This is the number of summer-wearable garments in my closet that are black. With jackets, leggings and all high winter-wear excluded, I am left with a see-through slip dress, high-waist linen pants, one black-tie skirt that belonged to my mother, a cotton nightgown that is actually charcoal, a cotton top with big-ass sleeves, a cotton top with small-ass sleeves, denim shorts with tromple l’oeil stitching on them, a blouse that’s also green and red, and one pair of jeans with embroidered daisies. That’s actually ten. But nine sounds better.
I was unengaged in harmless small talk a couple of weeks ago when I heard myself saying, “I don’t wear black.” The recipient of this comment laughed as if I was making a joke which I assure you I was not, only to be confronted by my own curiosity when it occurred to me that being born and raised in New York tends to infer an allegiance to the color. One I do not know and have never maintained. Left to my own devices, I can probably wax poetic on why, philosophically, interpersonally, anthropologically speaking, the color and I are at odds, but the reason independent of that reach is simple: Black clothes are boring.
AND SO AM I!
Which, you know, is why I have to distract the public from discovering the truth about me, cue the fanfare — raffia skirts and feather trims, rhinestone footwear and prints galore. Sometimes I look like a human canvas that is derivative of 500 years of art history. Never, however, do I feel like one, which is unfortunate for my intellect but that is neither here nor there.
Three years ago, I challenged myself to wear black pants and a white shirt (pieces that all magazines geared towards the female population suggest every woman should own) for the sum of a week to see if they (the garments) live up to their hype. Ultimately, I decided that they did, but I’m pretty sure I was wrapped up in some version of IVF-induced psychological turmoil that was forcing me to see a half-empty glass as half full (in reading it again, all I could hear through the jokes about genomics and airport security and see through the half smiles painted over blazers and silk is myself wanting so desperately to feel comfortable in skin I did not want to be in. Tangent! Should all the editors go back in time to old stories to see if they can identify how they felt at the initial time of writing?) so it is not without its biases. Last week, I challenged myself to wear only black in an attempt to determine if, by the rules of being a New Yorker, outfitting oneself in spades of darkness can cultivate some uh, delightful benefits.
This is what I learned:
It is much fucking easier than forcing your closet to backflip, circus-style every morning. Maybe this is a function of how few black garments I own, maybe it just makes outfit repeating more palatable. (To be clear, the only reason outfit repeating is not often palatable for me is because I like using different days as an excuse to put on different personalities generated through clothing choices.) But getting out of bed and being confronted with the question, “What should I wear,” is less stressful to answer when whatever you wear is presumably going to look almost exactly like it did the day before. Which leads me to the second thing I learned — a conflict to be sure:
I have not given black a fair chance. You can be far more creative than I previously thought by solidly committing to a color — accessories are your oyster! Wear a blue hat and red sunglasses. Add beads. Or don’t. Frankly, I didn’t, but that is for another reason, we’ll get to it shortly. Another interesting thing I found from this exercise is that committing to solid black clothing makes you look more formal even if that was not the intention.
This is easier than I thought it would be!
But by day 4, when the sun came out again and I just wanted to wear a khaki vest and matching shorts, dammit, but had to submit myself to embroidered jeans and a peplum (doesn’t sound so terrible, right?), I was done. As in: BASTA! FINITO! NO MAS! The prospect of getting dressed bored the hell out of me and the revelation that technically, I could probably include as many accouterments (Hats! Bags! Earrings! Beads!) as my heart desired overwhelmed me. Which is probably why when I tried to incorporate all of said accouterments at once, I looked like a shoplifter using her person to steal goods from a mall-bred accessories kiosk.
And on the last, last day? I thought about rebelling — wearing an orange striped shirt with neon yellow board shorts and turquoise shoes but frankly, I felt great in a plain black long sleeve t-shirt, biker shorts, and satin mules! I wanted to wear it again. So I did. Could it be that I am no longer so concerned with striking the sartorial balance and equivalent of a Michelin-rated meal on a cheap paper plate or am I simply evolving? Lately, I just want to feel put together. I’m sick of the fanfare, just give me sturdy clothes. Is this what growing up feels like? It is possible that I am just on the side of peanut butter syndrome trying to get the damn goo off the roof of my mouth, but for now, I’ll call myself a real New Yorker. For now.