All-Black Outfit: High School Stage Manager or Chic Mofo?

In the photo above you’ll find the reigning queen of the all-black ensemble, Vogue Paris’s Emmanuelle Alt, and her midnight monochromatic Parisian cohorts.

I mean do they look chic or do they look chic? Rhetorical question.

But here’s one that actually needs to be answered: how is it that some women have the ability to don head-to-toe-black and look absolutely cool, whereas I feel like a high school play stage manager just one step short of holding a clip board and wearing a headset?

“It’s Amelia. Do you copy? The fiddler cannot find his roof. I repeat: The fiddler cannot find his roof. Over.”

I think my phobia stems from past jobs where wearing all black was not a sartorial choice but rather, a requirement. It’s like wardrobe PSTD — and apparently my flashbacks come in the form of the color in question. But then I look at photos like the one above, or at the individuals of whom I brush shoulders with down the congested streets of Manhattan, and it makes me quite certain that if I’ve figured out how to wear all white without looking like a snow globe then surely there’s a formula to looking cool in all black.

So I did some research.

First and foremost, I stalked photos of Emmanuelle like I’d been assigned to a case of her missing person. There’s bad news and good news on this front so I’ll relay the bad news first, which is: she is A) French, B) Emmanuelle Alt, C) tall and D) not, in fact, a high school stage manager. Ok fine. I can roll with that because to D’s point, I’m not either. And I’ve accepted my height and that I am not an Alt. If you’re ok with all of these in regards to yourself then we can move on to the good news, which is:

It’s the details that make monochrome cool.

Take, for example, Marc Jacob’s last collection for Louis Vuitton. It was entirely black save for interspersed denim, and yet you’d be wild to call it boring. There were feathers, and stitching, and embroidery and cross hatched sequins. But black feathers and sequins can take a turn for gothic arts-n-crafts hour rather quickly, so it’s best to leave this type of detailing to the pros at Vuitton and instead focus your attention on such attributes as beautiful tailoring, stitching, buttons, pleats, divots and hardware — anything to break up the pattern of color.

It’s also about layering, and proportions. Throw a black denim jacket over a black tee, tuck said tee into dangerously low skinny pants that are sliced just above the ankle (and I really think the bare ankle can help you here), add a pump and everyone’s gonna be all — “Emmanuelle? Is that you?” And then imagine this look with a gigantic cashmere scarf in the color of a panther’s coat, wrapped all around your neck for an added swath of texture. Doesn’t that sound delicious? And attainable? And cool?

Almost to the point where you could add a walkie-talkie and people might assume it’s the newest accessory to covet.

“BREAKING,” I imagine the headlines would read. “THE LOOK OF THE SEASON IS BEHIND-THE-SCENES CHIC,” and then the subtitles: “You’re no one this winter if not a stage manager for a high school play.”

The fiddler may have lost his roof, but we just got our all-black groove back.

And now its your turn to talk! Does wearing all black scare you? Or what about all one-color in general? Why? Or if this look is your go-to staple, how do you make it look cool? Cogitate, you buttered waffles. We’re dying to read your words.

  • mariah serrano

    you’re a goofball and that’s why we’re friends

  • Yennie F.

    All black is by far my most recently favorite ensemble, so I say yes, yes, yessss

    • Same here. I used to stay away from black but I’m finding it to shave like 20lbs off when I look in the mirror. I don’t mind it anymore. I suspect i’ll be a black bean chic all fall and Winter with the exception of any coats I buy for the weather.

  • Megan Corletto

    All black everythang forever.

  • npz

    Wearing All Black reminds me of my days of working backstage shows during NYFW , which meant long hours, lots of work and BS. So even then I tried to spice things up with a nice scarf or some cool pair of kicks, I honestly don’t like the whole black look, it lacks imagination and it honestly feels like you are trying too hard.

  • CarlyAnn.F

    I’ve been sporting the black on black look before it became so widely trendy. My trick to making it cool is layering different textures of black and adding a great statement neck piece. You’ll only look like a stage manager if you feel like one. Add some confidence and swagger to the equation and you’ll be fine. *great writing!!!

    • Annie

      Honey, it’s always been widely trendy. 🙂

  • I almost always wear nothing but black to the office. If it was good enough for Johnny Cash, it’s good enough for me! 🙂 Also I have an inner goth child that begs to get out.

  • Charlotte Fassler

    Bartending sort of ruined all black for me. I feel like I used to indulge in all black ensembles shamelessly but once I began associating a black shirt, black pants and an all black shoe with countless grimy jobs I used to work.
    Plus I like converse….the indelible mark of a stage manager.

  • Laura

    I’m all black all the time, Love it.

  • Michelle

    Chic ass mofo. Like, honestly, the chicest of chic. You wear all black and instantly feel like you could walk across the street while a solid orange hand is showcased on the other side of the road (but don’t do that because danger).

  • Devin

    After living in Eastern Europe for one year, I caught that monochrome bug, bad, especially for winter. Texture is a big part of making this look sexy and cool. For example, just yesterday I wore all black (I’m here in SE Idaho and it’s freezing), BLACK leather jacket, skinnies, leather gloves, chashmere scarf, and ankle booties, ironically with a small gap showing a bit of ankle. The combo came together quite well, but I don’t like to brag but random strangers said so…anyways, all black looks sophisticated, mature, and slimming. Be bold, be confident, be you.

