Lighten up! Thoughts on (mostly) giving up black for the season

On the first day of spring this year, I decided to experiment with not wearing black for the season (some of you may remember/have noticed this). That's not to say that I wouldn't wear it at all (it is a very good neutral for me, and I do love it), but I wanted to swap out black as my core neutral and replace it with white/light gray. It has been a very interesting and enlightening exercise! I wouldn't limit myself so strongly next year, but it was certainly useful this year (and really helped me figure out what my "summer style" is).

The main thing I'm taking from this is how to successfully not wear black; with my very dark hair, I had been feeling like I _always_ needed some black elements which is certainly not the case. I'm very excited to be able to put together full looks with zero/few dark elements and still feel balanced. It also helped me feel summery when our summer has been so cold and wet (until the last week or two, but I don't have any of those photos ready, doh!).

I found I wore more black for the first month, then less, then a lot less. I'll probably start working it in more next month as we approach fall. In fact, when organizing my fall stuff this past weekend I had a bit of panic when I saw HOW MUCH BLACK there was; clearly, I'm not used to it any more!

I've attached some photo samples for fun (both neutral and colorful outfits), you've only seen the first four of these so cheers if you made it this far :) Has anyone else done this type of experiment? Would love to discuss!

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    You are so clever! I would love to hear others chime in on this! I'll bet Vix would have a few good words.

  • Mo replied 8 years ago

    I have done the opposite after years of subconsciously dodging black . . . hmmm must be because it was uniform required for about 6 years there. I got so over it. Now I'm coming back around :)
    I do like lighter colors in the warm months, though, and your looks are positively springy! I do feel black can seem overpowering in bright, hot, weather.

  • Deborah replied 8 years ago

    Aida you look great in all these pics. I love that you did this experiment and I really like the colour combinations and how you have put things together and added various pops of colour.

    Did you find that initially your default was to reach for black?

    I wear a lot of black (and it its winter where I am now) and since coming to YLF i am trying to incorporate more colour. This is going to be a process as I don't own a lot of coloured pieces. You have made me think perhaps I should set myself a goal and commit to wearing some colour (clothing or accessories) say 2 or 3 times a week for a period of time. Its a little like breaking a habit and forming a new one if you do it for long enough.

    You said you have successfully learned how to not wear black and I think I need to learn this lesson also. I don't really have a lot to add as Im quite new here, but I will mark this post as a favourite and use your experiment as motivation and inspiration for mine.

    Thanks for posting this. :)

  • Deborah replied 8 years ago

    Mo just read your comment..I have just done a wardrobe clean out and was suprised to see just how many black dresses I have for summer! I agree sometimes black can seem overpowering in warm weather as you describe, but i must admit (and I think this often depends on the style of the garment) I find it can look very fresh and crisp looking in the hot weather. Black and white is a bit of a fave for me in summer... and the white can be my lily white

  • replied 8 years ago

    I have had to ban myself from buying more black. I never used to wear it, then just seemed to collect it over a few years. It's wriiten at the top of my clothes want list "don't buy more black", and yet I saw a biker jacket two days ago which is a perfect fit and I want it... but it's black!

    I really love the intense colour accents in 3 & 7 on you. I think they complement your dark hair beautifully.

  • Aida replied 8 years ago

    Mo - I can definitely see how that can happen! And I agree that sometimes black feels a bit oppressive in warm, bright weather.

    Deborah - I did initially reach for black quite often, but that was because my wardrobe basics were all in black! So for my spring/summer shopping, I purposefully avoided black and went with other light neutrals or colorful items. I don't regret it one bit! I don't think color is a necessity though; the bulk of my looks are primarily neutral with the occasional SUPER BRIGHT. For your own experiment, think about what it is you wish to accomplish: do you want to wear more color, or wear less black? Your dressing strategies will differ depending on which it is. My personal goal isn't to stop wearing black (I do love it so!); I just wanted to have the skills to NOT wear it, if that's what I feel like.

