I Was Challenged To A Full Week In All Black

The results were anything but dull.

I didn't want to trust my eyes or my ears. Hoping the persistently dubious wifi was responsible for a digital miscommunication, I hit rewind. It couldn’t be that Anna Wintour, the authority on all things fashion, said what I feared I had heard during her 73 questions video feature with Vogue, the editorial battleship for which she is the decorated captain. But when the charming Karlie Kloss asked, “What would you never, ever wear?" the sovereign of style did, in fact, respond, and without hesitation, “Head to toe black.”
Come again?

If Anna says no to all black, doesn’t that make it fashion law? 

The answer is yes, but that hasn’t stopped me. I try to rationalize forgetting Anna’s comment, which has traumatized me for almost two years now, as a predisposition that simply comes with a New York birth certificate — possibly the only thing in the world she doesn’t have. Born a New Yorker, I’d say I bleed black but only in the most stylistic sense of the expression. I don’t know who conceived of the formula that adding boldness to an all-black attire yields the fiercely stylish kind of New York woman who's headed places and doing so in stilettos, but it’s helped me through my Manhattan years and explains the current state of my wardrobe. So when my editor challenged me to a full week in just this familiar shade, I welcomed it — excited to channel my roots, curious about how digging through my closet would bring to life a color that is too often associated with grief.  

Black isn’t a sad color. Its mystery is falsely pinned as negative. In psychology, in fashion, in life, it’s widely understood that black covers while white brings to light. But the element of the unknown, which we are inclined to fear, translates differently into clothes. A woman dressed in black is one that is alluring, who piques your interest. She isn't just confident, she leaves you needing to know upon what success, stories, and secrets that enviable characteristic is built. Her choice in outfit reveals things she herself won't ever tell. So this challenge wasn’t just part of completing seven days in one single color. It was about selecting the right combinations of materials, accessories and fits for each day to allow every outfit its own monochromatic narrative. Fashion, after all, is its own languages — and the powerful ability to use clothing as an expressive outlet does not need to be compromised because you’re in all black. I’ve got a full week of proof.  

I was born in the 90s, so I have an inherent affinity for leather. Raised in London, I used to explore the streets of Camden Town, a breeding ground for multicolored mohawks, piercings, punk and Doc Martins. Any style works of you make it your own, that’s what growing up in big cities has taught me. Leather is a material I’ve assimilated and reworked into my wardrobe in various forms, and for the office a good leather pant, when styled correctly, evokes a similar fearlessness that makes Camden Town and its regulars so intriguing. Start your week off with a bang and unleash your inner rock star —the power pant was not envisioned exclusively for the bottom half of a suit. If you’re not ready to commit to this tough-girl texture, vegan leather is a good alternative. I paired my pants, a cherished purchase from the now-closed Patricia Field boutique in downtown Manhattan, with a more breathable, loose top. Leather can get as hot as it looks. 

Tip: Washing this fabric isn't easy, but a lot of dry cleaning labels can be misleading. Refinery 29 spoke to The Laundress and published some helpful tips here.

Playing with texture is one of the best ways to make sure your black isn’t boring. For a lunch on Tuesday, I brought three different materials to the table — a geometric, knit top, satin pants and suede shoes. A neutral color like black gives you the liberty to get experimental with your ensemble, and this example is not nearly as extreme as you can go. Think mixing fur with velvet. Or why not velvet on velvet? You can double up on the same material without getting too over the top because you’re working with one simple color palette. 

Tip: If you're like me and you put on the color black more than you put on a bra (#freethenipple), you should have a lint roller always accessible. They come in small sizes that you can slip right into your (black) tote or leave in a desk drawer to tackle these fickle fibers, especially before a meeting or a lunch.  

Halfway to Friday, but not halfway through the challenge. While climbing the proverbial mountain that is midweek, I opted for something that wouldn't weigh me down. I picked a lightweight tunic, loose pants and slip-on sneakers. I felt like I was dipping my toes into Man-Repelling territory (Leandra Medine was on the same all-black wavelength last week sporting all black in Brooklyn) because this look intentionally lacks silhouette, but an afternoon of errands should be as comfortable as it is fashion conscious. Subtle details like a long zipper or a feminine collar give your lazy look a lift — black helps too. This is as close as I'll get to conforming to the new era of fashion where sweatpants are now acceptable in bars. 

