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Oct 25, 2015

Things I Don't Get, Vol. 17 - People Who Wear Black All the Time



I know them.  You know them.  You may even be one of them!

Readers, what is it with people who wear black, like, all the time?



Did you know that four out of five people look BAD in black clothes?  Don't take my word for it.  Read this!

And black can actually make you look years older than you are?  It's true!

I almost never wear black because I find it unflattering.  Black washes me out.  (My dark neutral is more of a charcoal gray or a navy blue.)  I also find it depressing.

When did black go from something worn primarily by mourners, witches, and beatniks, to being the epitome of chic?  I don't know but I suspect Coco Chanel and her LBD (little black dress) had something to do with it.  Does anybody know for sure?  If so, please share!



Don't get me wrong, black can be very striking -- it's unquestionably dramatic.







And arguably slimming.



But to wear every day?  I say NAY.

Naturally, I recognize your right to wear whatever you please and I won't think any less of you. But still, I do wonder why wearing black is such a "thing," especially in the art/music/fashion scene.

Readers, what do you think?

Do you believe black to be universally slimming, sophisticated, and soigné?

Do you wear it all the time or save black clothes for chic evenings out and funerals?

Does a black ensemble make you feel like a svelte fashionista or a Victorian widow?

Jump in!

73 comments:

  1. i wear black a lot. it goes with everything, after all.

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  2. and not to forget Michael Kors!

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  3. I was not allowed to wear black as a child so now i wear it daily lol. To me, it requires no thought process and anything goes with it.

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  4. It is an easy way of dressing. You don't have to think about what goes with it, an I think that appeals to people who really don't like fashion, color or pattern.

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  5. I agree with you. Navy is my go to neutral as black makes me look paler than I already am. Don't get the obsession. It pairs equally as well as black w/ many colors.

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  6. I love bright colors and pretty prints, in home décor and in fabrics, but when I make clothes in those colorways it makes me look as big as a couch! Black is my fall-back when I went to look relatively slim and put together. I agree that it can get very boring, when I last visited San Francisco, in the downtown area I was the only one wearing any color. But it is safe and universally accepted for "serious" clothing; i.e., professional attire and sophisticated looks. I love chocolate brown, it looks good on me (grays wash me out)and I've resolved to try to incorporate more brown into my wardrobe. I think a lot of people are afraid of prints so they rely on black to be safe, when there are many beautiful solids they could wear instead.

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  7. I often tell myself that I should wear more black to look like a grown-up...and then I realize that I own exactly one black sweater and one pair of black trousers (neither of which gets much rotation). It's okay for others but when I'm feeling serious, I opt for blues, grays, and browns.

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  8. Back in the days of separates all the time, people claimed that all blacks went together, and buying black separates gave them very large wardrobes. Lazy, I call it. My neutrals have been burgundy, dark teal, or purple. I avoid black except in tweeds because I live with cats.

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  9. I was at a wedding last weekend that was formal attire and I was astounded at the number of women dressed in black! I agree totally that all black should be reserved for the occasional night out in a great LBD and for funerals and for those that can really pull it off. Not at a wedding!

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    1. Stephanie, I attended a formal wedding a couple weeks ago and all the women guests except for TWO wore black! Maybe it's a Chicago-area thing but if the bride were missing and the music were different we might as well have been at a funeral.

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    2. This really bothers me when people wear black to weddings! It's a celebration, not a funeral!

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  10. Mother Muscato never approved of black clothes, and I never had many at all (except for lots of New Wave pink-and-black stripes, circa 1979) until I moved to Manhattan. Then within a year or two I found myself wondering, looking at the ebony sea that was my closet, why one couldn't find a really good black oxford-cloth shirt. I'm more balanced now, but I do still feel a tad more chic in black. I think it works for my coloring (especially now that I'm mostly gray haired) and it does make a nice base from which to work.

    The real question, at least based on your photographs, is how it is that despite so much money and effort, Madonna hasn't really been able to look good in anything since about 1996...

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  11. I agree, and I have sworn off black. I came of age in the eighties and I have seen, and worn, enough black to last me a lifetime. I wear it only for funerals now.

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  12. I was never a dedicated viewer of 'Project Runway' but I noticed over several seasons that the contestants increasingly sent black outfits down the runway. 1) safe; 2) slimming; 3) hides construction and physical flaws; 4) looks 'serious' and or bada$$; 5) is plentiful (fabric & RTW); 6) not as subject to trends as are seasonal colors or patterns that the fashion taste makers tout; 7) acceptable in a corporate/professional or casual setting; 8) stretches a wardrobe and is easier to accessorize; 9) perceived as a good color for all skin and hair types (there is some truth to this in theory, I guess -- in practice, no). I think part of it also is the desire to be taken seriously and a morose culture that equates sad with deep, as if happiness is shallow.

