Fresh Ways to Wear a Little Black Dress

Little Black DressThere is a strange myth circulating about me and the color black that I want to clear up, for the umpteenth time.  If you read my good friend Debbie Roes’ blog, Recovering Shopaholic, then you know that she has been blogging about her experience with working with me virtually.  It’s a great piece to read, especially if you have been considering hiring me for a personal style consult.  You can read part 1 here and part 2 here (with more to come).  I am very grateful to Debbie for documenting her experience publicly because this is something I can’t do out of respect for my clients’ privacy.

Anyway, since Debbie’s two posts went up, the comments have been rolling in, which I, of course, have been reading.  Many of the women who have commented have mentioned that they love my blog except for my issue against the color black and that I call women who wear black Blackcidents.  So I want to set the record straight (again) because there seems to be a lot of misinterpretation going on.  I don’t dislike black, I dislike it FOR ME.  Generally speaking, I have no problem with the color.  I have said this many times before.  One time being on video, which you can watch here.

When I tell people I don’t wear black they get strangely defensive, as if my choice to not wear it means I have something against them wearing it.  Another odd occurrence is when women seem to become hellbent on me to wearing black, as if they get some sort of kickback from the black clothing council for converting me.  It’s so strange.  Why all the hullabaloo around my choice to or to not wear a color?  I stopped wearing it when I found there were other colors out there that looked better on me.  It’s that simple.

Setting the record straight on being a Blackcident

The next untrue I want to clear up is, if I don’t have an issue with people wearing black,  why do I call people who wear it Blackcidents?  Well, the truth is I don’t call people who wear black Blackcidents.  I call people who rely to heavily on the color, not people who wear it that.  There is a big difference.  For some people, black can be an exceptional color fitting to their style, coloring and lifestyle.  I have certainly put many of my clients in black and have created the base of their wardrobe around the shade.  However, being a Blackcident happens when the color is chosen in an uninspired manner, in a way that seems more like a fail-safe or security blanket than a conscious choice.   The woman who owns 10 pairs of black pants and unhappily rotates out different tops is usually a Blackcident.  The woman who never wears anything other than a black dress, even though she is craving something different, and then proceeds to style it the same way, like with a black pair of heels and boring jewelry, is usually a Blackcident.  The woman who usually has a pile of black shoes on the floor of her closet with little else to choose from is usually a Blackcident.  And the woman who doesn’t do anything fun with the black she owns, even though she wants to, is usually a Blackident.  Blackidents rarely make the choice to wear black exclusively, they just don’t know what else to do.

I also feel that the world has enough black fashion advocates out there.  Do we really need another fashion expert beating the “black is the best color in the world” drum?  Hardly.  What we need are more fashion experts offering alternative options to those out there who are looking for something different.  This is what I am trying to do, offer alternatives to those who are looking for them.  And it’s not that I never style with black on this blog.  I do it all the time.  I just don’t put black on the almighty pedestal that others do.

So to those of you out there who love black, and the color loves you back, wear it in good health, enjoy it and, just remember, that your black clothes want to have fun too.  Despite the ease that comes with black, the color still likes to be changed up in fun and exciting ways.  That said, in this week’s “One Item, Five Fashionable Ways” I am going to style this little black dress from Reiss five different ways to show you how to get the most out of that/those versatile black dress/dresses you own.  The quickest route to Blackident boredom is to not maximize the black you own in different ways so it feels fresh instead of repetitive.

Fresh ways to wear a little black dress

Look #1- Bold and sleek

One thing black definitely has going for it is it is sleek and modern.  In this first look I wanted to play up this sleekness by adding components that keep it looking clean and bold.  One issue I find when women have too much black is getting all of the black shades to match.  It’s virtually impossible unless the pieces come are in the same fabric and are from the same dye lot.  A way to circumvent this issue is to pair multiple black shades in different materials and textures.  For example, for this fun night out look, I added this drapey faux leather jacket that works with the black dress.  Black matching problem solved.  A nubby boucle or suede jacket would probably solve the same issue.  To finish the outfit I added this pair of ankle strap heels, a pair of bold, modern earrings and a red BCBG envelope clutch for a hit of rich color.

Look #2- Warmed up black

If I were to wear a black dress I would be all over this look because I look better in warmer colors.  The beauty of mid-brown shades is that they not only work with black but they create a totally different look.  If you are looking for some variety, try pairing your black dress with shades of cognac, camel, tobacco, whiskey, tan and beige.  Nude shoes look particularly beautiful with black.

In this outfit, I used all cognac colors and added a pair of Elliot Lucca pumps, Kooba handbag, tortoise necklace and Lauren Ralph Lauren poncho.

Look #3- With color

A black dress is like a blank canvas on which you can paint anything.  The options are truly limitless.  Oh, and side note, so are brown, navy, grey dresses, and more (but that’s for another time).  If you want variety in your black dresses add some color, any color.  It really doesn’t matter.  This is not to say that a clean look of simple jewelry and black shoes isn’t lovely.  My point is about variety and creating more than one option with one dress.

