My adopting Manhattan’s black and navy uniform was a quick and painless process. It was also considerably cheaper once I realized all I would need for the rest of my life was one great pair of black jeans, one pair of leather pants, a few tees and about five variations on the same navy crew neck sweaters.
The uniform sort of created itself from there: one pair of black boots, one pair of dark purple loafers. Black pumps, black ballet flats. A navy coat, a black scarf. The only splashes of bright came in the form of white oxford shirts and the occasional brush of lipstick — but that had to be on a really crazy day.
I remember returning home to California one December and getting continuously asked, “Where’s the funeral?” I don’t know, buttcramp, where’s your original joke?
But the thing is, I wore this midnight color scheme with pride. It set me apart when visiting other cities that didn’t venerate an inky wardrobe. “You must be from New York,” people would comment. “No other city wears that much black at once.” I had already realized this fact and loved it. I was becoming a snob about it. I’d roll my eyes at people who wore “fun colors” during the the winter: cranberry-hued jackets? Emerald corduroys? Violet knits? The concept just seemed so overtly quaint, like a holiday-themed brooch or yellow galoshes on a rainy day.
But monochrome midnight eventually lost its novelty. I felt like a cartoon character stuck in singular-outfit purgatory — should I wear the dark shirt, or the dark shirt? –and getting dressed started to become so easy that it stopped being being fun. Singing the everygirl’s tune “I have nothing to wear” before a stable of navy sweaters just didn’t have the same dramatic, hyperbolic ring that it used to when lamenting the identical sentence to a saturated wardrobe of colorful options.
At least then I was being ridiculous. Now, it was just kind of true.
But when the Fall 2013 collections happened in February it broke my colorblind spell. Color was everywhere and I drank it in. Hot pink and yellow at Dries Van Noten! I saw green at Marc Jacobs and cobalt at Reed Krakoff! Jil Sander had punchy poppies and at Narciso, amethyst. Nothing made a statement quite like the coats (cinnamon red at Dolce, dusty blue at Carven), except for, perhaps, the surprise of Pepto wools and checked tartan.
It wasn’t that I needed a slew of runway shows to tell me it was “okay” to re-introduce color. What I did need, however, was new inspiration — something to lust after and crave, even if it was just an entry-level purchase of one very loud scarf. But that scarf became a gateway to a small palette of variety; soon I owned a Bordeaux sweater and a cerulean skirt. It’s a start!
I’m no longer afraid of a pink coat, and since white’s back on the table post-August I plan on basing a whole cold-weather wardrobe around it. (Yes, I know white is “technically a lack of color” but honestly, wouldn’t that make the pants I’m wearing now “clear”? Exactly.) Maybe I’ll aim to wear one colorful thing a day…or a week…if for no other reason than to be identifiable on Google Maps as the little red dot walking around Manhattan in a wintry sea of New York City black.