Winter wardrobe: Into the dark

Yes. This is the skirt/pant section of my closet. Oh, and those are those multiple hangers; you are looking at at least sixteen black skirts or pants.

When dark falls a short time after the school day and the north wind serves an Arctic Cocktail shaken over ice, I'm living in black, with occasional departures to charcoal or indigo.

Those black pieces are not identical, Duchesse says defensively: leather, jersey, silk, denim in different lengths, cuts, attitudes. 

On top, a sweater like one I'm wearing today, a pink Bompard button-turtle, but below? Dark as the bus stop at 5 p.m.

I've tried to break the habit; exceptions end up under-worn. Forget pale pants unless you have a dry-cleaner in the family. (Probably the most obvious money-is-no-object look I've seen here was a woman negotiating February's slush in oyster grey pants and coat with pale pink suede boots.)

In April, brights burst out of their garment bags, welcome as forsythia and tulips.

In my neighbourhood, two groups of women favour black. One are Hasidic Jews in modest skirts or dresses. They neither change their palette in spring nor punctuate it with a colourful  top.

The other are locals in black jeans, dark dresses worn with long scarves, perhaps leavened by a  dash of patterned tights or flying citron scarf. (This photo is from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but could easily be Montreal's Mile End.)
The convergence of the groups puts more black on display than a Goth festival.

Boden velvet skirt
If tempted to do something wild, say, buy a yellow skirt, I have a nice restorative Manhattan and rethink. Plenty of admiration for this luscious colour— on someone else. Boden call this shade Antique Brass, but on me, more like Antique Ass.

I wore a black skirt, ink sweater and chartreuse jacket to meet a friend for lunch. Waiting for her, I watched women bustle by in blacks and browns, punctuated by the flash of rebel red pants. Oh wait, that's a man in ruby cords!

Lynn arrived in head-to-toe black, leavened by her swath of platinum hair and rose lipstick.

So where are you with black? Embracing, resisting or hopping about on the colour wheel?


rb said…
Thank you for this, Duchesse! The 'bottoms' part of my closet looks a lot like yours. It's so popular to bag on black in fashion blogs, it's nice to see someone defending it.

And I'm still laughing about Antique Ass. :)
Anonymous said…
I have been trying to weed out all of the black from my wardrobe but today I am in black from head to toe and oh, it is just so easy, none of that colour matching nonsense which takes up too much time in the morning. I may return to black, I want to think less about clothes.
Genuine Lustre said…
I have edited out all the black in favor of navy and gray. Much better for my "summer" coloring, and I just find black so heavy and dull.
I love black and always have, since my cousins got a black kitten when I was two or so. (He lived to about 20, as a large black tomcat). Black is "graphic" in a way other dark tones aren't.

I doubt the push to get women into pastels will seriously impact our wardrobes, at least not here - and most certainly not in Paris. But I'd love that skirt in a forest green, and find it hard to find such hues any more. It would then be worn with a black top, of course.

Sometimes there is little choice - I love all the deep "non-colours" - for me a certain deep, dusty violet, and a similar green - but they are extremely hard to find in the shops.
Marguerite said…
I, too, have a fair summer coloring. Black is not recommended, but I still wear it at night. It just feels right. Daytime is charcoal, navy and taupe neutrals. Oh, and dark jeans! IMO, probably 99 percent of women look best with dark clothing on the bottom half.
déjà pseu said…
Ah, this has been such a struggle for me. My closet a year ago was a swath of black and denim, and I've been trying to add some greys to the neutral foundation. But there's just something about black, aside from the ease. It makes me feel confident, strong. (During my PCA, the color analyst thought even though I typed out as Light Summer, that black "isn't terrible" on me, which she said was unusual.) Still, I try to put something lighter between a black top and my face, even if just a multiple strand of pearls.
sanda said…
And black makes us look thinner! I lighten things up with pearls, a colorful scarf or occasional white blouses, but it's always black skirts, trousers and coats for me!
Duchesse said…
rb: It's an easy target but good luck to them.

tabitha: I want the same, think less, enjoy more. So black stays.