Here I added plenty of color with a Boden knit duster coat in blue, a pink pair of pumps from Ivanka Trump, a blue Carolee necklace and printed scarf from Nordstrom.  The outfit is finished with a metallic tote which can be just as versatile as the black bag you’ve been lugging around.

Outfit #4- Unboring Black

You can certainly keep a little black dress outfit predominantly black without making it boring.  Here, for example, this black-heavy look is far from snoozy with a printed cardigan from Tracy Reese, a pendant necklace from Anthropologie, black stud earrings and boots from Cole Haan.  Even without the pops of color through the yellow Coach handbag and burgundy Reiss coat the outfit stands alone.  However, those final colorful touches create added interest and excitement.   Isn’t burgundy and yellow a fun color combo?

Outfit #5- For evening

A little black dress can easily be taken from day to evening with some simple changes in how it is accessorized.  This change up can not only maximize the use of one dress but is a great tip for travelers.  It’s much easier to bring some extra accessories than it is to pack a whole new outfit.

For evening, I added glitzier accessories through these glittery Kate Spade pumps, a lace cardigan, chandelier earrings and a deep plum evening clutch.

Shop for little black dresses

If you don’t already own one, or are looking for a new little black dress, check out these other little black dresses spotted around the web

  • Anonymous

    God I love this blog

  • Pat

    Yeah!! I can’t believe some readers question your choice to exclude black from your wardrobe? You have a very beautiful, warm, coloring. Black would only detract from your exceptional beauty. Actually, very few women look great in black and even less as a woman ages. Long live Cognac!!

    A faithful fan,

    • Thanks, Pat. This is definitely the reason I gave it up. So many colors look better on me. Black just falls flat on me.

  • Patricia

    I wear black (sometimes) because the color looks good on me with my skin tone and hair color. I may have to reassess as my hair becomes greyer. My biggest problem is remembering not to sit down at home while wearing black (or any dark color)… cat hair!

  • Jen W

    One thing I’ve loved about your blog is that you push for versatility in a wardrobe. I’ve got a serious collection of scarves and your advice to buy one in a color and then move on to others has helped me move past purchasing the same over and over again. For me I struggle with being a navycident, so I try to take your same advice for black and use it to improve the versatility of my wardrobe. I just got a moss green skirt that has seen tremendous use just because it goes with all that navy and changes up the look. Thanks!

    • Thanks Jen! That has definitely been the intent. I am glad the “one and done” approach has been working for you.

  • Mare

    Your false reputation is unfortunate! You don’t wear pants either but you often post on how to help us style them!

    Oddly I’ve purchased some black clothing for the sake of having black clothing and it is the least worn in my closet!

    One thing I don’t understand about people reading style blogs is how they lack almost any creativity, as in if you (or someone) posts something in a particular color how they can’t imagine it in whatever color they would choose :/ I just don’t get it. Good thing I’m not the stylist! 🙂

    Keep up the excellent work Bridgette, I love how you have us think outside the box and trying to find OUR style not adapting someone else’s, partially by setting that example yourself.

    The BIGGEST thing my brain is picked up is a version of the ‘one and done’ – I keep hearing you in my head asking when will I ever reach for the second item over the preferred one!

    • Thanks Mare! Actually I do wear pants. Perhaps you are confusing me with Cameron who writes my Friday Fab Finds. I know she mentioned that she doesn’t wear pants in last week’s post. I really don’t wear tailored pants though. I really don’t need them. When I need to get dressed up I will always grab a dress and my casual lifestyle often calls for jeans, even with clients.

      That’s really interesting what you say about people who read fashion blogs. Some readers are very literal while others see it as more creative inspiration for them. I’ve had many readers who don’t work in an office tell me they get a lot of value from work posts.

      I am really glad all the tips are helping you. A lot of freedom is created when we learn how to be discerning.

      • Mare

        Oh yes, it was likely Cameron’s Fab Find. I didn’t realize you hadn’t written that. I’ll pay closer attention.

        I no longer work in an office, having immigrated from southern Canada to the southern US but I haven’t tossed out my entire wardrobe – I’m making some of my high-end favorite office wear work in a new capacity :). Fits me well other than when it’s sweltering since I’ve always liked to mix dress up/down gear. I think I’m much more inspired when I read posts than I am literal: Today’s LDB (although I have a couple) makes me think how can *I* do this with the garments I reach for first.

        • It’s all good! Yes, Cameron writes the Friday’s Fab Finds each week. It’s a lot of work to go back and forth with the companies we feature, vetting them, making sure they are a good fit, etc. She handles all of it which is a huge load off my plate. It’s actually good you didn’t notice the writing was from someone else actually.

          I love it when people can take a post and make it their own. Fashion is so subjective and open to interpretation. Plus, when you approach dressing as a base with pops and accents it really doesn’t matter what the base is. I could have done this exact post using a dress in navy, brown or camel.

