I’ll bet like most people, you have been led to believe that wearing black is a staple of elegance and neutrality that is universally appropriate in your makeup and clothing.
I’m about to say the unthinkable – black may very well be making you look unapproachable, harsh and older. Wait! Don’t click off just yet!
Stay with me because I have a feeling if you’re interested in how to look radiant, attractive, and youthful, you’ll want to read the theory behind why banishing the color black from your wardrobe and makeup could be a turning point for you, and at the end I’ll give you a few awesome alternatives.
Black as an invisibility cloak
I was sitting in a style workshop run by Katherine Johnson who teaches how to align your appearance to powerfully communicate who you are more effectively.
She had me join as a guest to speak about how makeup also plays an important role in style communication from the neck up.
Being a dutiful participant, I was excited to hear what I could learn from Katherine about crafting my own style too.
That is until she declared that certain clothing, especially in the color black, can be seen as protective armor and/or an invisibility cloak when worn by most people – and I was one of those people.
I felt my stomach churn and my heart drop.
So if I wanted to communicate a message of trust and openness, black had to leave my wardrobe??
(Insert sound of internal wailing here.)
Wearing Black for Survival
Wearing all black is THE uniform in the fashion world.
I was kind of having a death grip reaction to the idea of banishing black in my wardrobe.
Working in fashion was rarely about if I was a good artist.
I had to become tough as nails, impenetrable and able to see the calculating wolves around me. I walked a tightrope built on the webs of fragile egos, authoritarian power and privilege.
It was emotionally abusive. Even in the moments of my career when I was included to be among the biggest and best, I never felt safe.
And when I shared all that with Katherine, her eyes got bigger and she exclaimed, “That sounds really traumatic!”
Yes, it was traumatic. I started to see that black was part of my survival. A way to show I was badass, or to fit in and hide.
In that moment I realized that part of my path to healing from that experience, is getting rid of the color black, and allowing myself to be vulnerable and seen in a new way.
Wanting to be un-seen because it’s safer
Some of us are choosing invisibility on purpose, or without realizing it entirely.
There is a false sense of safety in invisibility.
In so many areas of life we are getting the constant conflicting message of “be great, but not too great as to threaten those in power”.
From a young age we’re taught, “You can be anything you want, just don’t make anyone uncomfortable in their set of norms.”
It creates a cycle of self-expression suppression.
The opposing desire to be singled out and for praised on your talents and gifts, but not singled out for being too different.
Katherine pointed out that how you approach your clothing sets an intention for the day that carries over into your entire life, which is something I often say to my clients about their beauty routines.
Banishing Black from Makeup
I got to thinking about the amount of times I have told clients to stop wearing black on their eyes.
Some women can pull it off, but it’s the exception, not the rule.
Wearing all black liner around the eyes (especially underneath) adds a harsh quality that diminishes the ability to see other features in an open and clear way.
It can also be incredibly aging to have too much black around your face.
…so Katherine and I were saying similar things from our varying expert perspectives.
FYI – The only women who can really pull off black for their eyes without detracting from their appearance are those who already have close to black hair and/or dark skin. Even still, it should be paired with other colors to soften the impact.
Black can be elegant and timeless.
It’s also easy and thoughtless to wear all black and simply recede, which is exactly what it does to your eyes.[Read: 4 Steps To Timeless Makeup: Tips from A Pro]
Black as a color has long been associated with expressing rebellion and anger. It’s the hallmark of the “cool crowd” –- who are usually acting tough and making poor decisions about their overall wellbeing.
We are pulled into its stillness and quiet depths wondering what is in the abyss.
That mystery that can be seen as sexy.
A lot of time one just finds more darkness. There’s a reason it’s also a color associated with mourning.
Alternatives to wearing black
For makeup, I’m a major fan of plum, charcoal and navy on the eyes as they work so well with every eye color. You can even use a chestnut brown for something a little softer.
In terms of clothes, Katherine teaches people how to find their “element” and then offers colors that complement that element.
One of the most important rules she has is that your clothing shouldn’t get in the way of people seeing you. I would agree 100% that the same is true for makeup.
Start considering who you want to be seen as and what your appearance is telling people about you with its subtle messages.
Maybe like me, you’ll start to release the death grip you’ve had on the security blanket that is black, and things will look a whole light brighter when you do!
So where do you stand on the color of black in your makeup and clothing? Let me know in the comments below!
