Black Doesn’t Make You Look Slimmer, it Only Makes You Look Boring

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Yesterday on the Metro, a gorgeous woman in a pumpkin-colored toggle coat, brown trousers pinstriped with pink and brown booties. Gorgeous skin with a glow from pink blush and pink-tinted gloss. Pretty braids with little streaks of dark copper with the brown. I would guess the woman was a size 26. She could stop traffic with her inner glow and sassy look.

In black? She would be another fat woman on the train. Not even that, she wouldn’t be remembered. She would blend in.

The other day in the grocery store, woman who looked as though she just got out of yoga class or the gym. Dark plum yoga pants, gray sneakers with lime green accents, dark red glasses, olive green quilted thigh-length coat, nubby loopy scarf and matching hat knit in shades of olive, pink, purple and navy. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but it made me stop and think about my own black yoga pants (all three pairs) and that I own the very same coat but in black. She didn’t look kooky, but the colors just made her stand out a bit and made one think about her. I actually didn’t notice until I saw her in a different line that she was probably a size or two larger than I; the first thing I noticed was the combination of colors, the way the glasses really made her eyes stand out, and whether she knit that scarf and hat combination herself.

38705PURMWe have all been raised to think that black is slimming. Black makes part of you recede. Black is what overweight people wear because overweight people should be ashamed of their shape and want it to recede into nothingness.

But our bodies aren’t going anywhere, and why punish yourself because you are not what society has decided to be the “right” size? And really, what the heck IS that “right” size? As a 5’3” woman, I remember going to the doctor my freshman year of college and being told my 125 lb. frame was carrying too much weight. I had strong legs and arms, broad shoulders from swimming and a large chest. At that point I was in a size 4. If I was the chart’s goal of 110 for my height, I would be sunken in, unhealthily small.

So you are 5 lbs or 150 lbs over the doctor’s chart for weight… that doesn’t mean you life stops. Don’t go into mourning with a wardrobe full of black. Show your personality, your charm, your creativity. You are so much more than your figure – your body is only the shell that gets your soul from Point A to Point B.

What About the Staples?

Time and time again people mention that my staples list is almost all black. Yes, it is but that isn’t because I feel people should hide in black. The thing is black is a color that doesn’t age, it doesn’t usually clash with black shoes and other accessories, it doesn’t get trendy, and is simple enough to work for a funeral, a wedding, a job interview, a trip to the grocery, an awards ceremony. I don’t expect everything to be black, but it’s a good point to start, then adding signature colors, accessories and personality as you find your fashion “wings.”

Easy Places to Add Color:

Your coat or jacket: If you need to buy one, consider an unexpected hue. Colors are often more versatile than black for coats. Mustard yellow, pumpkin orange, robin’s egg blue, scarlet…

The color of your purse: for day or for evening: a red satin clutch with add color to your black dress and heels, a green leather hobo for day will work with black or brown shoes. You’ll be surprised at how much use a colored purse will get, and how many compliments you will receive for it!

588007 hiYour bathing suit and coverup: a black bathing suit will NOT make you look 30 pounds lighter, and you will stand taller and look more confident in a color you love and loves you back.

Your next pair of prescription glasses: why stick with silver, gold and black? I have a pair of dark purple plastic frames that add a little bit of fun to my look while still being quite professional. Before this pair, I had dark green tortoise-shell ones that always received compliments but didn’t work against my face and hair.

Your winter hat, scarf and gloves: Switch it up! This is a great way to get your favorite color into your wardrobe on a daily basis.

If you have a brown coat, get a nice contrast color like leaf green or candy pink. Black can work with everything, and a gray coat looks amazing with yellow, turquoise or even bright red. Colors look great with other colors – I often see a woman on my commute home who has a mustard-colored coat and leaf green cashmere scarf and leather gloves. It doesn’t look hokey or juvenile, just fresh and cheerful.

