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What Happened When A Minimalist Tried Colour

And ditched her beloved black for a week

By Erin Cook

They say that the first step in dealing with any addiction is admitting you have a problem. So here it is: I have a problem with black. I own black jeans, black t-shirts, multiple pairs of black boots, not to mention black skirts and – oh, I would say – roughly 10 black dresses. Carrie Bradshaw I’m not.

It wasn’t always like this. In high school, I was adventurous; I tried every colour and every trend – sometimes all at once. I op-shopped, up-cycled, accessorised, dressed up and dressed down, and I loved every minute of it.

Erin Cook in her usual black

But when I moved to Sydney to embark on a career in fashion magazines, my wardrobe began steadily to fill with black. Partly, I wanted to look sophisticated as I perceived black to be very “fashion”. (Which it was: in the ’90s fashion critic Suzy Menkes famously likened the fashion pack to “black crows”.)

But also black was safe – after all, you can’t go wrong with a LBD, right? These days, I feel bored by my own wardrobe. Sure, it all ‘works’ – I can pair almost any t-shirt/button-up/blazer with any of my skirts/shorts/trousers but does it spark joy? Not really. Marie Kondo would have a field day in my apartment.

So when PRIMER rang to ask me if I’d spend a week wearing colourful pieces from kate spade new york, which recently appointed Nicola Glass as creative director and is known for its colourful yet grown-up aesthetic, I mulled it over for all of three seconds before signing up. It would be a week living outside my comfort zone – but if all else fails my all-back wardrobe will still be there, waiting for me, at the end of the week.

Day One

Today, I wore the Lips Script Midi Dress and Nicola Twist Lock Bag.

I love this dress; no doubt about it. Those colourful ‘dots’? They’re actually teeny-tiny lips in varying shades of pink and red. There’s also a hidden message scribbled along the hem: “If you can read this you’re too close.” Later I learn that lips are a recurring motif for kate spade new york for spring 2019.

Erin in the Lips Script Midi Dress and Nicola Bag.

However, I am out of my comfort zone, and I feel… exposed. For the first time, I realise that black has become a kind of sartorial safety net and there is an inextricable link between my style and identity. Do I wear black to blend in?

Slipping on this kate spade new york dress, I realise that wearing colour makes me feel bolder… not to mention more feminine, more positive and even a bit playful. (No wonder the brand’s mission statement is “optimistic femininity”.) These are not emotions I normally associate with my wardrobe.

As you may have guessed, my handbags are all – drumroll please – black. However, the Nicola Twist Lock Bag is a welcome departure from my current wardrobe. (Take a look at the spade heart twist-lock clasp – a subtle nod to the brand’s heritage.) Throughout the day, whenever I catch a glimpse of the bag I feel a pep in my step.

Day Two

Next up is the Geo Square Silk Dress and Dorie Bag.

This dress is undeniably elegant. Its autumnal hues are a gentle and uplifting counterpoint to Sydney’s grey skies, and the geometric pattern and gentle ruffles are feminine yet still grown-up.

Erin in the Geo Square Silk Dress and Dorie Bag.

And apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Standing in the coffee queue before work, a nice-looking man stops to tell me that he likes my dress. “It’s nice to see someone with a bit of dignity,” he tells me. “These days, most women walk around in short shorts.” With my feminist hat firmly atop my head, I thank him but add sternly, “I think women can wear whatever they like – denim cut-offs included.” Privately, I am chuffed. This never happens!

Day Three

By day three, I’m really starting to get my head around this colour thing and I enjoy slipping into the Floral Dots Silk Dress, paired with the Menswear Lapel Trench.

The dress is fun and fresh, and the cinched waist is flattering.

Erin in the Floral Dots Silk Dress and the Menswear Lapel Trench.

As for the coat? I am in love. A deep, head-over-heels kind of love that I didn’t see coming. The pale purple hue and tartan detailing are playful – yet the classic trench style is timeless. It’s the perfect combination.

Throughout the day, people notice the coat. They ask where I bought the coat. They touch the coat. The coat walks into the room before I do and as I get on to the train a woman smiles at me. It is definitely because of the coat. I do not want to give the coat back.

Day 4 

Today is D day (AKA deadline day) and the last day of the challenge. At this stage, colour and I are starting to become friends.

Erin in the Spade Pocket Skirt and Lips Mockneck Sweater.

When I step into the Spade Pocket Skirt and the Lips Mockneck Sweater, I feel instantly at home. This outfit feels very ‘me’. It is equal parts colourful and practical. Normally, I would have purchased both of these items in black, white or grey – but today I revel in the pop of colour.

What I Learned

Earlier today, while procrastinating and avoiding writing this very story, I found myself online shopping, and – shock horror – actively seeking out colour.

If this week has taught me anything, it’s that I’ve been hiding behind my black wardrobe; in an attempt to ‘blend in’ I have rendered myself – and my sense of style – almost invisible. Ditching my all-black wardrobe in favour of more colour has given me a sense of polish and sophistication that playing it safe with black never did. (Not to mention an unexpected boost of optimism.)

For me, wearing bright, unapologetic clothing is a style statement that requires a certain level of self-confidence – and, I realise, it’s a confidence that I do, in fact, have inside me, should I choose to use it.


This story was created in partnership with kate spade new york #loveinspades


Find your nearest kate spade new york boutique here. There are eight stores in Australia.


BY Erin Cook

Erin is a writer living in Sydney. Her wardrobe is mostly black, white and navy. But she is now open to colour.

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