          Sadly there are way too many untrained and inexperienced people giving fashion advice. Just like fashion is subjective, fashion advice is too. It’s all about finding someone who resonates with your point of view. However, I wish more people writing had more knowledge of the information about the topic they are speaking about.

  • Debbie Roes

    I’m so happy you wrote this post, Bridgette, as a lot of my readers did seem confused about your views on black. I shared your “blackcident” video in both the first post of the series and in the comments section, but this post makes things even clearer.

    For anyone who is reading this, I want you to know that it is truly a joy to work with Bridgette and it’s well worth the investment. I know people might be wary to do virtual styling, as the examples we see on TV and in magazines are all of face-to-face work, but I got SO much out of my session with Bridgette. I’m actually glad to be spacing things out a bit, as I tend to be a slow adopter or change. I could blame that on my age (48), but I think I’ve always been that way. I like to take some time to absorb information, think about how it affects me, and slowly integrate new knowledge and practices into my life.

    I’m happy that you told me I look good in black, as I really love wearing it! I did use to rely too heavily on it in the past, but I’ve been integrating a lot more color in recent years. I have one knee-length black dress and one maxi-length black dress and this post will help me create more ways to wear them. I definitely need to get more bright shoes and accessories, though. I knew that before I had my session with you, but it’s even more clear to me now. Of course, as a recovering shopaholic, I will tread lightly and bring in the bright accessories one or two at a time. In the past, I would have already bought 5 or 10 pieces by now – LOL! I haven’t been good with the “one and done” philosophy, but it’s not too late for this old dog (not a very flattering characterization!) to learn a few new tricks!

    Thanks for always writing interesting, entertaining, and useful posts chock full of tips we can use! I must have at least 50 of your posts bookmarked at this point (and yes, I DO go back and revisit them).

    • Justine

      I found Bridgette’s blog through yours Debbie and have really enjoyed your posts describing your experience. I’m not a shopaholic per se, but feel very wastefully having tons of clothes I don’t wear. Bridgette, I’m a blackcident but don’t take offense to the term. Just in the last week I switched out my black work bag for a green one I haven’t used in a while and today wore a pair of tan brogues with my black instead of my usual black flats and I actually felt like I LIKED my black clothes again. I didn’t feel like buying more in search of something different. No more blackcident! Woot woot!

      • Debbie Roes

        I’m happy to have led you to Bridgette’s wonderful blog, Justine! I’m also happy that non-shopaholic like you enjoy my blog. I think that many women (and lots of men) have too many clothes and their closets and lots of things they don’t wear. It feels good to clear away the excess and pare down to just those things we love wearing. I’m still working on that, but getting there… I used to be a blackcident, too, but actually laughed when I first read that term on Bridgette’s blog. I know that I was a major black addict and relied too heavily on it. Like you, I actually like my black clothes now and aren’t using them just as a “fallback plan.” It’s much better to be deliberate about what we buy and wear, isn’t it?

        • This is so awesome to read both of you say that. Imagine it like dieting, per se. It never works when we restrict ourselves but, instead, become more knowledgeable and in control how we eat. By learning a better command of our wardrobe we feel more in control. What starts to happen is we don’t feel like victims of our wardrobe. There is a saying, “If you have gotten yourself into a hole, stop digging.” All too often I see women just go out and buy more clothes without any knowledge of how to use what they already own. By just learning a different approach and how to wear and buy clothing smarter it becomes much easier.

      • You bring up such an excellent point, Justine! I think that when we learn ways to wear black it suddenly becomes a wonderful color to use and work with. I am so glad to hear about your new relationship with the color!

    • Hi Debbie!! Thanks so much! It has been an absolute pleasure working with you. Yes, working virtually may be a bit odd when you can just hire someone who can see you in person. However, looking at photos is no different than looking at someone in their clothes in person.

      Yes, you do look fantastic in black and I am glad you wear and own it. You definitely need rich, clear brights which look great bounced of black clothing! I also think you touched on a good point. Most times clients know instinctively what does and doesn’t work for them, they just don’t trust themselves. What I do is often validate what they were thinking or give them permission to let something go. And I am glad you are treading lightly with your purchases. It can be too easy to go crazy!

      Thank you, as always, for your kind support and touching words! It is wonderful to have you in my circle!

  • trace

    Bridgette, can u do one on yoga pants and then leggings, please? The cheap ones bag out or are constricting. Are the Eileen Fisher leggings worth it? I am 5 feet 5 inches tall, on the thin side, but 57 years old. I like the idea of cropped leggings under a cool looking tunic, but I don’t want to look too young. I live in the SF Bay Area, so I’m not looking for a heavy winter look. Thanks, your blog is fantastic.

    • Hi Trace! I did do a blog on leggings last year. Did you see it? I can do another one again for the fall. I don’t own the Eileen Fisher ones but I know many women swear by them. I don’t think you are too old for the leggings and tunic look at all!!

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