Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Black is still the new black

Although I won't be wearing black to The Wedding, I agree with Coco Chanel when she said, "Black wipes out everything else around." Or do I? Perhaps what I really mean is that - despite all sorts of pressure to abandon it - I feel great in black. Which might be quite different to looking great.

Back in the 80s, when I had a good deal less confidence and money than  I have now, I attended a formal dinner wearing a white shirt with a black jacket and trousers and a black tie. I felt pretty cool. Until my neighbouring guest informed me helpfully over the entree that these weren't "my colours".  She'd had hers done (thank god that dogma has had its day), and, because her colouring was similar to mine, I should have been wearing pastels. She was sporting something ladylike in apricot. I wouldn't have been seen dead in it.

Then there's the omniscient and all-knowing Trinny and Susannah. They've repeatedly denounced black. For us lot, anyway, although T herself doesn't seem averse. Here she is out shopping in London a couple of years ago, head to toe in black and, it has to be said, looking great.

Do you remember back when they (whoever they are) announced that brown was the new black. God knows, they tried. All you could buy for a year or two in the way of jackets, shoes and skirts was brown, brown and more brown. What a recipe for visual depression. Black-lovers simply rode out the brown fad, and sure enough, it passed.

T and S seem to assume that women wear black because it's slimming (which they deny). But that's not it. Black - there's no other way to put this - has power.  I don't feel like my own woman in pastels. Don't feel like anybody's woman, in fact.

E - a snappy dresser from way back - says Chanel is right about black, "but you do need a good night's sleep, which at my advanced age, you don't always have: 
You put me in mind of the first ever Trelise Cooper dress I had way back in the 1980s when she had a small shop in High Street, Auckland, and no one had heard of her. It was black with long sleeves and a swirly skirt and HUGE shoulder pads and I used to wear it with a wide gold belt. It was super and stupidly I seem to have offloaded it on the way – probably when shoulder pads became a no-no.
Shoulder pads had a lot to answer for.

Here's one of CC's ground-breaking little black dresses from 1927, held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

It represents, says MoMA, "one of Chanel's most popular and enduring contributions to women's fashion:
In all of its layered details, a simple material, wool jersey, becomes elegant through superior tailoring technique. Couture details such as seam binding, carefully arranged pleats, the finely finished hem of the skirt, and hand-sewn belt make this ensemble an example of Chanel's characteristic poverty de luxe, an expensive interpretation of a simple design made of modest materials. Chanel appropriated tailoring details from riding habits, men's wear, and service uniforms in her quest to reduce and refine women's clothing to its simplest and most elegant.
Amen to that.

1 comment:

  1. G writes, "Black is very much the in colour for women here in Tehran. Would Coco Chanel have some influence here?"

    The in colour or the de rigeur colour, G? And what of my conviction that black bestows power on the wearer? Does that apply in Tehran?