Monochrome Fashion: “Black and White – Always Right!”

Monochrome Fashion: "Black and White – Always Right!"  Maggie Cox has some really useful ideas on how to wear this flattering combination
Maggie Cox

Well, there’s a bold statement about monochrome fashion – especially coming from me. I’m hardly ever seen in black – or white. That is, not black on its own, or white on its own.  But mixed together, that’s a completely different story!

I have always loved colour.  Whether vivid or clashing as the modern vibe goes. Or in subtle mixes like apricot and grape, lilac and pink, or varying shades of blue.  But black and white, together, gently or dramatically, can also be very flattering. 

Now, I’m definitely not talking about black on its own. It can be stunningly elegantly and powerful. But, if your skin does not glow like it used to, or there are a few more shadows on your face, black can fade you out or make you look as if you should be shut away in a back room – knitting socks. Not that I have anything against knitting per se, you understand.  Some of my most relaxing (and productive) hours have been spent clicking away. 

And too much bright white on its own can be startling. As if you have been caught like a rabbit in the headlights or should have a stethoscope around your neck.

Nor am I talking about the minimalist, monochrome high fashion look. The stern, tailored style that you sometimes see celebrities wearing.  Black jacket – often oversized – worn over a white blouse and black trousers.

What I am promoting is black and white, used together in imaginative ways. A lovely patterned scarf added to a simple outfit.  Or a pretty dress in black and white stripes. Or any combination of bottom and tops, in the monochrome scheme. The style can be pretty or tailored.  Whatever you go for.

I only came to know about the appeal of this combination when a friend I knew in my retailing days said – after I had poo-pooed the idea of a black and white dress – “Black and white is so fresh and suits everyone. You really shouldn’t be so against it.”  

I did take this to heart and started to experiment.  And she was right. No matter if you are a cool toned summer or winter, or a warm toned spring or autumn, the contrast between black and white can lift the complexion, just as the right colour against the skin can. Together, black and white have a radiance that makes you look and feel refreshed. It does suit us all and, like the right rainbow colour, does lift the shadows from your face.

And the other thing about using some black is that it is undoubtedly and unashamedly slimming.  If you hanker to go down a size, a black bottom or top will do it for you. If you are happy with your curves, use black to add elegance or youthful simplicity – that’s one of the perks of this colour. 

Now there will be some of you (many perhaps) who think black, even contrasted with white, is a step too far when you are not in the first flush of youth. But here’s the good news which was prompted by my husband saying “You do know that black and white television was not really black and white. It was many, many shades of grey.”

So, never one to miss a good compromise, I happily concede that dark grey, or charcoal can be substituted for black; and white can be a pale silvery grey, ‘off’ white, or ecru. In other words, any combination that includes a mix of almost white and almost black can work just as well as the classic black and white mix. The effect is just that bit softer.  So go for it.  Many shades of grey!!

But never give up on colour – read my article here. Colour has that feelgood factor that we should always be ready to dip into. Just use monochrome fashion to give variety to your wardrobe and choose it when you feel like a change or want to create a different mood.

Thanks to Maggie Cox – former journalist, fashion retailer and author of It’s Never Too Late To Look Great! – for her views and tips on stylish clothes for over fifties. Now turned 80, she has a quirky take on what young-at-heart-oldies can, and should, wear. She encourages mature women to have  fun with how we dress – to push our boundaries to a more adventurous style.