    Nicola - It does tend to accumulate unless we make an effort not to collect it, eh? I'd make an exception for a perfect black biker jacket though :D

  • yellowgirl replied 8 years ago

    The pics are such great examples of how you've really made this work for you! I am in a black-ban, too. I just got so tired of wearing it all the time that I was starting to crave color. I'll be working it back in for fall winter, but in very limited quantities.

  • Deborah replied 8 years ago

    Thanks Aida, good advice! I do love black and as an ash blond I think it does look good on me, so I don't want to stop wearing it, I think I just want to be confident to add a bit of colour to the black :) I don't think Im ready for full colour blocking for example... as much as I love it I think I will need to approach that slowly :) So for example my effort at adding colour today is black pants, black satin untucked blouse with a cute purple cardigan with elbow length sleeves over the long sleeve blouse. I feel comfortable with the colour but still feel like me....

  • replied 8 years ago

    Oh Aida, my wallet does not need to hear that! It will have to wait until next month and if it's still there we'll see. What I'd really like is the same jacket but in a colour. That would be very fab.

  • chewyspaghetti replied 8 years ago

    That's really interesting. After wearing almost nothing but black for my late teens/early 20's, I then did a flip around and gave it up completely for several years. Now, I have come back and I do wear it some. I actually wear more black in the summer now (other than accessories), than at other times of year. Hot weather makes me angry, and being angry makes me feel like wearing black. Maybe because I am in such a black mood.

  • Aida replied 8 years ago

    Yellowgirl - I'm planning to replace some of the black in my fall/winter wardrobe with charcoal! Having my basics be a mix of black and charcoal will feel much more fresh to me than having just black.

    Deborah - Woo! Purple+all black looks so elegant, I can totally picture this on you :) It sounds like working on adding little bits of color a couple times a week would be a great place for you to start.

    Nicola - Hehe, yes our wallets never like to hear that a leather jacket looks great on us. Hmm I wonder if we'll see more colored leather jackets this season? There were a few last year, but I didn't pull the trigger on any.

    Khris - Hot weather makes me angry too! Though your hot weather gets WAY hotter than my hot weather >< I've no idea what colors I like to wear when angry, and I'm totally a mood dresser. This is an interesting thought. I'm going to have to pay attention to that.

  • Kyle replied 8 years ago

    I really like your all- grey ensemble in number 1. You look great in everything, definitely, but that is a standout for me. Not sure what I would do without black...maybe I'll try that sometime! Love your style.

  • AJ replied 8 years ago

    Well you know how I luv color so kudos to your successful experiment!

    I actually like to wear black in the summer. I find that a lot of summer pieces are too thin. With the lighter colors, I feel compelled to wear a camisole/tank/slip under ithem which is not fun in the HEAT. So black sleeveless tops and/or bottoms allow me to wear one less layer.

    My experiement this year has to do with surviving outdoor activities in the heat. I've been wearing lightweight flowy tops/blouses with a bikini top instead of bra. I found some string bikini tops on sale and even though it's sweltering, the bikinis are quick drying. I've found a combination that helps me to look decent despite the dog days of summer!

  • Mo replied 8 years ago

    I'm sorry but I cannot begin to fathom wearing black in the sun in sweltering heat - ugh. Perhaps it depends on the degree of hot, and just how much outdoors time, we are talking about. Here in FL I never see black.

  • taylor replied 8 years ago

    You look wonderful!
    I love the simple sophistication you have taken in adding color to your look , while still being true to your style:) Exchanging your black for other lighter/brighter neutrals is genius, and is why this works so well for you!

  • catgirl replied 8 years ago

    Fascinating! Black has been my default for so long - easy, flattering and conservative for work. I still find myself reaching for black and grey when I can't puzzle out an outfit in the morning. You look FANTASTIC in bright colors and it's good to know you have worked your way to a more diverse closet. Do you intend to continue this exercise actively, or do you feel like it's been incorporated into a habit now?

