Purging Black from an “Overfed” Closet

I often ask my clients to go on a “black fast” for a time.  They often look at me incredulous.

“No black?  That’s not possible”.

After all, who doesn’t want a clearly marked, un-ambivalent uniformed closet, to make getting dressed faster and easier? Right?

But I am urging them to purge unnecessary items of black clothing to make room for vitamins and minerals – called color – that has been missing in their lives and wardrobes.

Female clothes on hangers and shoes

How does an overfed closet come to be? 

The fashion industry itself feeds us too much black.

While black does hide a multitude of sins in terms of stains and bad production (off-grain cuts, poor sewing, lesser quality fabrics), we have too much available for purchase.

But producing inordinate quantities of black means the industry can get away with producing less items of color.

This gives consumers less choice and creates confusion and time-consuming shopping for my clients (and others) who are seeking to incorporate color into a look they love. 
However, it’s expensive for brands to produce the same item in many different colors, so we end up with lots of black, especially pants. 

Almost every brand has some form of a black pant, so financially brands want us to want black and buy black

Black is also a fashion paradox.

It’s the safe, acceptable, default option (we’ve been socially conditioned to see it as such). AND it’s a sexy color (little black dress, anyone?).

Red is a sexy color, but not a safe one – so black “wins” because it’s sophisticated, tasteful, luxurious and sexy.

I often ask boutique owners if they can get a beautiful item in any color other than black.  Their response is almost always “no, because no one would buy it”.

Am I going round and round on the black color wheel here?

What possible reason could you find to not buy black

Well, for one, black absorbs energy. 

Other colors like yellow and green project certain energies, but black’s absorbing capabilities cause us to absorb energy, fit in and not be “seen.”
Black cloaks you as one of the masses. It protects you from being singled out in a negative way – and wearing too much of it keeps you from being seen as who you really are.
Historically, being a proud widow was one of the few choices that gave women any measure of respect – so they hung onto their black mourning clothes as long as they could.

According to Amy DeCew, owner of her own clothing line and a Parson’s graduate:
When black first had its chemical juice to be more effective, it was used for mourning clothes. The Crimean War and the American Civil War meant black was everywhere. People took their regular clothes and dipped them in huge vats of black dye because often there was no money and no new materials available, especially in the American South.

It was a mark of honor and prestige to be a war widow– in many ways a matter of necessity because there were fewer men around to marry, so black-clad widows carried on well beyond the usual mourning conventions of the day, necessity made into virtue on both sides of the Mason Dixon line, in my view. When Prince Albert died, Queen Victoria wore widow’s weeds the rest of her life– when the royal family does something, it goes beyond mourning associations and becomes a fashion statement, whether it’s a good one or not, and god knows Queen Victoria was one horrendous fashion statement.

What started as a death tradition became more deeply embedded into identity and place in community. The Victorians went mad with all kinds of hideous dye colors we’d never wear today, revolting shades of chartreuse and pinky-purples that of course you’d see on the runway now but most average women won’t (thankfully) adopt, but black went deeper than mere experimentation– it was linked to war, honor, a sense of who you were, and women didn’t have much of an identity beyond their marriages, and certainly lacked legal rights, healthcare, political representation.

A proud widow was one of the few choices that gave women some kind of respect. You’re gonna hang into that black at that point, when it’s pretty much all you’ve got. Black was your place in the world

I’m not advocating that women never wear black again (as my clients heave a collective sigh of relief).

I do know from my years of working with clothes and color that a focus away from black for a time gives you and your body a chance to experience new colors and new life, and a new perspective on your wardrobe and yourself.

When you do wear black (if necessary) you will feel different.

You will know whether you want to wear a color devoid of color, and your reasons for doing so can be a powerful decision versus an unconscious grab for an easy outfit. 
For example, my client, Becky, had a lot of black in her closet when we first started working together. 

Now she buys colorful pieces and prefers blues and greens to black, especially since she has gorgeous green and hazel eyes to highlight. 


Photography by Candice Nyando

She did not, however, rid her closet of black.  She loves it, and you can see from this photo that she can rock that little black dress well — fabulous, in fact:

Photography by Candice Nyando

Photography by Candice Nyando

In the end it’s up to you what you wear, and your choices should make your heart sing and your presence seen. 

Your awareness of the intentional choice of any color is what gives you the power to dress in your authentic image.  And if you want to send out some powerful, colorful image – try anything but.

If you have questions about your closet full of black, please send me an email, and I’ll be glad to talk with you about it.  Kathleen@YourAuthenticImage.com

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