Genuine Lustre: I think of true navy as nearly black and love it too. gray, of course, is pastel black.

Marguerite: I love charcoal but find many greys look more lifeless than black.

pseu: Dark on the bottom, whether black, bitter chocolate or navy can work with various colouring. Glad you can keep your favourite black pieces.

snada: It certainly makes me look thinner than my white jeans, for example, or a print!
Susan said…
Personally, I really like black. I wear it a lot, especially when I travel. I do wear it with charcoal and a lighter gray as well. It's easy, its economical (I rarely divest myself of anything that I own that is black--that should tell you something).

I DO have other colors in my winter wardrobe--brown, the charcoal I've mentioned, dark purple, dark greeny brown, but black stands the test of time. I'm just not going to worry about it!

I don't know what my coloring would suggest, but probably something other than black.
Anonymous said…
Duchesse - like you I am all about black. I add colour with a top or two and accessories. Having said that, I would love a red winter coat! Red always calls to me in a shop, but then I have white hair and it seems to go well with red and/or black! Peg on Vancouver Island
Susan G said…
My wardrobe is black based, has been for years. Tops are in greys, the occasional white, red or royal blue. I am planning to incorporate some taupe into the mix this year. Wild, I know!
Black is the basis of my wardrobe and I find it works for me.
I love how easy it is to wear.

I have embraced greys too and with all my colorful scarves I can get dressed in a flash.

White shirts and cashmere sweaters are important pieces in my wardrobe too.
Chicatanyage said…
I, like you, have a wardrobe full of black and more black trousers, with a few navy and grey. I do try and choose charcoal or navy near my face however don't always succeed. I do hanker after a black polo neck after my adored old cashmere one shrank in the was but am so far resisting.
materfamilias said…
Black does nothing at all for my face, but it's too simply classic to get rid of. I'll still wear my black tops, turtlenecks included, despite that harshness, although I do soften with a scarf, jewelry, a cardigan or blazer.
I've been surprised that I've got through this winter without replacing my black jeans which had been a staple. But I've still got charcoal and then numerous dark denim, good enough to hide the inevitable biking-on-a-muddy-wet-road stains.
Your writing has even more sparkle than usual in today's post -- thanks for a good few chuckles to start my Tuesday!
LPC said…
Hahahahahahahahaha. Wait, did you ask a question? How can I answer if I'm laughing too hard? But I'm laughing wearing, wait for it, black pants!
frugalscholar said…
I've been fighting the black too--egged on by colleagues in the pastel-loving south. I even bought a few tanks in "colors." But, like you, I remain most comfortable in black and so I am trying to wear more scarves.
Duchesse said…
Susan: Oh yes, absolutely for travel. And like you I keep the black pieces much longer.

Peg: One of my friends buys only red coats; she says they not only cheer her up, they cheer others as well.

Susan G: I adore taupe, which is elegant with black but also many other colours. Much harder to find than black, though.

hostess: Only one white shirt made it on this move to a small apt., but I love them on others. Thought I'd keep one for spring/summer.

chicatanyage: Bompard sale on now if you want to replace it, they have several styles (ribbed, button neck, classic polo) Black polo is a steadfast friend to me.

materfamilias: Just love you in that black velvet dress; I've found I can wear soft fabrics (knits, velvet, lace) more easily than hard-finishes near face. And on a bike, black is much hardier than khaki.

LPC: A client told me she waited to see if I ever wore anything on the bottom other than black- and I did not, for months. She was faintly critical but I was amused and unabashed. If Diana Vreeland went through a decade in black cashmere why shouldn't I?
SewingLibrarian said…
I wear darker colors in "winter," such as it is in San Diego. I'm trying to wear more navy and grey, however. Would have loved to have seen the dove grey and pink ensemble.
SewingLibrarian said…
Just finished reading comments and want to add that my red raincoat always draws compliments! I guess people do react to its cheerfulness on a dull day.
Also, I believe if one looks at the same garment in black and in a color, the black one almost always looks more expensive/higher quality. Another reason to wear black.
Mardel said…
I would have worn the gold skirt when I was younger. Now I can't stop laughing about "Antique Ass". I stopped buying black over the summer, except that I just bought a pair of really fabulous very slim black pants by Eileen Fisher which are -- shocking to me -- slightly too long. I avoided EF for years because the pants were always short.