  • modgrl replied 8 years ago

    I'm not really feeling like wearing black these days at all. Not that long ago, I wore it head to toe every day. Those days are over. It's not that I don't wear it at all, I just don't want to wear it all the time like I used to. I think it's very liberating to wear bright colors and think about alternate color combinations. I'm having a lot more fun with my clothes these days.

  • Aida replied 8 years ago

    Thanks everyone for discussing this with me :D Keep it coming, I learn so much from you ladies!

    Kyle - I thought that too, but honestly it was much easier to give up than I'd expected especially for warm weather looks; for cold weather looks, I'm not so sure. For me the hardest part was finding balancing looks with my dark hair, but since your hair is blonde I suspect that would be easier for you :)

    AJ - That's a fantastic idea! I've worn my bikini top under normal shirts out on the boat, and it was super comfy. I see your point about thin materials, but since our weather isn't remotely near sweltering I can add that layer if I need it; I also don't have too much of a problem wearing a slightly sheer top without another layer since you can almost never see anything through it on me.

    Mo - After riding on the motorcycle in HOT weather with black gear, I have the same feeling as you!

    Taylor - Yes exactly! I knew I couldn't simply replace black with color, I'm totally a neutrals gal at heart and it just wouldn't be "me". It has been fun adding the occasional SUPER BRIGHT color though ^^

    Una - (AWW I MISSED YOU!) I do plan to finish the season out with this exercise. I'll start adding more black in early Sept. working up until the first day of fall, then I'll go heavier on the black/charcoal as the season cools down. I think it's definitely habit at this point; like I said I had some brief panic looking over my considerably darker cool weather clothing! But I think knowing that I don't HAVE to have black in every single outfit IF I don't want it is a huge boost of confidence. Not too surprisingly, I found it _much_ easier to work color into outfits when basing around white/gray than with black. EDIT: It also helps to discover that I look just as good in white as black, I suppose :)

    Rita - I fully agree about it being liberating! Gives us so many more options too, no? And I'm finding that when I DO wear black, especially thinking ahead to outfits that would have a lot of it, I can appreciate it as a color and not just an element of necessity.

  • nicoleb replied 8 years ago

    You look great Aida! I didn't know you were avoiding black but you did a terrific job without it!

    I'm in the mist of...darkening...up? In the past i've actually avoided a lot of black and darker clothes and now suddenly i am loving them and want to be all about them. Funny how styles change. :)

  • Carole replied 8 years ago

    I love you in gray, such a nice fresh neutral color for you. And what a fun experiment. This is right up my alley, I love challenging myself this way. I would love to know where you found your gray jeans in outfit #1. I have had fun using charcoal instead of black as well. Just a nice switch from black. All great outfits by the way but especially love 1 and 3.

  • rae replied 8 years ago

    I didn't read the whole thread, but wanted to say it's a great exercise! I definitely want to use black less overall - I know what you mean about the dark hair; it seems to call for black sometimes.

  • taylor replied 8 years ago

    I do the same thing with my wardrobe, although I use my black ...add other light/bright neutrals and then add a bright. satisfies my urge for small, but meaningful and important emphasis of color without it having to compete:)

  • Aziraphale replied 8 years ago

    Aida, you look just great in all those outfits. I especially like your gray skinnies. (I have some just like those and I luuuuuurve them). Doesn't Sally do the yearly no-black-for-a-season thing? I think I read that in one of her archives. I think it's a good exercise to flex your style muscles. Necessity is the mother of invention, right?

    Having said that, I don't think I'll be trying that exercise anytime soon. I have very few black bottoms (two skirts that I never wear and a pair of black clamdiggers, to be exact), but a lot of black tanks, camis, tee shirts, and even collared shirts. If I took all the black out of my wardrobe, I'd have to go naked for half the summer (or do a lot of laundry). They are the underpinning for a lot of my outfits -- for example, I'll often wear a black cami with a pinstripe or plaid shirt over it, or else a sleeveless black shell with a cool skirt and scarf. I just really like it, providing it's paired with another neutral.

