Why Black May Not Be Your Best Friend- Busting the Black Myth

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Why black may not be your best friend - it's a colour that is not flattering on many, discover why here

In fashion magazine after fashion magazine you will read that essential in every woman’s wardrobe is a pair of black trousers and a Little Black Dress because both these garments are the most flattering and slimming you can find. They are of course aren’t they?  I’m here to bust the black myth.

The answer is – only if black is a colour that suits you. How do you know if it suits? To start with we need to look at the properties of black – it is a DEEP, COOL and BRIGHT colour, so if you are WARM, LIGHT or MUTED in your colouring, you should avoid it.


This model can wear the black top as she is cooler in her colouring and has a deeper value with her darker hair – the look is harmonious.
This model has warm colouring and looks absolutely stunning in these colours – but notice how the harmony stops at the jeans which are black, and focuses your attention there. Her body appears split in half, rather than one long whole.  Now you may notice that your gaze gets stuck on the black pants, this is a skinny model who can handle attention on her hips and butt, but if you don’t want people to look at your hips or butt, and you don’t have the colouring to wear black, then don’t wear black pants – they’re not slimming for you.
busing the black myth

 

Also, did you know that black is very ageing – it will cast shadow on your face, make wrinkles and lines look deeper, throw shadows under your eyes and make you look even more tired, and create double chins. The older you get, the harder black is to wear, and the lighter your hair and skin the less it suits you.

Now why is black considered so slimming? If light colours advance (make you look bigger) and dark colours recede (make you look smaller) then what is the most slimming colour? According to all those mags and fashion writers – it’s black as that logically seems to be the darkest colour, so it should recede the most. But if bright colours advance and muted (that is greyed down) colours recede then what is black? But black is actually a bright colour as it has no grey element so those ‘slimming’ black trousers will actually draw attention to you bum and make it look bigger, not smaller.

So what colour trousers should you buy to make your bum look smaller? Dark grey or very dark brown if you’ve got cool colouring, and if you’re warm chocolate brown or deep olive green will both be far more slimming than any black pants ever could be for you.

I hope you now realise that ‘black is slimming’ is a myth for the majority of the population and you will no longer be conned by all those magazine articles espousing the black myth.

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33 Comments

  • I am a pale red head and I have a wardrobe that is like the black sea. I have rows of black tops, trousers and countless LBD’s. So, I am a dyed in the wool black lover. I say that all as a disclaimer to my sense that the red head in the photos looks fine in black bottoms. I totally agree that she looks better in the coloured tops. Now, I feel sure you have a better eye for colour than I do. I hope someday you will come to L.A. and perhaps you can talk me out of my mostly black wardrobe.

    This is a great and thought provoking post and I can assure you that this post will stay with me and I will come back again and again to think about if black is really flattering to me( I have men tell me that it is. But, maybe they were just hitting on me.;-)

  • La Belette,

    This is how I do ‘black aversion therapy’ with my clients.

    Get a black piece of fabric, and a brown or deep olive green piece and stand in front of a mirror with good lighting – Layer the pieces of clothing or fabric with the black on top. Look at your face, not the colour, and notice if you look like you have under eye bags, and double chins, the evenness of your skin tone, how healthy you appear.

    Now drop the black piece and watch as the colour moves away from your face to the brown or olive, do it again with the next colour – you should see that your face look healthier with the brown and green, and your eyes become brighter with the brown and olive green, while the black will make you look more tired and appear stark against your skin.

    Then hold up the black, with your ‘off white’ white, and watch your chin – see how double chins and shadowing around the mouth disappear when you wear a lighter colour next to your face?

  • You are amazing! I so appreciate the incredibly detailed response to my comment.

    I will do this. But, I fear that I might lie to myself because if I gave up on black I would have nothing to wear. Well, I do have a few navy blue, red and purple pieces. There are slim pickings in the non-black category.

    Seriously, you must come to L.A.! I really need your help.;-) Thanks so much, Imogen!

  • La Belette,

    I never tell my clients to throw out all their black clothes, just as they replace them to look for more flattering colours that harmonise with their own colouring.

