by Phillip Johnson
Photoshoot Images: Faya Neto
Styling: Felipe Dornelles
Make-Up: Rafael Senna
Model: Paula Zago (Way Modeling Agency)
2012 Spring/Summer New York Fashion Week Runway Images: Cheryl Gorski
Do you think opposites attract? Or do your eyes glaze over and think ‘boring’ when you see monochromatic black and white? If so, think again. Monochromatic Black and White, especially in these two past fashion weeks (Spring/summer 2012 and Fall/Winter 2012) is more than just an enduring, season-in, season-out trend, it’s also a palate cleanser of the highest order. There is no better example of how enduring it is than Coco Chanel herself (always chic in her black Boucle Chanel suit and a while blouse) and the always gracious Carolina Herrera, whose “uniform” of a while top and black trousers and/or black skirt is the absolute height of elegance and sophistication. The Black and White Monochrome look is also one of the few real trends in women’s fashion. Monochrome is one of the simplest, most chic of looks to work whatever the year and never fails to gain attention when done well. Bright whites tempered with inky blacks can be used to create a truly bold statement. The fact that you probably already have a few black and white items hanging in your wardrobe makes a monochromatic look possibly one of the easiest summer trends to execute. The black and white trend is also the perfect opposite to the many feminine and colorful trends featured this season. Using black and white will help create an almost sculptured look, and definitely draw attention to you!
Black and White Monochrome is likewise easy—and ideal–for creating a fairly effortless travel wardrobe. This dark against light, black with white monochrome fashion look is classic, and the perfect choice right now for anyone with a financially critical wardrobe budget. Monochrome is capsule dressing and will stretch that tight budget. Long after all the colored garments from the past two seasons have faded into fashion’s oblivion, you will still be able to wear monochrome classics that stand the test of time.
In the spring/summer collections, the black and white trend manifests itself as a variation on a theme in almost every collection. For Carolina Herrera, it was her pairing of a white, slightly harem-esque pant with a dark gray shell and a black boxy jacket. It was youthful and classic, all at the same time. For Cynthia Rowley, it was a shrunken tuxedo white jacket with thin black piping on the lapel. For Zang Toi, one of the more outstanding example of the trend was his black-and-white houndstooth doublebreasted short jacket. Opened or buttoned up, that piece is a season-less piece you will have in your wardrobe for years to come. You also saw how wonderfully chic black and white monochrome could be in Mr. Toi’s 2012 fall/winter collection where he kept his color palette to a strict black and white one with a burst of ruby shades at the end. A fine example in the fall/winter collection was his black doublefaced wool crepe cocktail dress overlayed with black + ivory re embroidered French lace. Ralph Rucci, a master of sophisticated dressing, showed how fabulous the trend could be with his white fitted blouse paired with a knee-sweeping black leather skirt in his 2012 Fall/Winter Collection. It was timeless and youthful, simple yet elegant.
Other designers showed inventive take-offs on all-white and/or all black outfits that were equally as season
-less. At the Fall/Winter 2012 collection at Bottega Veneta, Tomas Maier presented a collection of dark elegance, with a sea of sophisticated black pieces and a series of seriously beautiful black coats and dresses at the top of the show and killer evening pieces (such as his black sleeveless column gown with a ruffled peplum skirt) to finish out what was one of the best collections shown in Europe for the fall/winter shows. The Bottega Venata woman for fall will find much to love with the minimal yet form-fitting silhouettes in the collection. Dolce & Gabanna celebrated the Italian woman with black and white pieces heavily embroidered with gold accents. Standout example of this was their white lace dress paired with a coat with a wide lapel and heavy gold lace embroidery around the lean lines of the coat. Stupendously gorgeous. Another instant D&G classic was the black “Little Red Riding Hood” Cape Coat over a white lace dress. For fall/winter, Emilio Pucci took a turn for glamorous minimalism when Creative Director Peter Dundas opened with a strong showing of black dresses in slinky silhouettes. Luxe crocodile, crystal detailing and sheer cutouts brought some sex appeal to the minimal designs, while menswear-inspired looks such as modified tuxedo jackets and tailored pants also made an appearance.
So, how does one wear the monochromatic black and white look? First, you must decide how much of each
color you want to incorporate into your outfits. Are you going 50/50? Or are you leaning more towards the dark side? Or maybe mainly white is the right look for you? As with every trend in fashion, it’s really up to you on how you interpret and translate it into your personal style.
For one, you could go the Carolina Herrera route and leave it completely unembellished, making the clothes and your inherent gracefulness do the talking. That’s the number one way to go; and that’s a route many women do take.