  • Fruitful replied 8 years ago

    Can I say I'm totally in awe of your style and inspired to lift my game by seeing it? Seriously. You seem totally at ease and in tune with yourself, with a bit of effortless polish. The clogs, the grey skinnies and the red ones, the scarves as neckties, the widelegs... all of it.

    I always avoided black, brown and dull colours, but have introduced brown footwear in the last year or so. I did follow Trinny and Susannah's advice that brown looked more luxurious and contemporary than black; however I recently discovered colourful items can really pop against black, for instance a black top and skirt with bright tights.

    I had a personal thing against black from the age of about 18, because it was the Melbourne uniform and most people I knew wore it and I thought it was too safe. And at the time, I thought black aligned with a head-based, fearful, nihilistic outlook, whereas I positioned myself philosophically in an optimistic, body/emotion-centred space. And dark colours don't show up under UV lights when dancing :) And I just love bright colours. Especially red :)

  • Louise replied 8 years ago

    I've really tried to 'lighten up' this year too. Choosing lighter shoes, outerwear and scarves. I still wear black but am really trying to pair it with other more summery items. Your summery looks are great, really inspiring x

  • Joy replied 8 years ago

    Aida, your hair actually looks more lovely when you don't wear black. It seems to bring out the variation of color in it more. #1 is especially nice. Your experiment is fascinating.
    I love to wear black in the summer and probably wear more black in July and August than any other time of year if you don't count black coats. I feel cooler and shaded in it. However, that's for inside or in the shade. Wearing black out in the sun is a different matter.

  • Vix replied 8 years ago

    As a recovering blacktextile-a-holic just the title of this post made me a little nervous and clammy, so I'm very impressed by your experiment and its great results!

    It's great/interesting that you felt less and less inclined to incorporate black as the months wore on. The color/texture/silhouette combos in #7 and 8 are especially great IMO.

    While I *do* continue to wear and like black on others during the summer, I can't help but feel that solid black xy or z *is* less "summery."

    [Why I think that but continue to have such a struggle to wean myself away from VaderWear I don't know, ha. At least I did manage to buy half color-color and half heavy-on-the-black neutrals for spring/summer this year.]

    Anyway -- I really enjoy seeing black-free outfits on others -- especially other brunettes because of the balance thing you mentioned -- so thank you for sharing!

    ps to Suz: you know me too well ;)

  • bj1111 replied 8 years ago

    i think i'm more like mo...after i started participating on ylf, i shifted to more COLOR! yes, caps are intentional. while i liked most of the outfits, i never really felt comfortable in them, nor would i preferentially reach for color. i would have to remind myself to think about incorporating more color.

    i've come back to wearing mostly black or dark neutrals recently and i love it. i am looking for ink or dark navy to relieve some of the aging effects of black around the face, but it's very hard because most of the pieces i covet rarely if ever come in dark navy.

    ps: white and gray is such a fresh combination. i plan to steal it!

  • Aida replied 8 years ago

    This has been a fascinating read, your comments are all so insightful and thought provoking! Thank you :D Because I want to respond to everyone I'm breaking my replies into two posts.

    Nicole - That's interesting, is it due to fall upcoming or has this change been going on longer than that? I do look forward to darkening up in the fall, too :)

    Carole - Do you find that using charcoal instead of black gives you the same crisp, urban feel of black? This is my major concern about incorporating more charcoal over black. The gray jeans in #1 were from Target; I picked them up during the winter sales at the end of the season earlier this year.

    Rae - It gets even worse when it's LONG dark hair (as I'm sure you can relate to :) ). I feel like it's a lot easier to balance the no-black thing when my hair is up than when it's down ><

    Taylor - I'm already thinking of this for next year :) I'll likely lighten up again but definitely still use my black items and it sounds like a fun new challenge!

