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Monochromatic Looks are Anything but Monotonous

Posted by Ellen Rubin on
Monochromatic Looks are Anything but Monotonous

Monochromatic simply means working in a single color – whether it’s in art or in clothing.

It’s a simple concept, but anything but boring.

A single color doesn’t mean that you have a single shade or texture. In fact, monochromatic looks are elegant and exciting because of the mix you can achieve.

The advantages of dressing monochromatically

Elongating your profile

For anyone who would like to project an elongated profile, monochromatic dressing is the way to go.

By creating a single color column from feet to head, you appear taller.

The worst thing you can do is create stark blocks of color that break the body into smaller chunks. A white shirt against black pants visually cuts your body in two. That’s not to say that this isn’t sometimes the most appropriate look, but it isn’t one that will make you appear taller.

 If you pair dark gray pants or black jeans with a lighter gray top, you create a smoother look.

Highlighting your best features, downplaying your worst

It’s a fact of life that not everyone is perfectly proportioned. You can still highlight your strong points by dressing monochromatically.

Lighter clothing draws the eye. Use it to highlight your best features.

Choose to wear the darkest color on the areas that you want to deemphasize. For instance, if you have shorter legs, wear darker pants. If you have a large belly you want to hide, wear darker shades on top. The darker color is more slimming and your eye is drawn to lighter colors first. This may make you look slightly shorter, but will be an overall look that makes you feel more confident.

Monochrome meets the rainbow

Many people hear the word monochrome and think all black. Yes, that’s one choice, but you can dress monochromatically in any color.

Usher in monochromatic blue denim. Note the hat drawing your eye upwards

Luckily, double denim is making a strong comeback this year. Pairing a denim shirt or jacket with jeans is a great idea. Don’t use the same tone – vary the depth of color and try pairing it with a blue or navy t-shirt instead of white.

Brown is a great choice for monochromatic dressing. There is such a huge range from cream, through camel, all the way to chestnut and chocolate brown.

Don’t let anyone tell you that bright colors are out. The Jonas brothers are often seen in monochromatic styles, on stage and in candid photos. Their clothing is bright, patterned, or more subdued colors. They have mastered the art of monochromatic dressing.

The details matter

When you are dressing in shades and tones of one color, vary the intensity and textures that you use. For instance, wool, denim, cotton button-ups, t-shirts, and sweaters all have different textures. Mix smooth, something with a sheen, and rough textures together. This creates interest.

One outfit possibility is black jeans, gray shirt or sweater, with a black leather jacket.

Simplicity evokes elegance. Avoid the over-fussy.

Monochromatic dressing sometimes benefits from not being fussy. For instance, if you are wearing a motorcycle type jacket, choose one that doesn’t have too many snaps or zippers. It’s distracting and breaks up the line.

If you want a pop of color, think about adding it in your tie, a pocket square, or a small accessory. You want to put it toward the top of your outfit so the eye is drawn up.

If you want to wear a colored shirt, think about continuing the monochrome look in a vest, over-sweater, or cardigan. This will minimize the color blocking and make you look taller.

Don’t forget that your shoes are part of your outfit. Their color matters. You will create a much longer line, visually, if your shoes are the same color as your pants. It prevents your legs from looking cut off.

For people who are color-challenged, there are a lot of sites that will give you color palettes. Paletton and Adobe Color are two options. They provide shades (color +black), tones (color +gray), and tints (color + white) for each base color so you can get an idea of what will work best for your look.

Patterning is possible

Monochromatic dressing doesn’t mean you can’t wear patterns. Just keep them within the color palette that you’ve chosen. It’s probably preferable to keep the patterning small-scale patterns. Vertical pin-stripes are another good way to add some pattern into a monochromatic look.

Final thoughts…

In many ways, dressing monochromatically is freeing. Yes, there are still rules you may choose to follow, but relying on tones and textures to create interest usually results in outfits that are cool and collected. You won’t need to hire a stylist to look completely “put together”. 

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