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    1. I had noticed the same thing about PR and I find it disappointing. One finalist a couple of years ago featured a collection of beautiful colors and prints and that was a knock against him in the judging! Too sad.

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  13. I'm so with you. I do have a fair few black band t-shirts, but even they have colour or prints on them, and I wouldn't pair them with black. Being pale enough that I once had a doctor briefly think I might be albino (being a very white toddler with fluorescently white-blonde hair will do that), solid black looks pretty horrendous on me. As does solid white, for the same reason. All that said, all black done well can look amazing, but I'd find it so uninteresting to wear all the time.

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  14. Hear, hear! And if black is an easy choice and goes with everything, then why does it seem to be so popular with people in design-based professions who, one might think, would be best equipped to come up with far more interesting choices? Or is it like a chef who only cooks toast and boiled eggs at home... too much like work invading personal life? In any case, it has just never appealed to me. I have two black dresses, both belonged to my granny so I love them for their history and vintage appeal but I would not have chosen the colour. I guess I wear dark denim as that kind of dependable neutral base instead. I don't know that I'd even wear black to a funeral because it feels like a cliche!

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  15. But you all must admit, Morticia pulled it off with aplomb. I can't imagine her in anything else.

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  16. I once had a black t-shirt someone gave me. And, of course, lots of black dress socks. Black wingtip shoes. A black watch band. Some black leather gloves. And when I was younger and more trim, I had a black Speedo swimsuit. I think that's about it. I always associated black clothing with the bad guys in the cowboy movies of my childhood.

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  17. Wow! I was thinking of wearing all black as a signature style, just the other day. The only reason I reconsidered was because I don't have allot of black clothing. But I think it's something I will strongly consider. I think it will make me look so much more sophisticated and stylish without trying to hard.

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  18. How much of a standout, exactly, is ANOTHER all black ensemble??

    Now, think about all the colorful prints, textured wovens, and delicious knits that lady friend of yours from the San Francisco area (the one who recently revisited you and yours), has worn?

    The essence of chic contains elements of being both memorable and stylish. Don't quote me on this, but someday the world will catch up to Laura Mae 's ways.

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  19. I'm trying to wear less black and more navy which looks good on me but is less harsh. I like to wear a lot of red too but it looks better with black than navy. I wore black and white as a bridesmaid once, bride's choice, looked quite elegant actually, much better than some icky pastel.

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    1. I think that red and navy look great together!

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  20. It's simple and in that sprit, it is an unpretentious choice.

    Done well, it doesn't outshine the wearer. (I do not like to look like the clothes are wearing me!)

    It doesn't show dirt from the subway.

    It is economical - don't need to worry about matching or the seasonal Pantone picks.

    Either lipstick or a scarf will do for color, if needed.

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  21. Even with black, one should consider the base. Brown, blue, or green. Each will look a bit different in the sun and may not go with a black of a different base. I have a pair of black pants. Right now that is it. For me it is color, prints, fun, and at age 71 with now grey red hair (I did have red streaks added for fun), black is out of question. However, I never did find the all black, all the time, wardrobe very appealing.

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  22. My opinion is that only those with a good attitude can pull off wearing black most of the time. As long as you're happy, you reflect happiness, and you will look good no matter what you're wearing.

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  23. I love bright vibrant colors, but wear mostly black because it's easy to wear.

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  24. I love black. I used to wear all black. Happens way less now. But then in my teens I wore all the colors of the rainbow! Guess I needed a change.

    Everything is visible on black actually. All the dust and dirt and animal hair. Not cool.

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  25. Everything comes in black. If your 'neutral' turns out to be teal, then good luck to you. The stores will only ever have that if the Pantone people say it's popular. Otherwise, black. Lately we've been lucky to get brown too.

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  26. I worked in a designer retail store, and the dress code was black, and since then, its a colour I have little of in my wardrobe - its a draining colour - I am still amazed so much of it is in stores all the time - but as I now pretty much sew my own stuff, its not an issue! Chanel LBD was brought in post war, and at a time where the LBD got you from a funeral to a cocktail party.