    Elisabeth - I think there are many people who forgo many darker colors in warm weather as part of having a fully seasonal wardrobe. In my climate I can wear nearly all of my clothing year 'round; after wearing some items all fall/winter, I just wanted to wear _anything_ else for spring/summer, you know? This was a way to help me view my closet more seasonally. It sounds like you use black as more of an accent than a base for your summery outfits, which I really like the idea of! Funnily enough, my black bottoms were the main black items that I continued to use throughout this experiment :)

    Fruitful - Love those bright pops of color against black! They work especially well with black (and also white) as the base, because the intensity of the colors is similar. I'm hoping to play around with this more this fall/winter; last season I didn't have colorful items to play with hehe! Also, thank you! You know how to make a gal blush madly <3

  • Aida replied 8 years ago

    Louise - How did you like it? Do you think you'll do it again next year? I loved seeing all the white, olive, and coral items you purchased earlier in the season, they looked so cute and summery on you! Would LOVE to see more of your WIW posts, I miss them! And I'd love to get a glimpse of your summer style :)

    Joy - Hmmmm that's good to know about my hair (and thank you ^^)! I never really notice ANY color variation in it because, well, to me it just looks like "plain really really really dark brown" :) Interesting thought on feeling more "shaded" in black, I never really thought of that. I think since if I'm outside I'm usually in the sun black just feels very warm to me. Now, a black silk shirt, that's something I dearly want to try in the heat!

    Vix - I'm glad you commented, Vix! The thought of doing this experiment initially made me a little nervous and clammy, too! Which is why I knew I had to do it :) I can appreciate black so much more as a color now! And you bring up an interesting thought about solid black; patterned black does seem to be considerably more summery than solid, even if the non-black part is very small. I will be keeping this tidbit in my mental file cabinet!

    bj1111 - I hear you on not feeling fully comfortable in all color all the time. I think part of why this experiment worked so well for me (as a not-so-deep-down neutrals gal) was that I didn't just say "MOAR COLOR"; I simply replaced my black basics with gray/white basics, and incorporated smaller amounts of bright colors. You can see even in the small sampling above, the majority of my outfits are primarily/entirely neutral. Navy and ink blue are fab dark neutrals! I think they were around in higher numbers a couple years ago, but I don't expect to see a huge selection in those colors this year :( Please do steal the white+gray color combo! And feel free to share the photos, I'd love to see it :D

  • Aida replied 8 years ago

    And just for fun, here are two spring outfits in similar color palettes: one that's predominantly black, and one that's predominantly white. I can't help but feel that the white one looks OODLES more spring/summer than the black!

    EDIT: To be fair, the black outfit was a seasonal bridge outfit from early March and the white was in May. On the flip side, the temperatures were about the same ;)

  • Lisa replied 8 years ago

    I have not tried to do this for a season but what a great idea! I know I wear far too much blue and could not go a season without it, but it's food for thought. I have to keep in mind not to purchase more and more and more blue. What a great example your outfits are, no black and yet your black hair looks lovely in the outfits despite not having any black to tie into your hair. Bookending is fun to do, but certainly not necessary as your outfits show. Or perhaps because you bookend the lighter colors in the entire outfit, it lets the hair stand alone. I do notice your hair more in the lighter outfits and it's a fabulous head of hair to showcase! In the darker outfits with more black, your hair blends and I notice it less. I wonder if this could be a trick on bag hair days? Hmm... :)

  • Aida replied 8 years ago

    Lisa, YES you totally nailed it! This was the light bulb moment for me in how to get balance in no-black outfits: having my hair as the only black element is (almost) exactly like using a bright/dark pop of color. Hmmm I hadn't been using the bad hair day trick you mention, but I'm sure going to now :) I think you've been branching out of your blue a bit this season though, you had a lot of white and that pretty orchid color.

  • nicoleb replied 8 years ago

    I think it's been slowly happening to my style over time. it's easy to dress darker in the winter and fall but i've been seeing it creep into my spring and summer wardrobe more and more. I fought it for awhile because it was hard for me to lose the mindset that spring and summer require different colors than fall and winter, but it's what's making me happy so i think i've come to accept it now. I've been in the slow process of giving my wardrobe a bit more focus than it ever has before. Kind of like when you and a couple others wrote those posts about your style likes and dislikes? Sorry i can't remember the exact name of what they're called.

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