    You can wear black more successfully at night as there are more shadows anyway, plus we tend to wear heavier makeup.

    The sheerer the fabric, the easier it is to wear too.

    You never know, I’m hoping to get to LA next year for the AICI (Image Consultants) conference in May.

  • Imogen, Since “meeting” you, I have weeded out so much black! I now see myself as a softer colored person, and I realize what black is doing to me. It is a “harsh” color! Luckily I don’t have too many black bottoms.But there is a nice linen pair that is hanging in my closet, freshly hemmed and ready to wear. Bummer!

    I too, felt that the redhead looked fine in black pants with her colored tops. But I thought she looked okay in the white and black tops too.

    I’m such an idiot. Last spring I bought a J.Crew cashmere tee shirt in black. It’s a crew neck, so it goes right under my chin. Bad idea. I will never buy inappropriate clothing again. Or things that don’t suit me.

    In LA there is white. Is white just as harsh as black? I have white jeans, white linen trousers. I love them both.

    You must come here in the Spring so we can jaunt around Disney with you!

  • I really hope you are able to come! I would love to do a consultation with you and perhaps some shopping. And, yeah, even Disneyland!! 🙂

    So glad to hear that I don’t have to throw out all my black.

  • You explain it so well but my eyes can’t tell the difference between the “good” and “bad” outfits on the model — except for her expression. She looks (to me) more washed out with the good (autumnal colors) print because it is the same color as her skin and hair. Sigh, I just don’t get it.
    P.S. I wear lots of black but am trying to wear navy this year.

  • Tessascoffs,

    It sounds like you like more contrast – some people are low contrast people, others like a higher contrast.

    La Belette,
    I do hope I get there next year and meet you all – I could probably forgoe Disneyland for a shopping trip with you gals.

    Karen,

    You can wear white with your colouring. White is cool and you are cool (like a drink of a nice crisp white on a hot summers day).

    Must go and do some paying work so that I can save up to bring the whole family out next year!

  • This post was so eye-opening for me, too!

    I really never considered that maybe black wasn’t the color for me. When I was younger, I had my “colors” done and ended up being a winter. I remember the consultant telling me that black was good for me. But, as I’ve gotten older, I seem to have naturally turned away from black and moved more towards brown.

    Would you consider brown a universally flattering color, regardless of skin tone?

  • Michelle,

    Browns are great – there isn’t just one shade of brown, but many to choose from.

    If you’re warmer, choose a more yellow brown. If you’ve got a cooler complexion go for a dark rose brown. In general think Milk Chocolate (warmer) vs Dark Chocolate (cooler).

    If you have brown eyes, brown is a fantastic colour to wear – look for a brown that really makes your eyes pop.

  • Hi Imogen,

    I totally get the ‘no black on top’ part, as a freckled red head with similar coloring to your model. I love the blue and green tops and try and find similar colors for myself for tops; however, what color pants would you wear those colors with, if not black? I don’t think either one would look good at all with olive green. Maybe brown or cream?

  • Hi Imogen, hard work to figure out what pant colours to wear…Could you tell us what (dark?) color the red hair model could of wear more succesfully with each one of her tops? Thanks a lot.

  • Wow, this explains why I keep avoiding my black pair of dress pants and why I don’t look good in pics where I am wearing black shirts. And I own so much black!! 🙁

    • It’s so easy to get stuck in the black rut, particularly as shop assistants consistently push black on to us too! And we feel it’s so easy…. just a pity it’s not always flattering.

  • I have aqua eyes with a lot of white swirls in the iris, light brown hair (dyed due to grey hairs!) and a lot of pink in my medium skin tone. I describe my coloring as cool and muted. I love black but cannot wear it well but I have found that I can wear it by using “faded” black as in faded black denim because it then is really a darker grey.

    • yes – grey is much easier to wear than black for so many. Black is a very solid, dense colour that appear hard on many complexions.