Images by Toto Cullen. Makeup and hair by Kristen Arnett.
Join the discussion 15 Comments
I’ve been in a soul-draining marriage for 13 years. Healing and gaining strength to leave right now. Last month, after uncovering and healing some lingering core issues, I noticed that nearly everything in my closet is black, gray or white. Mainly black.
Started buying navy blue to swap for my neutral. Have a feeling my color spectrum will change as my mindset and location does over the next few months.
You are way to young and pretty to hide yourself behind black! You shine, your clothes should reflect that!
My dearest Teresa, I’m so touched that you took the time to share where you’re at with regards to the sentiment of this article. What a powerful insight after healing to see that your clothes were reflecting a state of mind that was no longer serving you. I can’t wait to hear more about how this helps add momentum to your journey to freedom and filled-up-energy! And thank you for acknowledging my path as well. I agree – it’s time to be seen and shine!!
If I own anything that is totally black it was a gift. Black is an extremely cool color and I’m warm complected. When I was younger and wore it near my face people always asked me if I was sick because it washed me out. White is the same way. I only buy either if it’s in a pattern of colors that I do like and are flattering. My wardrobe pretty much looks like Lisa Frank’s art but leans toward warmer colors as well as blue and green which are among my favorite colors. I don’t wear makeup other than clear lip balm or just wear a little concealer or foundation.
I have a decent amount of clothing that’s black, but it’s probably 10-20% of my wardrobe, and I *never* wear black on my face. On the rare occasions that I don eye makeup, it’s shades of purple and/or silver. 😉
Since I know you pretty well, I have to say lots of color is totally your personality! Oh you are such the purple queen! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, dear Alexandra!
I’ve never worn much black because I just tend to choose what I like, and that is a wide variety of colors. I’m more interested in comfort and enjoying the color than fitting in or wearing a type of uniform. I have enough confidence in my ability to fight back if need be that I don’t have to try to look tough. I look like a baguette but I don’t fight like one! 😀
As for makeup, black eyeliner makes my eyes look smaller and that is something I really don’t want! I usually don’t use the stuff, but if I do, it’s usually brown or grey. Makeup should be fun and make you feel better, not like you’re trying too hard to be trendy, at least in my personal philosophy. Most of the color in my makeup comes from a light blush and lipstick.
You look like a baguette!? Haha! What does that even mean? 🙂 Well, I totally can appreciate that you’ve figured out that black isn’t necessarily your best color.
I don’t wear black, it’s too serious and I’m more of a lighthearted person! I wear pale bluey greys instead, it’s much softer and lifts my skin tone!
?Love that you’re a natural skincare ambassador ?
Oh wow, I love that you consider yourself light-hearted and have already identified softer colors. Do they also complement your eyes? Oh yes, we natural beauties have to stick together 😉
I’ve lived in navy, wine and forest green clothing for years. I even bought some tangerine sandals, after all, orange is the new black! As for eye make-up, I wear a smoky plum liner or dark blue with blueberry mascara. I’m fair so black make-up makes me either look tired or like I got hit in the eye. ? I’m happy with the vegan/organic colors that I’ve found. And I’ve also had a very rough week, hang in there.
Wow! Tangerine sandals huh? I bet those look really great with navy too. Or did you wear them with another color? Yes, smoky plum on the eyes is a personal fav! Oh, and I’m sorry you’ve had a rough week. We’ll hang together. It’s all just a moment in time.
I stopped wearing black in June 2014 after starting a program called dressing your truth. I donated 7 large laundry baskets of black clothes, shoes, belts, coats etc to a local charity that gets women back on their feet. I haven’t looked back. Oh, I also wear no black in my makeup. I love it!
Wow! Sounds like a very similar approach. Good for you for donating the items to a worthy cause! An an extra pat on the back for no black in your makeup too, Suzanne! xo
Brown is my black, with help from dark wine and the occasional forest green and dark teal.
Black around the eyes? Why? For old ladies like me, nothing could be more aging.
One day you might devote a few words to the very boring and universally unflattering grey.
Oh yes! Apparently teal is a universally beautiful shade to wear. How did you figure out black wasn’t your thing? Ahhh…I have a feeling you’re not an old lady, but it’s good that you already know black around your eyes is aging. Grey is a trickier one, because it can be very flattering if it’s the right hue and tone. I like mine with a little kick of blue. 🙂