  • Amatoria Clothing

    I do think it looks chic, but it still feels a little sad to me. I actually like all black better in the summer, when you show more skin. It breaks up the black, and hopefully you have a nice tan to show off. The rest of the year I am pasty, and since I have dark hair, doing an all-black look would make me look gothic/suicidal.
    For some reason what I am wearing really affects my mood, so I just can’t do that to myself. Especially because if it’s cold outside, I am probably already slightly suicidal. A black outfit would just add to my depression and lead to me making an irrational purchase of a plane ticket to anywhere warm.

  • em

    I remember the days in high school when people assumed I was just a goth when I wore all black – little did they know how chic I really was! Still not over my all black ensembles. I think the key is confidence and incorporating some fine leather pieces!

  • Lilli

    all black = life. Not only does it look ridiculously good on at all times but it is the only colour (aside from white/creme) that can all be worn together without looking like a clown. Imagine an all yellow or all blue outfit.. HELL NO haha!

  • Candice

    Once you go black……

  • Gita Bončina

    All black forever and ever, amen! Although sometimes I feel like a stage manager for a high school play…


  • ChloeH

    As an Asian chick with black hair, I always find it too much for an all black ensemble. I always feel like pulling my hair up to break up the blackness or to avoid looking like going to the funerals blah

  • Jen


  • It’s the pumps that are definitely the game changer. Have you ever tried to be a stage manager in pumps?

  • YES. Black is beautiful! I take care to wear (combine) only textures, surfaces and designs that have “quality” written all over them. It doesn’t necessarily mean they were expensive, but I don’t do used black, washed-out black, greyish black, overstretched or damaged surfaces or anything like that. Just pure, elegant black.

    Some time ago, I read about the so-called “season color types”: I found out I was of winter type and can wear black if I want to, but should also wear strong contrasts and lots of strong, cold colors (no pastels, no yellowish tones, almost no orange, but real screaming pink, royal blue, silver, white (and transparent), bluish green etc.) The reason I decided to stick to my presumably optimal color scheme was that I liked the colors that were supposed to be good for me. And black is still the most important one. I don’t even feel “gothic” in it 🙂

  • Ai-Ch’ng GB

    Hahaha, “buttered waffles” – just ate three of those as I read this article.

    With black hair and dark eyes, I just don’t feel like myself (happy) in all-black ensembles: too funereal. I have just the one pair of tie-dye black-and-white skinny jeans and black leather baggy pants worn with a cobalt T or grey singlet for period days.

    Now, all-red outfits are a different story! I’ll wear all-red in skinny or drop-crotch jeans, with a matching or slightly off-scarlet/burgundy loose-fit T. Same for all-grey (same shade or slightly different in any cut of jeans and tops/sweater); all-olive as a baggy singlet with drop-crotch cotton pants (makes me feel like I’m going to camp); all-cobalt in jeans and T (it’s cheery in winter and celebratory in summer); all-burgundy (perfect for period days – sorry, I seem to have a fixation about that presently); and – recently – all-white (loose T and loose jeans makes me feel like an escapee from a distant, hippy Indian ashram… not suitable for the days when you have – err – I’m sure you already guessed).

    The only times I wear all-black are
    (1) as a semi-fitted, calf-length, long-sleeve lace dress (very “Nonna”: and probably because I’ve got my period – I’d wear colour, otherwise) with an ivory or cobalt slip underneath and long turquoise and red coral earrings
    (2) as funeral outfits: a jacket and loose pants to funerals in winter, and a loose, all-black silk dress with a racer back I sewed to wear with a scarf for funerals in hot weather.

    I would wear all-black if I had blonde hair… but as I’m staying with my black hair (until it goes grey in the not-too-distant future), all-black outifts are a no-go for me.

  • Mollyjanemcg

    Personally, after traipsing around 1986-1989 in all black, I rarely wear this color scheme. But if I do, I usually feel too dressed up and need to casualize it with sneakers or tube socks or a baseball hat. Or something utterly goofy. But those French girls have an accessory I only enjoy in memories…those smokies. Ah. They make all black look a little cooler. Parents who said that smoking wasn’t cool and didn’t look cool were big fat liars.

  • AG

    Completely monochromatic outfits are amazing but their perfection is all in the details and accessories. Loose wavy hair with an all black outfit, or a sleek pony tail or bun while you’re in head to toe fuchsia can look super chic. Pearls make any outfit classy, or adding an assortment of vintage brooches for an extra bit of sparkle are insta-chic. ALWAYS wear badass shoes, always.

  • cris

    wearing a GOOD all black outfit…make me feel strong and self confidence…is like i were the boss of the company without been it 😀

  • Rosie

    I loveee the all black look. Damn its just perfect for anyone. I mean think about it, if your curvy you can wear all black and it benifits you in smalling your figure. If your tall and wirey, you can wear all black and you look like a model, if your in the middle you have the benefits of all. Black is just classy, and timeless for anyone.