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  27. I think there's a big difference between 'wearing black all the time' and 'wearing all black, all the time'. I love black pieces because, as others have mentioned, they are classic, easy, and economical. But head-to-toe black is for funerals and costumes.

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  28. I had a phase wearing all black all time.
    Nowadays I have a shirt and one pair of trousers I rarely reach out for.

    But I just wanted to comment, yes, it was Coco Chanel who proposed black as a color for every occasion, before her It was normally reserved for funerals. With the exception of England, where women were always wearing black(at least around 1900, it was basically all they wore).

    nice post ;)

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  29. I love bright, neon colors (in fact, I just re-dyed my hair to be traffic-cone orange). I have taken to having some black pieces in my wardrobe, though as a teen and young adult I had a problem of nothing to wear when I had a funeral to attend. I have a few friends who wear almost exclusively black, and I respect that as their style. I feel that black looks alright, but often fades into a weird shade if it's not taken care of properly. I would prefer to see people brighten up their wardrobe with colors, but I know that some people want the relative ease of a monochromatic life.

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  30. I think people choose it because it's easy. It's a kind of uniform and they don't have to think that much about what to wear. Also, it has a reputation for being chic or edgy. I used to wear a lot more black than I do now, because I did think it was slimming. Then one day in my late forties, I realized black near my face made me look exhausted. (I do think fair skinned blondes, of which I am not one, can kinda rock it, though.) I don't look good in gray, so I'm trying to change my neutral to navy. I also like chocolate brown. Though as someone mentioned above, I live with a cat. I should probably wear all cream, all the time, so we'd match. ; )

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  31. I suppose I started wearing a lot of black in my angst-y teen years. I still do love black and particularly black fabrics that have texture, but I almost always pair black with something colorful near my face (eg: jewelry, scarf, jacket, etc) and good makeup. Black can definitely wash you out if you aren't careful. White too.

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  32. It's because all the fashion magazines told us that black was a universal neutral, goes with everything, and is chic.

    As a theatrical costumer, I've come to think of black as just another color, and in fact it does *not* "go with everything" any more than orange or blue goes with everything. But, it is everywhere and unless you are committed to a hand-sewn wardrobe, it can be really difficult to banish black from your wardrobe when the retailers simply don't provide any other options.

    Luckily, I know how to sew. :-)

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  33. I have to admit I wear a lot of black, but as a native New Yorker, it has always been very popular for us (as you know). My theory is that it hides DIRT really well! In a smoggy, polluted (yet wonderful) place like New York City, it is a no brainer

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  34. I've never enjoyed wearing black voluntarily, especially after a hitch in the food service industry. However, there is a lot of black / black and white and black and grey in the clothing market now, so I am wearing it, grudgingly. I have never understood what makes the LBD so much better than a little green dress, or a little chocolate brown dress, or a little charcoal grey dress, etc. Isn't a simple, stylish, dark dress of one color or another just as good? But, that's just me.

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  35. Your argument is much better than the one you linked to, from 2010. Peaches Geldof? How last decade!
    I used to wear a lot of navy, but discovered that faded black goes with gray goes with black and that other black...suddenly mismatched goes together because BLACK.
    Essentially: Garanimals for adults.

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    Replies
    1. I rather think Peaches looked much nicer than the other woman in black...
      I am sewing my wardrobe around all shades of blue.

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  36. I used to wear a lot black. Now not so much anymore.
    In the fashion industry, and among people who work for fashion magazines, the argument is often that they are constantly surrounded by a wild array of clothes in all kinds of colours and prints and they are under pressure to look fashionable. Opting for an all-black signature look is thought to achieve that without a lot of effort.

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  37. I get a lot of nonsense because I don't tend to wear black. I have olive skin and prominent dark circles under my eyes. When I wear black, I feel like I look sick. Most of the time I wear gray, navy, chocolate brown, or burgundy as my neutral. The thing is that wearing all navy or gray looks kind of weird in a way that all black doesn't. I also feel that black doesn't always look good with color in the way that other neutrals do.

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  38. Like you, my dark neutrals should be navy or charcoal. My husband loves to see me in black and tells me how good I look eleven I wear it -even when it's near my face. When I was in the business world, I had a lot of black pants, but rotated colorful or non-black tops with a black jacket. I agree with your readers, it is difficult to find non-black clothes at retail. I had one suit in charcoal and I was thrilled to find that.

    I am sure you are aware that all black is a requirement for many working in the performing arts (symphonies, backstage workers in ballets or theatre) in order to blend into the background, or at least not stand out. But I agree that outside those settings it does look a bit "beatnik" even if it is slimming.

