Black with something extra

With fall, black returns in seasonal supremacy. Most women have a black dress or two stashed in the closet, often a simple dress-up-or-down style.

When New York Times T Magazine recently ran a black feature; I ogled the dresses, which are not your basic blacks. 

That basic has eminently earned its place; it's the one you can wear for weeks on a trip by changing accessories, or throw on for a meeting, without thinking about it.  But there are times when the simple a-line feels like what retailers call a "dumb dress".  I'd like more verve; I am on the lookout for black with wit.

If I had $3,400 this Gucci is quite the number, probably even more exquisite in person, and note the ecru cuff. 

Today, the windows are dressed in black with something extra. You may not see your dress (and your 'black' may be navy or espresso), but each offers that something extra, well below T Magazine's dizzying price point.

 The Part Two Itessa dress, of cashmere blend knit, is €130. The sleeve detail will look wonderful at a restaurant table, and the bottom hem has matching small slits. The fabric content is confusing; the copy says "cashmere blend" but also "100% viscose". I've long been a fan of Part Two, a Danish company who now have an e-store.

From Edinburgh's Totty Rocks, the sharp black Lux dress in satin and triple crepe. Portrait collar (that's the satin), a lightly padded shoulder, and the wink of a slit neckline neckline at the back: yes! Totty rocks, but she also tailors. Price, £195.

This dress is not black, but it is special. Donna Karan navy silk embroidered dot dress, on sale for $US 375. If you go to the site you'll see it worn with nothing beneath, but we of course are wearing its attached navy cami. Spectacular across-the-table quotient.

When I saw this, I thought, Adele for its elegance and drama. The cream-lined cape dips in back to the waist (top left, below). The dress is poly and elastane, washable on delicate cycle. From Navibi, in (US) plus sizes 10-22; price, about $US 320.

My friend B. just bought two dresses from The Peruvian Connection, whom I had thought of as knitwear designers, but it turns out they have been designing some good dresses, too, including a collection of black. Their Eldridge Dress looks like a tunic over a slim skirt,  but is one piece, and has a sleeve length I like, too. The overlayer is viscose/wool, the underlayer is stretchy rayon; price, $US 259.

Another option is the trouser suit, because some women just don't like dresses. The mantra is "modern, feminine". (I admire the classic le smoking, but it's harder to pull off when one is older. If you don't wear red lipstick with aplomb, it's probably not your look.)

This Tahari jacket, with its velvet-tipped lapel and buttonless closure, is not the man's suit cut; the trousers are cropped. Price: Blazer, $US 428; Odette trousers, $US 278. Mom would say, "Now, don't wear the trousers five times as often as the jacket, or the blacks won't match anymore."

I would wear this with short boots or low block heels—the open sandals look dated, not to mention dangerous.

Left, Nine West Quarren; price, $US 158; right, Clark's Chinaberry Pop; price, about $US 125.

Off I go to pack summer whites and bring back the black. What I have must please for the next six  months—and if not, hello donation bin. Black is too ubiquitous to be just a dark and safe default.  


materfamilias said…
An inspiring survey of what's out there. I'm still liking my black jersey velvet/velour Linda Lundstrom dress, a very plain sheath with long sleeves -- until I stretch out one of those sleeves to reveal the bat-wing draping of fabric that otherwise pools discreetly on the right side to create an asymmetrical hem. . . Bought it in 2009, and have worn it several times every year since. Perhaps not as versatile as the "dumb dress" you speak of, but for those times when I want just a bit more drama. . . .
Such alluring choices - I'm so tempted...
Leslie M said…
All great choices, but I am partial to the Donna Karan. The blue, the dots...but, what to do with the ribbons at the sleeve? Should I wear it without the camisole so no one notices I am trailing the ribbons through my soup? No, probably not. :-)
LauraH said…
Love your master class on the LBD and enjoy your point that my 'black' may be navy or espresso. I have a dark chocolate dress bought a few years ago and it's quite nice but I don't wear it much. It feels a bit short even with leggings or tights and it doesn't seem to have worked it's way into my 'wear' pile. Hmmmm.

Like you I started to shift into fall clothes then bam...mother nature pulled a rabbit out of her hat and we are having gorgeous summery weather. At least until the sun goes down, then it quickly chills. So I'm using a somewhat odd mix of summer clothes reinforced by a few touches of fall - camisoles and socks. It's wonderful while it lasts.
I need to replace my LBD...
am definitely wanting something with a bit of fun and energy...not boring black but a dress with a WOW factor.
You have shown us some great options.
Beth said…
Oh, I liked that NYT piece too! The ideas, not the prices. Black has been the basis of my wardrobe for thirty years, and I build around it with other neutrals, occasional bright color, and great accessories. For dresses, I have a a black sleeveless sheath, a long flowing scoopneck dress, and a tailored, rather sexy and fitted shirtdress that's now a bit too tight. I liked your Peruvian Connection choice too; the black dress I bought was good quality and packed like a dream.

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