Despite my complete lack of fashion sense, which is an affliction I have suffered from for the duration of my life, I watched Project Runway for a handful of seasons, binged my fair share of ANTM back in the day, and have seen enough episodes of What Not To Wear that I should genuinely know what not to wear by now. I admire seeing folks with an eye for fashion piece outfits together, craft incredible looks out of bizarre materials, tell someone what clothing works for their body type and comfort level, or strut down a runway in unique garb with palpable confidence. I was also a huge fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race for the first 5 or 6 seasons, and it’s a bandwagon I’ve been meaning to climb back on, because those queens know how to make a look.
However, listening to Tim Gunn’s irreverent “make it work!”, inspirational speeches from Tyra Banks, and Stacey and Clint clapping at the results of their handiwork has not been enough for me to take any meaningful risks when it comes to my personal wardrobe. My clothing choices often trend in a more… monochromatic direction.
Almost every day, I wear something black. If not black, my next choice is gray. If not gray, a different shade of gray. Then, if I must, I go for white. You get the picture. Mostly, my outfits consist of some combination of those three colors (or lack thereof) on a day to day basis, though I am known to add a splash of color (I love a good pink or green, and especially purple) and even a floral pattern if I’m feeling especially wild. Upon a recent purging of my drawers and closet, I counted 15 black shirts, including 2 black 3/4 sleeve shirts, 2 black long sleeve shirts, 2 black v-necks…the list goes on. Though, I will say I am not opposed to a blending of these options. A black and gray shirt is more or less my ideal, because then I don’t have to choose between them.
I don’t quite know when this happened to my sense of fashion, where my appreciation for color dulled and I strayed in a significantly more monochrome direction. I’ve always liked wearing black, I suppose. I mean… it goes with everything, except most shades of blue, so what’s not to like? Black, gray, and white are super adaptable. I can coordinate my wardrobe so easily because approximately 85% of it looks like it’s being broadcast before the days of technicolor.
But I can’t pinpoint when this started. I used to wear much more color, and I usually see brighter and more vibrantly-patterned clothing in shop windows or on sales racks that I’m drawn to, but can’t bring myself to even consider trying on. I’ve gone so far as to buy some “risky” clothing but never summoned the courage to actually wear them, so they sit in my closet and collect dust. Now, several colors have been shunned from my closet and drawers entirely…keep orange, yellow, and most pastel shades away from my pale, pale self. But whenever I go shopping, if I’ve got someone with me (usually my mom) when I start pawing through all the black, grey, and white clothing, I get asked, “Don’t you have enough of those shades?” And I inevitably buy more, anyway. Even my graphic tees usually have a black base, though it helps that my favorite is Batman and black/gray are key colors for him.
I know I’m not the only one with this habit. I work with some folks who wear a lot of black as well – some days, 4 or 5 of us will be wearing similar outfits – but I doubt our reasons for doing so are the same. Some folks just genuinely like black, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Although I do prefer dark and neutral colors overall just as a matter of preference, I think I started dressing in a monochrome scheme because it’s safe. Nondescript. Bland. I don’t like drawing attention to myself, and that color scheme helps me achieve that goal. Wearing drab, uninspired colors makes it easier to blend in, to make it through the day without standing out, to more or less ensure that no one will pass me on the street and say, “What is she wearing?” with an accompanying look of disgust and/or horror. I mean… in reality, no one would do that, because they have lives and more important things to do than critique the clothing choices of strangers, but it’s easy to project onto others when you’re feeling insecure. When I select an outfit for the day, one thought that passes through my mind before I give it the go-ahead is, “Will other people think this looks stupid?” and this habit has made it so there is very little variety in my day-to-day appearance.
In recent months, I have been making an effort to add some life and color into my clothing choices. One of my favorite new shirts is technically black, BUT it has colorful stripes on it! Baby steps, right? In the same shopping session, I also bought a blue sweater with tiny gold stars sewn into it, and I am obsessed. Sadly, now that the weather has gotten warmer I can’t wear it until autumn, but still…
Now, when I pass a bright shirt or colorful cardigan in a store that piques my interest, I don’t just shrug it off. I might try it on, give it a chance to sway me. Because it doesn’t matter what other people think – all that matters is what I think. I will never eschew black or gray from my wardrobe – in fact, they are likely to remain staples for the foreseeable future – but I’m trying to make a more sincere effort to include colored shirts, patterned pants, and other clothes I would typically ignore into my options. Some risks, even if they are small, are worth taking, especially if they might aid in boosting confidence and self-assurance.
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