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Your shoes:
Flats are available in almost every store in the mall; a pair in yellow, orange, red or green will be so fun peeking out of your jeans, trousers, or paired with a simple dress or skirt.

If you purchase commuting shoes, make them cheerful with a great color for your walk to work! For winter and rain boots, find a color that complements your coat or adds an unexpected pop to the dreary climate! As for heels… nothing adds fun and style to a simple outfit or dress than a pair of heels in a gorgeous hue!

A great belt over your cardigan or dress:
Green and yellow are huge colors this spring; use them to brighten up your simple wardrobe pieces.
A pashmina or cardigan for breezy evenings: a color will actually work with more of your wardrobe than a basic black or ivory.

Your workout clothing: if you want to be subtle, consider loden green, navy, plum, teal, brown.

Your lingerie: Others may not see it but you will feel the energy of your favorite color against your skin!

blkdressWhat If You Love Black?
Heck, I do! I don't wear black because it's slimming, but because I like it on me. I like the cool simplicity of the color, the chic way it makes such a statement. I love it with smoky eyes and messy hair, with cat eyes and ruby lips, with my fair skin and dark hair. IF you feel that way, then embrace your color and wear it in well-made, well-fitting, non-faded pieces. Accent it with bold jewelry, color accessories or fabulous cosmetics. Don't use it as a disguise, but as an extension of your personality!

Purple dress by IGIGI, bathing suit and black dress by Torrid, yellow suede flats by Gap

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Thanks for the reminder Allie! While most of my base wardrobe IS black this is because I like, I can still wear it without looking washed out and it’s easy to match separates. BUT, I have shoes in prints and bright hues; my everyday bag is teal; my reading glasses (which I wear all day at work in front of my computer) have purple metallic frames; I am accumulating an array of coloured beads, necklaces and pendants; and my winter coat is pale green. I also have an assortment of leopard print pieces and a great bright pink blazer (soon to be joined by cigarette pants when my Land’s End parcel arrives!!). I’m looking forward to adding more cardigans, shoes and easy dresses in flattering hues as my budget allows.

  2. Allie, I love your blogs and you have great fashion sense. Is that last picture of the woman in the black dress you? She’s really pretty.

  3. I do love non-black colors as bases for a wardrobe… but not for staples. The problem is colors like navy, brown and greens do not always match one another, go in and out of fashion and vary wildly in hue from store to store making it hard to build upon a wardrobe and have them as actual “staples.”

    For example, you wouldn’t be able to take a brown sheath and be able to dress it up to a formal affair, you wouldn’t be able to switch up a navy pantsuit to be good for an interview as well a formal affair and as pants alone for a night out on the town. They are very great colors, but not necessarily an alternative for my staples list.

    Each on their own could be switched out with a color, but that is getting into knowing yourself and your personal style. My staples are purely a base for those who are trying to find personal style – simple wardrobe building blocks. Once you know yourself, you can easily switch the suit for a beautiful dark solid gray, the sheath for a deep navy, the pants for even camel.

  4. I think that for the staples we can use other dark colours like deep navy, chocolate, charcoal gray, or even very deep green. These are practically neutral, go with most things, but are more interesting and original than black. Besides, they may suit those who don’t look good in black.

    BTW My “personal black” — basic staple colour is navy.

  5. I agree! Last year I bought a simple winter coat but in cobalt blue: I have received more compliments on that coat than anything I’ve bought in the last five years! Now I carry a red bag and gloves with it, and feel like I stand out in a sea of black. I too wear a lot of black–I like it and look good in it. But I realized that I missed color in my clothes, especially during the long, gray winter/

  6. I loved seeing this post Allie. When ever I teach classes on style, and get to the part where I tell them that black is not the miracle color and that not everyone should wear it, you should see the look of panic that comes over people’s faces. But I love introducing them to color. It is such a wonderful thing!
    I have a friend that has been hiding behind black for years, and she is just now starting to wear color and her self confidence is being boosted by all of the compliments she gets.