    I have tortured myself over fabric for a formal gown I am making myself for months. I have settled on black, because it's too difficult for me to find a nice lace that looks good with a nice crepe in coordinating colors.

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  39. My closet has mostly black; if not black, dark gray or blue-black. I have two tops in dark olive green, a color I like a lot. I used to wear a lot of color to work but when my hair turned completely white the only pieces that I feel comfortable in are black. I think I'm a "Fall" and it's difficult to find colors to go with my skin type.

    Therefore, I sew....mostly black or dark grey. 💋

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  40. Lillie Langtry was the originator of the Little Black Dress, decades before Coco Chanel.

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  41. I don't care but I DO care when performers, especially singers, wear black on stage. What is the colour of 99% of the backdrops of stages? Black. Who disappears when on stage? the person you just paid $100 to see. Grrr.

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  42. I've always blamed Comme des Garcons 1980s runway shows which featured all black, a lot of it distressed, and cut in the unique Japanese style for the demise of modern clothing's range of colour/prints and fit.
    And, yes, for years, I wore black, black and more black for work with the usual cream/camel/red/navy as that was the uniform.
    Now, I wear navy and not much black at all.

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  43. I wear a lot of black because it looks good on me. I'm a "winter" and look best in black and deep jewel tones; brown usually makes me look sick. Navy is okay but it doesn't go with black so I don't have much of it. White looks okay on me but it's too hard to keep clean, and it shows every wrinkle (both in the fabric and on me!!). I do avoid all-black outfits unless I'm performing in an orchestra or other gig with an all-black dress code. So if I wear a black top, I'll wear pants or skirt in another color or a print, and vice versa.

    My other neutral is denim (various shades) -- goes with everything.

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    1. Oh yes, I forgot about denim -- love it!

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  44. I wear a lot of black because I have a lot of bright colored accessories (think neon yellow clogs and folkloric embroidered boots) and feel that without all the black leggings etc I would resemble something in the circus clown act.

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  45. I am pale. Pale pale. And I have black hair so I do like to wear black clothing, a black cat eye eyeliner, and red lipstick. I guess I will always be a little goth and metal at heart so most everything in my closet matches the "dark as my soul" theme. On the upside I had a ton of options for an outfit when we went to see Marilyn Manson and the smashing pumpkins a few months ago.

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    1. Your high contrast features probably allow you to wear black and look totally stunning! Not all of us are so lucky! :D

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  46. There are folks that look great in black. I am not one of them. Regardless, I do have a few black pieces because black does go with everything. Most of my black garments are pants. I try to wear bright colors on top so I don't look washed out.

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  47. I'm Asian. Asians look good in black.

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  48. I love head to toe black once in a while, I feel it makes me look as sleek and racy as a thoroughbred! LOL! People use to wonder why Halston wore it as a uniform.......one of the reasons he and his assistants wore it was because when he was fitting a garment and looking in the many mirrors around him, anyone wearing a brightly colored tie would distract his eye and he would ask them to remove it. Needless to say he was 6'2" and
    had perfect posture so he cut a very imposing figure in black. He also once said that he felt his neck was too thin which is why he always wore a turtleneck. If I owned some of Elsa Peretti's belts and pendants I would wear it a lot more often!

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  49. I wear a lot of black. Not head to toe everyday, but most days. It's easy. It all matches. I have a pale completion, so I think I look okay in black. I do like color, but I gravitate to loud, outlandish colors and prints. I tend to keep a lot of my wardrobe black, I think, to keep me from wearing the plaid pants with the paisley shirt, so to speak. I never ever wear brown, in any shade, and would only wear navy under duress. I hate those colors and find them too conservative and dowdy on most people. My favorite fall outfit is a black turtleneck and dark jeans.

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  50. I recently got rid of all of my black clothing. It washes me out and I believe life is for celebrating, so no black for me! I don't understand those who wear all black every day either--it's like every day is a funeral. :( And for looking serious and professional, there is always dark navy which seems to look good on most people, unlike black!

    There are those people though who one would describe as striking and stunning in their features who really do black justice, like Audrey Hepburn. My husband has the very striking combination of dark hair and light skin and eyes and he wears black very well.