  • Hi Imogen,
    I love love your blog and youtube channel, my very first subscribed channel. I’m asian I have white skin with dark brown hair and eyes, high contrast. I suppose I can wear black or any dark colors but everytime i wear black/dark blouse I looked paled and sick, a full makeup won’t help either. Is there a way to make it more flattering?

    • Nobody can wear all dark colours. Sounds like you have warm skin, not cool (you can have pale skin and dark hair and have either a warm or cool undertone) this would be why black makes you look pale. Try colours next to your face that aren’t so dark. Keep the dark tops to those that have lower necklines so they don’t reflect so much shadow onto your face.

  • Hi Imogen,

    My friends did a color season test on me years ago. I was placed as Autumn (auburn hair, fair skin-few freckles, blue-green eyes. The more I learn about colors, I think Autumn is the wrong season for me. I think Spring may be more flattering to me, especially the coral color. How can I tell for sure? Thank you so much, Kathy

    • Kathy, I don’t use the seasons as they are too limiting. There are many versions of warm, from really warm down to just a bit warm. Plus you have to consider the intensity/brightness of the colour too – how bright or muted are the colours that suit you best. Then you need to consider the value – that’s how light or dark the colours are that flatter you and harmonise. When you think about Autumn, it’s dark, warm and a little muted. Spring is light, bright and warm. They are far apart, there are so many other combinations of these three properties that you need to consider. This is why I do colour consultations with a system that has 18 groups, not 4 to choose from.

  • In a panic just added all the black back. You know me. I LOVE my black and white. Now I do own a couple black tops, but mostly keeping the black as accents and for the bottom half so away from my face… think I can get away with it if I put perhaps a colorful scarf near my face when I wear the all black tops? I just hate myself in navy and brown I feel my energy drain and un like myself .. I tried it, had gotten rid of it all, just was not me to live in all colors except the black and white combo. *sigh*

    • Ruby – apart from the blue hair – look at yourself in the mirror – you are naturally “black and white” so those colours harmonise with you, naturally, that’s why you love them and they work so well for you. As you get older and more “light black” as my son calls it (well he did when he was 5 and didn’t know the word for grey), then you may want to keep some of it away from your face. For you I’d only do a French navy!

      • Whew! Close call!!! LOL Yeah I shall have a few years yet. When I do might have to have a few black…dark brown bits put in LOL French Navy might be ok ..I am not too opposed to it when I can actually find it. can I say ” I love you” and not have it seem wierd? LOL

        • I can tell me it has taken me a while to adjust to losing my black and white contrast too! I still wear black, just not as much as I used to and I keep it away from my face as much as possible. You will start to see when you go so silver that you lose the contrast that you no longer enjoy wearing your black and white as much. Doing it suddenly has been a steep learning curve for me!

  • Imogen, how about wearing a scarf in a more “friendly” color next to skin and face? I am feeling with the ladies who think they need to get rid of a comfortable piece because the color is wrong (black or other unflattering choice)? When I was in my twenties black white and red really were my “colors” also confirmed by a color consultant who defined me as a “winter” type. Now with my hair color fading I may not be able to pull off that contrast any more. Good point!

  • Thank you for this article! I totally agree with Black being Slimming is a Myth. I love black! I have dark features with cool undertones and an Olive overtone -_- This makes it difficult for me to find the right colors to wake up my face. I started noticing black making me look bigger recently when I died my hair an Ash Black Color. OY! I love the color but it makes my skin and eyes look dead and lifeless. Looking back at pictures I noticed my face looks more lively with brown hair color with tints of red or yellow. Also, some black tops, like a dolman tunic style sweater with a rounded neck, definitely makes me look bigger as I have wide shoulders and wide hips with minimal waist definition. If I break up the black with a plunging neckline or a small feminine print then it adds more dimension so I’m not a lifeless wide ink blot. LOL 😆 Pants too, I noticed, have to skim snuggly and be long otherwise if the length is short or a half size too big they add pounds. Ugh! Especially if it’s a heavier weight material. I found a vintage black wash or gray wash pant to add more dimension to my all black outfits. Anyways, great article and insight!

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