike myself; I didn’t move the same way or have the same confidence I usually do. I even sent a photograph to some friends to gauge their opinion. “Are you ok??” one instantly texted back. “Is this an SOS?!”
Then came look three – a divine origami-style wrap skirt by Bec & Bridge (I wonder if this comes in black?); a bright orange turtleneck by Zara; and red pumps by Maryam Nassir Zadeh.
Around me, Tara, and the rest of the team at the photo shoot cooed their appreciation. A girlfriend – upon seeing the photographs later – told me I needed this skirt in my life. Of course, I could see the flair, the romance, the beauty, the femininity in this look. But, again, the overall effect felt so… plain, so… casual. And this was not an underdressed look! It just wasn’t enough. But how? I looked brighter but felt invisible.
Days later, while panic shopping for an event in COS, it dawned on me: that was the problem. When you dress in extremes – be it with volume, texture or colour – as most women who only wear black do, you are used to dialling to 11. It’s a statement, like stamping the wax seal on an envelope.
A quick scan of the internet reveals that psychologists believe that women who wear all black are trying to ‘reclaim power’, ‘appear ambitious’ and ‘shield from emotions and criticism’ (!!!). I don’t agree that I dress this way in order to catch less feels (and that is a story for another day!). To me, black is confidence, it’s mystery, it’s aloofness – it is subtle but powerful. And it is calm. These are the personality traits I think most monochromatic dressers prefer to exude – certainly not some psychobabble garbage about seeing ourselves as charlatans in-hiding.
Black is confidence, it’s mystery, it’s aloofness. It is subtle but powerful.
Black gives you parameters, and what you choose to do within those parameters is up to you. You’re not following trends and you’re not putting a timestamp on yourself. It’s like writing or taking a photo on film – it’s a framework. I can understand how some might think dressing in black is invisible or lazy or boring. But actually, it still takes thought and commitment while also allowing for creativity and expression when you need it.
I don’t think I could ever embrace the technicolour life – the mental load is simply too much – but this experiment taught me more about how I self-style than expected. If were to embrace colour, I’d only be able to do it at the loudest setting (a pink suit?). But then again, that’s probably cheating.
And besides, I stand by the scientific fact that black is colourful enough. Because by its very definition, it is (like a black hole) the absorption of every hue in the universe at once.
Photographer: Tane Coffin
Stylist: Tara Morris
Makeup: Jasmin Lo
Hair: Keiren Street