Black is too harsh for me but I will not stop wearing it. My bottoms at the moment are black and dark denim. I love deep taupes and medium to deep grays that are neither too warm or too cool, but finding really good rich taupes and grays is quite difficult. So many seem flat and lifeless. The good ones are often expensive. A transition to mostly grays could take me years.

I think the light also affects what we wear. Further north black was the norm. Here, I see more color, mixed with the black. The light is different and black stands out more. At the moment, dark denim seems like a good starting baseline and I will work from there.
barbara said…
For a long period I lived in only black, maybe for ten years or so.
Now, with my silver/grey hair, some of the blacks are to harsh, so I like to wear charcoal bottoms.
Black also has it's different shades, so I try to find softer ones.
Speaking of cashmere, black is never a problem color for me...
Northmoon said…
I think of black as a more urban, sophisticated colour. I'll never forget leaving a meeting at an architects office. "what colour is your coat?" I reply "black". She opened the closet doors and there were 30 black coats! Not a single colour in sight.
Jill Ann said…
I like black clothes, I wear them often, but honestly some of the all-black/ grey/taupe wardrobes you all describe sound awfully drab & depressing to me! ( no offense intended!). Maybe it's because I've lived in the South for many years, but even growing up "Up North", we always liked to wear colors. So much happier and more fun! I understand the issue with quality....colors can look cheap if not of a high quality....but it's worth the trouble, IMO.

I'm sitting here remembering winter in central Michigan, how bleak , cold, and grey everything was; grey sky, grey trees, grey snow. I also remember my Kelly green down jacket which cheered me up as I trudged to class across the frozen tundra of the campus!
Rubiatonta said…
From the waist down this time of year, it's black, charcoal or denim. I just got a pair of tobacco colored cords, but am trying to figure out what shoes to wear with them.

Tops are all sorts -- my favorites being charcoal and muddy purple. No black next to the face without a scarf or other mitigation, though I'm so rosy-cheeked I actually welcome the black-induced pallor at times.
Anonymous said…
"Antique Ass"--so funny.

I feel lucky to have spent most of my working life outside of offices. Often I was working with children, who seem instinctively to dislike black. My work wardrobe was therefore full of pink and turquoise and lilac; black was reserved for evening. Like the other Summers who have commented, I look best in grayed blues and other soft cool colors, and pretty much live in those now. But black still feels more sophisticated to me than other colors; trousers and a sweater in black cashmere just seem dressier than the same outfit in gray. I could never give up black entirely.

Duchesse said…
SewingLibrarian: It was delicately pretty, and very luxurious given the salt, sand and snow on our streets.

Mardel: I've commented on several other blogs lately about the difficulty of finding vibrant, rich greys. The ones I've found are usually verrry expensive.

Absolutely light affects what we wear, it is not just temperature that puts white and bright in the spotlight in warmer climes.

barbara: Calling a move from black to charcoal "a switch" is a move only a confirmed fan of black understands- and I do!

Northmoon: My architect friends wear so little colour that it is a shock when they do, and it is never bright, or predominant. Maybe an occasional rust or mulberry.

Jill Ann: I don't know about he others but I usually wear a colour (like one shown) on top- but there are days when I am in all black- but then with a scarf. As a fellow Michigander (Petoskey) I remember that effect, too. (My down was red.)

Rubi: For awhile I was running about even with black, navy, brown which took too much space. Orange shoes look fab with tobacco!