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  51. When I lived in Sweden, everyone wore black all winter. I found it so depressing, and I used to get very strange looks in my fuschia down coat. When I asked a Swede about this, they said that it's generally accepted that wearing black in winter is a way to respect the season. It was only light for about an hour every day in winter so I was happy to be visible in traffic crossing the street when I wasn't blending into the darkness. Everyone else had to wear reflective keychains on their coats (like this http://www.clasohlson.com/fi/Reflex-Asaklitt/34-9144).

    Now I live in France and there is a ton of black in stores. It drives me mad when I just want to keep wearing happy summer colors and can't even find good navy or brown neutral pieces. Someone end the black obsession! I blame Chanel for this.

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    1. I would wind up in a booby hatch if I lived somewhere with so little daylight! LOL!

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  52. Black is one of "my" neutrals (along with gray and tan) so I have several black items. But I love color and prints --and I have a warm toasty-brown complexion that can pull off a vast variety of colors-- and rarely wear all black.

    I do however, love black skirt+black tights+black shoes or boots in winter. And then go crazy with top/sweater/jacket.

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    Replies
    1. For people with brown skin it seems like a cream or white dress would provide the dramatic contrast that the lbd gives for pale skin...does a lwd have any practitioners or is it verboten to wear light cocktail dresses?

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  53. Vampires, beatniks, punk rockers, old school widows, priests, nuns, Muslim women in burkas, roadies-- there's a lot of folks out there who do black as a uniform. I'm not one of them, though it was rather nice on Joey Ramone.

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  54. Black socks, they never get dirty the longer you wear them the blacker they get... ;-)

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  55. Okay, I admit: I'm one of them. Only because I like sculptural stuff and it's usually in black, and it was easier to dress that way when I was teaching -- because I look young and it was easier to get stuff done when I wasn't dressed like the students.

    But also, I've found over the years that I really like black with brights. Lucky Magazine ran a feature years ago on "punky florals," and it really resonated.

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  56. I think wear whatever you feel comfortable in. I prefer jewelry and accessories so I usually wear solid colors and I love black. I often wear the same black dress and dress it up differently, sometimes people think it is a new dress. I think black is just like a blank canvas you can add so much color to it, or none at all, all jewelry goes with it and you can be really creative. My sister loves color and pattern, but it looks good on her.

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  57. Black is one of the colours I rarely wear if ever. I once had a job where we were supposed to wear it for our work clothes so I had to go out and buy it and my closet started getting more and more black - I hated it - i quit the job and donated all the black to the thrift store. Usually if I wear black its in accessories like shoes, belts etc. Several friends/boss of mine look stunning in black but I just don't like it especially in an all over outfit. Usually in the first black garments I owned they would often fade and that was the end of the line for me and I noticed synthetics didn't fade like cottons dyed with black. To me faded black clothing doesn't have the same vintage appeal as faded denim. When it comes to colours I say wear what ya like : )

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  58. I am at work hanging out before heading to an evening at the symphony and just snorted out loud at your "slimming" reference - thanks for the laugh, I needed that!

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  59. 1. Unless it's a wedding or a baby-related event, black is acceptable 2) it goes with everything else in my closet (which is why don't have anything brown) 3) I spill things and black tends not to show stains 4) I was a theatre tech once and it just feels natural at this point 5) I LIKE black. I also like a true cobalt blue and forest green, but those are hard colors to find, so black it is, mostly.

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  60. A) It's easy, as many have said.
    B) Many in the industry do because having to work with all of the bright colors and fabrics and contrast, they want something restful for their own wardrobe.
    C) Many uniforms require black clothing, and thus your wardrobe fills up with all black.

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  61. I cleaned out my closet a couple of years ago when I hit age 50 and I decided for the time being it would be Basics, Basics, Basics. I'm retired so I don't need or want an extensive wardrobe. The only simple suit I could find was in black so I purchased all three pieces of one, plus a matching sheath dress and evening palazzo pants and black capris. With these pieces I can mix in colored and print tops, sweaters and scarves. I also chose brown, camel and charcoal pants and a navy skirt. During the summer, brown is my neutral.

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  62. Witches and mourners, yes, but also cops, priests, nuns, and Rick Owens - and who doesn't like Rick Owens?

    All your pictures are deepest midnight black black black. There are many blacks, faded blacks, blacks with warm and cool undertones. You can also vary your blacks through different fabric textures, subtle separations. There is a lot you can do to create a rich tapestry of black. Black to me is sober and mature, but striking. If most people do not look good in black, it is because they approach it with a very juvenile state-of-mind, maybe with too much to prove.

    You may not be implicating a problem with the first picture, but if someone were to take issue, I think it is less about the black and more about being molested by zippers.

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