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Elizabeth Fragala
Monday, 29 January 2018

500 Black Dresses: A Lesson in Individual Style

By Dressing Well Virtual Stylist Elizabeth Fragala

Usually when I snuggle up on a wintery January night to watch the Golden Globes, I expect plunging necklines, colorful dresses, sky-high heels and jewels galore. But this year when it was announced that presenters and guests would all be wearing all black, I braced myself. Not against the cold, but rather in anticipation of a dark night of stunning actresses lost in a sea of midnight, ebony, and ink.

To my delight, what I noticed instead was an attention to detail, texture, and silhouette that was not only thrilling, but an illustration of the fashion wisdom that we share in our one-to-one consults with clients. Rather than feeling confined, the fashion choices proved that a head to toe black look can be as memorable as a rainbow of gowns, and the evening turned into a tutorial for how to rock the monochromatic look.

Here are four observations. Hope a few resonate with you!

#1 Pop with the Rule of 3
When wearing all black, we often encourage our clients to add a pop of color and wear it in three places. Mandy Moore illustrates beautifully how this is done. Moore’s high neck halter in front created a deep, rounded back that cascaded into a luxurious train. Thoughtful touches - a crimson band that accented her waist, red-orange lipstick and shoulder grazing red crystal drops in crimson - created a timeless portrait fit for a museum wall. Her look was a strong take on the classic princess gown that oozes confidence, strength and style. 

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#2. Sparkle and Shine with Texture
Black does not equal boring! Sequins, lace and velvet all add depth to a color that may or may not bring out the best in your skin tone. Helen Mirren illustrates this with two fabrics: her silver metallic neckline softens and draws attention to her face while sheer lace breaks up the solid black that would be harsh against her English rose skin and platinum hair. Men are generally more restricted in their black tie options, and velvet is an easy way to add sophistication to a classic tuxedo. Sterling K. Brown’s velvet tux was a rich touch and the contrast with the sheen of the silk lapel added depth.
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#3 Fit your Figure
Octavia Spencer shone in her black sequin tea length dress, combining texture with perfect fit. The all-over sequin fabric moved with the light and the full skirt accentuated her curves. Flounced sleeves added a feminine feel and the unexpected mid-calf length showed off her shapely legs.

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#4 Add a Touch of Flair
Tracee Ellis Ross stood out in a matte black sheath and turban. Manipulating the taffeta to form such a beautifully shaped head wrap is not simple, and I applaud her for her look and taking the time to get it right. The crisp taffeta folds accented her angular features and the height of the head wrap added even more length to her lean figure and created a majestic feel. In her top hat and tulle, writer/director and co-creator of the award-winning show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amy Sherman-Palladino added more than a touch of drama to the evening’s outfits. There’s no need to go so as far as a feathered hat, but don’t be afraid to add personality to your look with a signature piece.

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Last Word
The next time you step out for the evening in your black dress (or pants!), take a cue from an evening with the stars and consider the many options available in textures, detail and silhouette. You’ll stand out in all the right ways!

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About the Author

Elizabeth Fragala

Elizabeth Fragala joined the Dressing Well team as a stylist in 2004 after living abroad in such fashion-rich cities as London and Tokyo. Following in the steps of her two grandmothers (and a grandfather!), Elizabeth learned to sew as a child. She honed her fashion sense while working at the renowned Issey Miyake boutique and Liberty of London. Elizabeth gained an insider’s knowledge of the industry as an assistant designer at the womenswear manufacturer, Briggs NY.

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