September 13, 2006
You . . . if you're a fashion aficionado! Black & White is big for fall and winter. If you're asking yourself the question, "When was black and white not popular?" you have a very valid point. The fashionistas won't have a brilliant answer to that one, but you know how it is. They pick a certain look or color or element and push it as if it were the "latest" thing. Something has to get people into those stores and laying down a few bucks for new clothes.
Question: Why did God invent WASPS? Answer: Because somebody has to pay full retail. Anyway, the latest declaration from Seventh Avenue is just so stylish and crisp. Most people can pull this one off with clothes they already have. Perhaps you'll goose it up with some new-ish accessories. Who doesn't have a white top and a black bottom, anyway? We can all do this one and not come out looking like fools. It gives a secure feeling to know that "fashionable" need not resemble "freakish."
Remember how attractive the old black and white movies were? You, too, can be Bette Davis stepping off the boat in Now Voyager. Flash back to the scene from My Fair Lady when they're at Ascot and the divine Cecil Beaton had everyone in over-the-top Edwardian outfits — all black and white and some gray. Fabulous! Cruella Deville in 101 Dalmatians didn't want those pelts to have 'em dyed green, you know.
Charlie Chaplin was a great proponent of B & W, don't you think? Not to mention Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. I suppose I'm getting carried away. Think of the icons above in terms of a special occasion — an important party or high-end cocktails.
To be up-to-date chic, focus on the scene in The Devil Wears Prada when the little apprentice is wearing a starchy white collar under a strange off-the-shoulder sweater. She topped it off with scads of Chanel baubles, bangles and beads. Really terrific. Same for the hero of V for Vendetta — what a "blast" he was!
Here's a more workaday approach: in addition to your white shirt/blouse and your black slacks/skirt, get yourself a decent blazer with a subtle pattern of B & W. Pinstripes, herringbone, hounds-tooth (careful — not too big!), even salt 'n pepper flecks. You can always add some snap with a bold print on a tie/scarf. Both genders can add some serious style with pocket fobs — not those tightly folded little points from your parochial school days. Be brave, show a few inches of the thing, and let it slop off the edge of your breast pocket. Oscar Wilde would be so proud.
Now let's have fun with sweaters. How perfect a B&W (and gray) argyle would be. There are lots of Euro-athlete looks around, too: white bands around the arms of a black sweater, a wide stripe of white on the shoulders and down the outside sleeves of a black top. Retro patterns are back big time, and exchanging those wild turquoise/pink/brown combos for classic B&W will give you lots more wear-ability over a longer period of time. Socks for the guys and stockings for the gals (if that's the way you want to play it) give another opportunity for a touch of pattern to pop out down 'south of the border.' It's a lot of fun!
Jewelry is a classic way to accessorize the admittedly stringent rules of B & W dressing. It takes you from the supermarket, through your day job, to evening attire — depending upon size a glitz. A watch is always appropriate and snazzy new watchbands give new life to old ticks. Those black leather cords and braids and cuffs so popular with the twenty-somethings have finally come into their own. You can pick them up everywhere from Bergdorf's to a street vendor near you. You might want to pay a "tween" to whip up something custom for you.
Now get out there and be extreme. Ignore your shrink — it's a black and white world.