With the black & white trend, you can work the look with blocks of monochromatic color, say a white skirt with a column of tiny black boxes along the hemline. Or maybe a black top with a trio of thin white lines down the shoulders of the sleeves and/or going down the back of the spine. Or you can try black and white patterned items. This is where a black and white Chevron print skirt paired with a white top would work. It does brings to mind a Catholic School girl uniform but then again, the classics will never go out of style, no matter the origin.
For a second look, play with volume and proportions. If you have a
fitted white shirt, you can pair it with black skinny jeans and/or leggings. You can turn the look around by swapping out the skinny pant with a wide leg trousers. Taking it a bit further, swap out your form-fitting top for a looser style but keep the skinny legging. Or, turn the entire outfit into an evening attire by pairing the wide leg trousers with a top that is a hybrid of the fitted top and its looser cousin, thus creating an outfit that is charity ball-ready. For an even more edgier look, keep the fitted top, keep the skinny leggings or jeans and throw on a biker jacket and swap out your shoes for Dr. Martins heavy sole boots.
How does one accessorize a monochromatic black and white outfit? Well, it all depends on what the occasion is, the combination of black and white you are wearing and how bold you want to be. If it’s a white shirt paired with a black ballgown, then it’s easy: I would recommend a pair of gold earrings (nothing too flashy or oversized, smaller is better here), a gold evening watch and/or bracelet (again, keep it clean and classy, small is always better). Add a discreet gold necklace and you are good to go. If you do not like gold jewelry, then pair your outfit with silver, platinum or dark bronze. The point here is to always look classy in an understatedly sophisticated manner.
If you are wearing a black and white gown, then think about experimenting with some colors like yellow,
shades of green, pink or any color you like. Just remember: A little dab will do you. Your accent color should be represented in your choice of shoes, evening bag or jewelry. For example, you can wear a ruby red broach with small ruby red drop earrings, a red belt (the first to go if you believe you are over-accessorized), red satin shoes (that no one will really see) and a red Judith Lieber Miniadure evening bag. At once, you have injected color without taking it too far over the gaudy demarcation line. You should be careful to not be “Matchy-Matchy”. All your accent pieces should represent the spectrum of the color and not be the exact same shade. Also, they do not have to be solid colors; you could choose a black handbag with hot pink trim, or a silver necklace with a turquoise pendant. The makeup should be toned-down for the subtle look, if you want to go sassy, then red is the only good choice here.
Unbreakable Rule: Please don’t match the color of your accessories with your make up. You are going to a charity ball/dinner, not to the circus. For example, bright yellow accessories can be—and is– fashionable, but bright yellow accessories with matching eye shadow cross the line. Don’t go there.
Stay in the monochromatic zone. Here you play neutral throughout.
You can accessories are in black, white or grey to strike the monochromatic look. If your dress has black and white stripes, you should consider carrying a black purse with white polka dots or vice versa. If your dress is a black and white print (flower print or optical print), consider black shoes with white stripes or white shoes with a black silk flower. For color, apply slightly more colorful and dramatic makeup.
As mentioned above, accessorizing with Gold, Silver, Platinum, Bronze or Copper is very acceptable. They
are all metal tones and accessories either made of either metal, or in a matching color is applicable and can be used. Adding a belt in the color of the metal you chose to pull the whole look together can be considered but not absolutely necessary.
For makeup; you can wear eye shadow in the metallic color you chose.
The rules of wearing stripes– the nautical look–are often overlooked
and people can go overboard. Really. People simply fall too hard for the beauty and elegance of wearing stripes. Stripe patterned clothes can go well with any statement, no matter how big or small the layers and lines are. However, wearing stripes can be very limiting because there are definite rules in wearing such patterns in that they greatly depend on a person’s built. Express your style in solid patterns and colors while layering in stripes to set off a cool, versatile and comfortable look.
Consider the below guidelines and learn to strut your black and white striped clothes beautifully.
Unbreakable Rule: Keep the stripes THIN. Wide and loud stripes that works so well for polo shirts doesn’t look so great in an evening gown.
Some striped clothes are designed and created in a monochrome, while others are layered with combined hues. If you prefer the latter, make sure that the colors complement each other. For example, you can play around with colors by choosing a top with monochrome stripes and a bottom with a different color but complements with your top. This way you can both flaunt the beauty of colors and stripes and create a magical illusion and shape to balance off your fashion. Just remember to pick colors that go well with the base color of your attire.
Horizontal stripes aren’t necessarily your friend. Many women have learned the hard way that horizontal lines can make you look bigger if you have a wide body frame, so you can opt for vertical stripes to elevate and elongate your body and make you look taller and thinner. But the number one rule still applies: Thin stripes are always best.