  7. I wear very little black; most of the black I own is athletic gear. (I have a black jersey dress and I *think* a piece or two of black evening wear, as well. Though I might’ve donated those somewhere.)

    I think a lot of people are afraid of looking kooky or childish in colors, and it’s certainly possible to do so. What I do is first, I go for good-quality stuff with some texture to it, like my favorite teal corduroy jacket or my tweedy green hat. Second, I use neutrals or dark versions of colors to tone things down — some dark colors can work as neutrals in the wardrobe, like the deep eggplant trousers I’m wearing today.

    Yesterday, I wore the following outfit:

    – robin’s egg blue camisole
    – black jersey dress
    – light plum jersey top
    – teal cord jacket
    – burgundy tights
    – dusty-navy blue knee-high boots
    – burgundy/red ombre scarf

    It sounds kind of screwy written out that way, but what happens when you actually wear it is this:

    With the jacket & scarf off (in the office), you get a flash of blue covering the cleavage (both dress and jersey top are too low-cut for work without an underlayer), and the rest of the outfit is rather sedate, with the boots reading as neutral and the tights only showing when the skirt swirls as you walk.

    When you put on the jacket and scarf (to brave the weather), the robin’s egg blue disappears entirely from the color palette, and the light plum goes down to just a flash of color at the waist. The scarf picks up the color of the tights.

    I wish I’d taken pictures to show you all, actually; the whole outfit was seriously awesome, as well as being fairly typical of what I wear.

    I sometimes say that I dress like the Joker, but I try to be a bit more restrained than he is…though I am keeping my eye out for a good purple or green suit.

  8. Allie, I love your blog. Because of you, I have rediscovered the dress and now wear one four days a week to work. I am over weight but love myself enough to know that picking things up off the floor to wear just so that I have clothes on is just not enought. I feel like a new person since I now look put together when I go to work each morning. It takes time but worth every extra second. With that said, I love black! I started wearing it to make me appear smaller. I wear it now because I like it. Don’t get me wrong, I love color. I saw a yellow spring coat at Macys I can’t wait to get my hands on but black will always be my friend.

  9. Your suggestion for adding colour with prescription glasses is great! It’s easy and inexpensive now too, because there are so many companies selling glasses online. They cost a fraction of what is charged at the optometrist or the One Hour places. I’ve got five pairs now that cost me as little as $8.00 per pair. The prescriptions are carefully ground, and I’ve never had a problem. So I have red glasses and purple sunglasses with my prescription, as well as some in teal blue and some with an iridescent green frame. The most I paid for any of these pairs was thirty dollars, and I have to have multifocals!

    Black has its uses and it can be sophisticated and sleek, but colour is so much fun.

  10. I have a beautiful red wool winter coat with the cutest collar (the reason I bought it) I love… It made the cold dreary snow days in Poland fun and now keeps me warm in Irish rainy weather. I don’t want it to get warm as I want to keep wearing my red coat!!

    My wardrobe consists of black, grey, red and white clothes… something my friends give out to me about but I feel great in these clothes… I wear colourful accessories and make sure that my black clothes are made from fabulous materials, have beautiful detailing and are cut to fit my petite body…

  11. One of my New Year’s resolutions a couple years ago was to wear more color. I haven’t totally succeeded, but it’s a good goal. Also, I once worked with a personal shopper that I had to ditch because she kept showing me black, black and more black, even after I told her I wanted color. Making outfits with color feels challenging but it’s worth the effort.

    And, I’m going swimsuit shopping soon and will definitely pick a bold color, it’s more fun!

    Great post.

  12. Allie, I just love your blog! I love it because I love shopping, I love fashion, I love all things clothing and jewelry and hair. But most of all, I love it because I love, and completely agree with your attitude about size and celebration and loving yourself. Hooray!

  13. God bless you for this post. Seriously. It’s fantastic, and you are so, so right.

    I knnow I hide in black. It’s something I started doing even before I was heavy, and it’s a very hard habit to break. Something to work on. 🙂

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