Certain rules are so affixed to our identities that to break them would be like drinking a cold brew with no caffeine, or riding a bicycle whilst wearing no knickers. Dang nonsensical.

Well! Stop all the clocks, as W. H. Auden once wrote, because I’ve gone and sold my soul to the dark side. That’s right. Me, a lover of color, forcibly incapable of the ascetic, has fallen in love with black and white.

My eschewal of the color-free life for my first 29 years was not one borne out of deliberate resistance. There was no such intention, nor any underlying narrative. It was more a dismal belief that I couldn’t be chic in simple and non-shouty fashion (like, say, that of British Vogue’s Sarah Harris, who does this so famously well). I feared it wouldn’t feel authentic, that I’d look like a fraud and, in turn, the black-and-whiteness of the outfit would make me look pale and boring and then everyone would realize how pale and boring I actually am. See how it escalates?

But then I quit my job as an editor at The Sunday Times Style in January, I turned 30 and, cliché as it may be, I started to look at myself and my wardrobe with fresh eyes. “Who am I?” I thought, dreamily surveying myself in the mirror like Derek from Zoolander. And then I thought, “How do I wish to clothe me?”

I decided I feel a little bit less razzmatazz. Not always, mind you. I still love to dress up in the evenings. But I felt like flashing less flesh, wearing flatter shoes, keeping things comfortable (anyone else find they’re really shying away from ostentatiously corseted items or complicated hems and whistles and bows and dresses with 487 things going on?). I felt like — and I’m loathe to use this explanation because of the patronizing relationship it implies between color and youth — I’d grown up a bit. I felt like I’d grown in to black and white. Like I’d earned it. I’d shrugged it on and it finally fit. Here it was, presented forth to me, in a way that now made sense and I was rrrrready.

Once I fell hook, line and sinker for black and white — and it happened gradually; I couldn’t tell you an exact date, just that I found myself wearing black jeans with a white T-shirt and a white blazer, and triptychs of this same color-free color wheel more and more — I realized that, like many great discoveries, there was so much more to it than I’d realized. There are worlds within this monochrome world. And the choice was plentiful.

More than any other shoot I’ve done for Man Repeller, I had pieces vying to be included in this shoot. My Realisation Par polkadot wrap dress is still pissed off with me, as is my black denim skirt and my white Racil blazer. And my black silk Rosetta Getty palazzo pants and my Maison Cleo white cotton puff-sleeved blouse.

See, here, the myriad ways of black and white. The milkmaid prettiness, espoused by Rejina Pyo’s iconic Greta dress (the shape is so flattering) made modern with the black stitching.

Then we have sci-fi monochrome modernity, in this supremely comfortable yet streamlined combination of heavy jersey skirt, silk blouse and leather over-the-knee boots. Not an inch of flesh in sight and yet, because of the lack of color (I think), I felt really sexy rather than librarian-like.

Last but not least, we have black and white as I know it best: a detail-orientated, vintage-cued blouse (this one is actually by an excellent young New York-based brand called Oresund Iris, but mostly this component would be an actual vintage blouse) and black jeans.

These outfits all feel so different, and yet, they are bound together by their monochromatic status.

I once thought a black and white outfit had no scope for adventure or personal interpretation. I stand corrected. These outfits feel more me, right now, than most of my wardrobe put together. I haven’t entirely lost my penchant for color. I’m still reaching for it in my accessories: sunshine yellow Manolo Blahnik mules; beaded Mochi earrings; the vintage pink canvas Prada bag that the internet cannot find me but which I remain devoted to. Start the clocks again. My revelation, startling as it was? Not so much of a revelation or a personal departure, after all.

Photos by Frances Davison.

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  • Hayley

    Beautifully styled. The blouse in the third lewk is calling to me!

  • tmm16

    Absolutely in love with the second look. That Danse bag!

  • Ellie Wendland

    Pandora, you are the freaking coolest. I wish you were my friend/mentor/best friend

  • I love this. I think that for me the choice of wearing black and white comes with the season and the weather (black and white are for cold winters and breezy falls), but from reading this I realize black and white comes from a certain attitude. A maturing of attitude of sorts. It’s refreshing to hear, in my seemingly fast approaching later years I will consider this color palette as a note of all my acclaimed experiences!

  • Elizabeth Tamkin

    It’s so cool that when an outfit is dominated by white, it still seems colorful just because there’s a BEING wearing it who brings it to life. I love that first look. Also cool because you could hide a small child or 3 under the skirt!

  • Amanda Orlando

    I would LOVE to read about how to wear color if you love black and white. Always a struggle for me

    • Jeanie

      I would like to see that too. Personally, I think adding minimal nature-y colors give a similar vibe. Like a pale pink top with black pants or a very natural forest green shirt. I think a black and white outfit with jewel tonned shoes look great too.

  • Robin

    these PHOTOS!!!!!11!

  • Companion piece for how to wear color if you LIVE in black and white, please.

    • Selina Moses

      I’ve seen quite a few of these lurking around. The blogger usually recommends having a statement colour pop piece in a neutral look. I find them pretty much all the same and it’s not as difficult as it might sound, adding colour. I’d like to see many more bloggers wear colour instead of the same old basic neutrals

  • Selena Delgado

    Bravo, so well done.

  • Kay Nguyen

    Love everything! Your style is on point <3

    https://www.myblackcloset.com/

  • Tori Johnson

    WOW YES to that Danse Lente bag! Been on the hunt for a white bag lately and I don’t own a bucket bag (sorry, Mansur ruined that silhouette for me) but this one is lovely! Very into the thicc brown strap also. #shooketh

  • Andrea

    WHY only 3 looks?! More, please.

  • Jumped down here after reading the first sentence to say that I read it as: “riding a bicyclist whilst wearing no knickers” and I was like WUT?

    • Pandora Sykes

      DOn’t do that either. PAINFUL I RECKON

  • Zoe Baldwin

    Can you write the opposite of this article? lol

  • Mary | O Blog da Mary

    Perfect looks, insane text! Love your blog girl!

    Mary | O Blog da Mary
    https://oblogdamary.wordpress.com/

  • yea to monochromes, always

    ww.mycitymylondon.me

  • Natalie Redman

    Love these outfits. So pretty!

    http://www.upyourvlog.com