Reader Alyson e-mailed me this question:
I have seven black dresses in my closet. Seven. I remember purchasing two of them and I think I have inherited the rest. Two are what would be consider shirt dresses with long sleeves, one dress with cap sleeves, and four are sleeveless. Only one has embellishment of any kind in the form of lace around the collar. I have no idea how to wear these dresses, more importantly what to wear with them. Part of the problem is that I live in tropical, sunny Florida. They’re great work wear but I’m just at a loss.
The Little Black Dress (LBD) is considered a wardrobe staple by many style experts, and even if yours isn’t meant to be sexy or designed to be fancy enough for a night on the town, it’s likely that you’ve got a black dress of some sort in your wardrobe. And they certainly can be tough to style! Alyson has some specifics that I’ll address, too, but here are a few tips for making any LBD sing:
Add prints that include black
To make your looks intentional, throwing in some prints and patterns that include black is a great bet. This offers you an easy, organic way to bring color into the mix, too! If you select a print that includes black and color, feel free to echo those colors elsewhere in your outfit. For more casual occasions, printed cardigans and blazers are great options. If you’re going formal, a printed scarf, wrap, or pair of pumps will work. Even something as small as a printed belt will tie your look together.
Do a neutral mix
Black can serve as a great backdrop for a neutral mix. Whenever you’re mixing neutrals, try to get at least three into your outfit – so black plus two others. Don’t confine yourself to browns and grays! Olive, tan, camel, and burgundy all work, and denim counts as a neutral in most cases. Throw in some neutral-only patterns like dots, houndstooth, and animal prints and consider mixing up your textures for added interest. This option tends to create chic but casual ensembles, although dressier options are possible.
Go with cool brights
Black is very strong, and can suck the life out of other colors. Cool bright colors – colors with bluish undertones and some electricity to them – can generally handle the darkness. This is my least favorite of the three options, as black is still the main shade and using solid brights as accents can look a bit wonky. So if you go this route try to do one of three additional things: Incorporate a pattern (animal prints or black and white geometrics are great), try to use two values of your cool bright (like cobalt and turquoise), or repeat the color in two places within your outfit (like a blazer and shoes).
In terms of Alyson’s specifics, black in Florida is challenging, I’m sure, but it certainly can be done! Shirt dresses aren’t easily layer-able but belts, shoes, and jewelry can be added in any of these three categories (printed, neutral, cool-bright). Black dresses with black and white prints would be fantastic year-round. Adding a lightweight printed cardigan that includes black but also has light or bright colors will work in a hot, sunny climate. Neutral mixes should be keep light, too, with a focus on grays, tans, and olives instead of charcoals and chocolate browns … and you might want to reserve those for winter wear. The cool brights formula might feel best for dressy occasions when a red clutch or cobalt shoes are your sole pop of color with a sleeveless sheath or cap-sleeved dress.
Related post: Being Intentional With Black
How do YOU style your LBDs? Any other tips to share? Would these suggestions work for your personal style? How would you advise Florida-dwelling Alyson?
Top images courtesy eShakti.
Originally posted 2013-11-07 06:11:11.