18 January 2007

Casual Black

As much as I love the all-black look during the week and at formal events, you won't find me wearing it very often after work and rarely at my like-clockwork Sunday fried green tomato brunches at Cafe Saint Ex. It's not that I take any less pride in my appearance on the weekend, I just like to treat work-free days as days to dress according to a more experimental, more youthful style standard. These are the days when I indulge in the trends, that at 26, Marie Claire tells me I only have four years left to enjoy.

Casual clothing has far fewer hard and fast rules than do professional and evening-wear; what might be acceptable going vintage shopping in the East Village on a forty-six year old might be seen as unacceptable at the same venue in Dupont on a woman half that age; what might be considered a tasteful dress at a backyard barbecue in Georgetown might be seen as trashy at one in suburban Maryland. The point is, as long as you dress for your audience and your clothes aren't too tight, too short, too sheer, too forcibly trendy, or too age-inappropriate, you're as safe as Canada.

And if you aren't sure where the day will take you, err on the side of being over-prepared and pack a light jacket, closed-toed shoes, and eye-makeup remover in your daybag.

I want to preface this list by saying it is by no means exhaustive, nor is it a statement about what is and isn't appropriate. These are just some of my current favorite all-black casual options:

- Trapeze mini with flats (opaque black tights in Fall/Winter)
- Dressy short shorts (top left: Helen silk shorts by Johnson, $220 at daszign.com) paired with a slim cap-sleeve tee
- Skinny jeans with a worn-in, slim novelty tee (above right: "Guns don't kill people, people with mustaches kill people" tee, $23.97 at palmercash.com)
- Skinny jeans with fitted turtleneck or mockneck and ballet flats
- Shirtdress (at left: Vastago shirtdress by DVF, $285 at shopbop.com) with peeptoes
- Preppy poof-sleeve button-up blouse (think Peter Pan collar) with slim pleated shorts
- Sleeveless black turtleneck with sateen bermudas and t-strap flats (below right: Carrie black snake by Sam Edelman, $148.95 at zappos.com)

Several of these outfits would only work in late Spring and Summer when tanned limbs, seasonal freckles, and subtle pink shimmer in the corners of your eyes break up the black and make it clear you're less Avril and more Sienna.

If you do go the all-black route on your days off, I would advocate throwing in a big color punch with a bright or metallic bag, belt, or headband. And, if you're daring, a swipe of red lip stain as well.


And not to beat this point to death anymore than I already did yesterday, but since casual clothes are almost always machine-washable and by habit we wash our casual clothes more often than anything else in our wardrobes, we must be even more conscientious about recognizing the point at which the black-to-gray fadeout crosses the wearable/not-wearable line.

And as a last practical point, because black absorbs sun more than any other color, be sure to lather on even more daily SPF than you already do. Because if there's one reliable way to eke out a couple of extra years getting away with the "In your 20s" trends, it's to maintain your skin with consistent moisturizing, water consumption, and beauty sleep. If you need any more motivation, just take a look at what none of the above did for mid-thirties stylist-to-the-stars Rachel Zoe.

Yeah, yuck.

1 comment:

a Johanna fan said...

Man, Rachel Zoe looks so sick in that picture...in every picture, actually. She looks so run down and tired - I believe the term Nicole Richie used was "raisin face." The starvation diet and tanning bed have taken their toll. Whatever stylish clothing she's wearing is ruined by the fact that she looks like a tan corpse.