x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

This season, black is actually the new black

Fashion seems to be on our side for once, having shifted over the last two seasons from an upbeat, experimental, colourful mood toward something much more measured. Enter good old safe black, the queen of all shades.

There is often a point, of which I am very aware, when fashion crosses the line from fancy into fancy dress. As much as I preach about bravery and the importance of self-expression, I understand that what most of us really want from our clothes is to appear acceptable, to fit in on the school run, or to be presentable at a party. There’s nothing wrong with that: wooing the world with the wacky and the wonderful isn’t for everyone. Thankfully.

Much to my delight, fashion seems to be on our side for once, having shifted over the last two seasons from an upbeat, experimental, colourful mood toward something much more measured.

Enter good old safe black, the queen of all shades. What used to be a wash of rainbow brights and vapid pastels is now full of colours with substance. Carbon. Onyx. Charcoal. Smoke. Ebony. These are shades with weight behind them, shades that sound like they mean business.

I have always loved black. Not because I am depressed, I should add, but for its non-threatening and non-argumentative (yet well-considered) air of mystery. So, if you like to wear black as much as I do, listen up.

If you’re going head-to-toe black, don’t assume that you need to over-accessorise. I have seen too many women fall on their faces with “statement” earrings. My rule of thumb: unless the rest of your attire is hands-in-the-air exciting, leave the crazy stuff for another day when the rest of you is ready to catch up. Instead, try for a mix of silver and gold: two simple superfine bangles, one in each colour, will work beautifully.

There is, despite what you may think, a right and wrong way to wear black. As with any outfit, it’s important to mix different fabrics and textures within your look. A heavily textured knit paired with a smooth trouser can look great and a little less uniform-like. Shades of black differ hugely. For example, when pairing a black top with black trousers, they may both have different casts, ie a slight hint of purple or red, so bear this in mind when you are putting an all-black outfit together. Although these differences are subtle, they can disrupt the pairing, so look out for tonal differences.

The key to keeping your blacks rich is in your laundering. When it comes to washing black cottons, use a cup of vinegar the first time that you wash the piece, which will help to set the dye and maintain colour intensity. If you have to wash, always use cold water, but you should really get it dry-cleaned if you want to keep the colour from fading quickly. Cottons will fade fastest, which is why you should look out for cotton that has a little Lycra in it, as the synthetic fibre will help the dye hold.

Black takes a lot of work. We need to make sure that everything is immaculate, with hair and make-up that is precise and understated. Which is exactly where the whole thing trips us up and leads us down a spaghetti junction of false hope. Because anyone can throw on a bit of black, but not many can do it with the sense of nonchalance that is required.

ktrotter@thenational.ae