C.: Your palettte is so beautiful, colours that breathe. Wish I could see your choices.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for all the affirmation ladies!! Dark bottoms, mainly black, charcoal, and dark denim rule. Every time I veer away from the darks, I feel like I have headlights pointed at my bottom half, not a happy situation. Even neutrals like khaki, British tan, dove grey have that effect, at least for me. Espresso brown can be nice, but so much trouble to figure out the rest of the outfit. However, along with others from warm weather locales (I'm in southern California), I have to be careful not to let the black get too heavy, so I lighten up on top. My fave neutral right are blue shades from indigo to greyed steel blues, dove grey, lots of greens.
Duchesse said…
Kathleen: Though I would not recommend the book (ageist, sexist and dated) I recently read a reissue of Edith Head's "How to Dress for Success". She costumed any actress who needed to look trimmer in darks below the waist.
I laughed out loud at "Antique Ass"! Over the past few years, I have been adding a lot of bright colours into my wardrobe (before, it was mostly navy, black and white). I have a yellow skirt from J. Crew - the colour description is "spicy gold". I like black but it has to be really rich, saturated black, the kind of black you see in better quality fabrics. My work wardrobe contains a lot of black, so I don't like to wear much black during my downtime.
Susan Tiner said…
I love black. I wear black from the waist down, and have a preference for black cardigans. I like to add color with tops and scarves and shoes and jewelry.

My black dream bag arrived today! It's so exciting. I have to figure out how to use the tripod and remote to get a photo and a post up, maybe this weekend. Mater and LPC helped me select it and it is PERFECT.
Karen said…
Ah, black . . . I live and work in Manhattan and am in a conservative profession, so both fashion and propriety dictate a LOT of black. I love it. As a friend of mine says, "New Yorkers will stop wearing black when something darker is invented."
Anonymous said…
I have three pair of black slacks, two pair of black jeans, and several charcoal to black skirts. I think if I had to reduce my wardrobe tomorrow that these basics are all items I would KEEP.
HB said…
Too funny! "Antique Ass" has had me laughing all day!

I am with lagatta à montréal in looking for, but not finding, those indeterminate dark colors. I am a huge fan of murky green and deep aubergine, among others. I like them with grey or black. Nothing is more difficult than non-matching blacks in two favorite wardrobe pieces.

My personal style - I have worn black since before it was even a thing among my fellow teenagers to do so. It just looks nice with my complexion. If I want to be put-together and especially fancy, it's usually in all-black. Best of all a LBD, of course. If I am cut in two with a skirt or pants, black or maybe one of those super dark non-colors. Navy, if pressed, in the summer. I'm with Edith Head on that - no other way to deal with my Latvian ass. ! I have been known to wear entire dresses out of a bright color, but that is not for every day - more for playful moments. I also have a real weakness for a soft, dove or smoke grey. However, I have an uncanny talent for attracting stains in that color. Many a garment of that color has gone into the weekend pile.
Gauss said…
I've been wearing more and more black, especially for work. It's just so easy (everything pretty much matches) and makes me feel instantly elegant. I wear lots of black tops as well...
Duchesse said…
HB: Our colour preferences are similar; I'll wear brights in summer, but not as pants- printed skirts or dresses that need some flow.

lagatta's comment came through on my e-mail but they always go to my Spam folder. I mark them "Not Spam" and Blogger says "published" but then they seem to take forever to show up.

gauss: Some women go in and out of black and some of us stay with it. Life gets easier when we do not have to maintain several different colour stores.
Duchesse said…
terri: Those are your base; good clothes are just too expensive to flit among many colours that do not coordinate well.
ChristineB said…
I never wear black near my face anymore, but I'll sometimes wear a black skirt (I have two; one long, one short), black pants (1 pr), black leggings (1 pr) or black jeans (1 pr). When I used to live a Corporate Life, my wardrobe was probably 70-80% black. It's hard *not* to wear black; as Tabitha said, it doesn't require much effort on my part.
Duchesse said…
christineB: In corporate life, unless the company is fully business casual, it would be hard to get dressed without black or navy. They are still the anchors of a formal business wardrobe.

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