By Traci McBride
Well, I spend a lot of time in closets, and I find that when black is worn almost exclusively, it drains one’s energy. It also communicates to others that you are bored, not creative, and perhaps lazy. Now don’t get offended … hear me out.
Most of the women I work with have numerous pairs of black pants, skirts, and dresses. I spend time with them to sort through and decide how to best let go of a majority of these garments (without judgment).
For example, I have a lovely client that had 39 black pairs of pants! Yes, each was different in some detail, such as the cut, pockets, weight, fabric, trim, etc. So she tried on each pair for me, and we made decisions by the cut for her Body Shape I.D. the purpose, fit, season and style.
Another woman had every variation of black dresses — 22 in all — and again we used this method to narrow it down.
Probably the largest number I’ve seen in a garment category was black shrugs – 96! Most were slightly different, but many didn’t honor her body, either too long or too big, too similar, etc. No one needs 96 of anything the same.
All of these clients purchased these items one at a time, not all at once. Over time, shopping here and there, they thought each item was completely different from anything they had at home.
I often find the reasoning for owning so much black is a body image issue. They figure they will look slimmer. Usually it’s more about hiding the size or shape that they are not happy about and wanting to just disappear.
Wearing Black Differently
As soon as you learn new ways to take the best of black and energize it with texture, print, layer, and color, your whole wardrobe will expand. You will appear modern, fresh, energized, and outgoing, all while flattering your figure and feeling confident. Here are a few examples:
1. Color block dress at the top of page: The dress slices her in half, then gives a strong asymmetrical line, which is very flattering for her body type. Never wear black shoes with a dress like this. Either a pop of color or nude to extend the leg line.
2. Top: Black slims the torso and arms while the power color frames the face and creates a flattering vertical line. This works great to deemphasize a fuller bust or a little extra in the middle.
3. Jumpsuit: Black on the bottom is great, as it isn’t bringing the attention down; the colorful print draws the eye up and to the face. Excellent for those with fuller hips, tummy or thighs.
Chiseling your waist is something many ladies ask me about. Each of these examples below does just that in slightly different ways.
1. Black sweater has a vertical line contrast that brightens and emphasizes the face as well, and then the nip at the waist keeps the sweater from overwhelming the body and becoming frumpy. Pair this sweater with light to medium grey or burgundy windowpane slacks or pencil skirt.
2. White business blazer uses two great techniques with slimming panels at the waist and the sharp vertical contrast piping, which causes the eye to move up and down for a slimming trick of the eye. Team with pencil skirt or trousers in white, grey or a pop of color to really set you apart from all the women that would wear with black pants.
3. Sheath dress with bold graphic in just the right place to create that all-important vertical line. The pop of red at the shoulder is a nice detail (although not a good option for the inverted triangle body shape). This dress could easily be worn with a bright color blazer, such as yellow or red; a shrug or bolero jacket would be great too depending on your body shape. Avoid a black blazer — eight out of 10 women would choose that. The color shoe is always my preference, never a black shoe that comes off heavy. If you must be more conservative, a nude heel would be a better choice.
The Most Common Ways Women Get It All Wrong
2. This is a common sight. While the mom tried to kick it up with a print, she ruined the proportions with a wide leg pant and tunic. The daughter is just invisible, with no detail … and appears to be melting into the ground.
In small gatherings of women friends or colleagues, dark is the rule not the exception. Black or dark greys day after day homogenizes you in more ways than you are even aware.
For example, if all three of these women worked in the same field, and you needed to hire one of them on sight, it would be a draw as none of them stands out. They are playing it safe. If you need a smart savvy professional, begin with one that visually communicates that they are confident, modern, detail oriented, and in the habit of taking the extra step. None of these three communicates that to me.
Group Setting. This is another common gathering we see all over Northeast Ohio at networking events. The purpose of these events is to make a great first impression. If you were a fly on the wall, who in this photo does that for you?
Since we can’t typically speak to every person in a big room, we instead scan the room to see who stands out that we would want to meet without even knowing what they do for living. The women wearing all black and grey start to look like each other, but the woman wearing the bright blue dress and pink scarf or the woman in the burgundy dress and purse with the stylish haircut and perfect posture are two women I would want to meet.
1. Elevate your energy by wearing your power colors
2. Be noticed in a sea of black and grey
3. Appear modern, polished, professional, detailed oriented
4. Feel more confident and empowered
5. When you dress interestingly, others assume you are interesting.
Traci McBride, the wardrobe stylist of TeeMcBee Image Consulting, has been a CBC magazine contributor since 2011, is a longtime supporter of nonprofit Dress for Success-Cleveland, and serves on the board of both NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) and NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers). She encourages you to subscribe to her timely e-zine, schedule a style strategy call, or request her to infuse your staff or organization with a passionate professional punch of style to elevate everyone. Visit www.STYLEDbyTee.com to connect and be inspired.