Tip: While black is a color that hides, don't think you're getting away without pressing your dark garb. This tunic wrinkles easily, and I learned that putting a garment on straight after ironing can actually create new wrinkles. Let the press sit for a few minutes so you don't undo the job. 

The key to any successful diet, according to many nutritionists, is allowing yourself a cheat day. I applied this mentality to my challenge and took the liberty of bending the rules when the fourth day of my seven-day challenge rolled around. Consider my decorated shoes like a baguette for someone eliminating carbs, and also consider it a teaching moment. A great way to amplify an all-black look is with a statement accessory like a necklace, a clutch, or a ring. I've seen style mavens accessorize in ways that make me feel as though we've entered in some kind of meet cute and I've lost my words to an exquisite accoutrement. That's what happened when I saw these black ankle boots, embellished with floral embroidery. Are the shoes black? Technically. Have they been swallowed by colorful, efflorescent stitching that can cause a New Yorker to rethink her whole closet? Maybe. It was time for them to have their moment when I was out to post-work drinks at a bar in the heart of Paris. 

Tip: The US produces 21 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste per year, and the number is growing. This includes clothing, footwear, accessories, drapery, towels and bedding. Instead of adding to this unfortunate consequence of the industry, help alleviate what ends up in our landfills and explore the world of vintage and thrift. My top is a vintage corset that has not only seen me through seasons of trends, but embodies an important approach to clothing and to the environment that I've adopted as a conscious consumer.

Last day of the work week, and I'm taking dress down seriously. Feeling like a superhero, I picked a dress that had a transparent black cape. Leather made its second appearance  in the form of a vintage bomber I found deep in the Marais upon arrival in Paris, still smelling fresh of Manhattan. My large, black pebble-leather tote fits what I need for work, and what I need to fly directly out of the office to meet friends, no time wasted. But it wasn't the moment to celebrate just yet. The work week might've been over, but I had the weekend left to prove that I could keep this color alive for a whole seven days. 

Tip: Protect your leather against all the elements with a product like Chamberlain's Leather Milk. Cosmopolitan UK also recommends wiping your bag down once a week with a mild liquid soap and warm water and to avoid holding it if you've just applied hand cream. More tips for loving your leather here

Saturdays are synonymous with strolls along the Seine, catching up on exhibitions you’ve missed followed by some kind of soirée – that is, if you live in Paris. If your back drop is Monet’s lily pads at l'Orangerie, black isn’t a bad choice when you’re wrapped in a masterpiece of color. The itinerary of an evening out in Paris can be a marathon of late dinner, apéro and drinks, and all-night dancing that can only be brought to an end by beautifully-heeled but blistered feet. I completed it in all black but kept the look simple. This outfit was a hole-in-one, because the whole look is just one piece. A jumpsuit. Elegant because of the way it’s tailored, sexy because of it’s simple dip at the chest, and chic because of it’s color, this onesie is my top choice for many occasions. Paired with a good stiletto, a clutch I inherited from my grandma and an accent of red at the lip, I was set for the night.
Tip: Whether you pick stick over spray, the all-night boogie can result in unwanted deodorant marks on your most adored attire. Try and treat immediately so the stain doesn't set. Make-up removing wipes could do the trick, or an old pair of pantyhose which work well on delicate materials like silk. Simply using a damp washcloth to remove those unwelcome white streaks could get the job done. 

There is something irresistible about a secluded park, the unread pages of a good book and the promise of solitude. We spend so much time working, cultivating social and professional bonds we hope will flourish into the foundations of a promising future, and endless hours consumed by the digital connectivity of social media that it's easy to neglect the importance of alone time. Armed with a novel, I was unconnected and off duty Sunday, except, of course, for this assignment in my raven-like garb. This challenge forced me to crawl far back into my wardrobe, recalling outfits and inspirations of another time. I fund a true gem — or better, an onyx — that was hiding in the back of the closet, as if laid to rest, that must have been from my early college years. It is a double-slit skirt with a mermaid fit at the top, flashing enough skin you could almost count flesh as a second color. Needing to keep warm, I paired this find with a structured sweater and a triangular shaped necklace I found reflective of the skirt’s silhouette. Hair tossed up in an effortless Sunday 'do, the only thing left was to pick the right author who would be spending the afternoon with me. Matching the font was unintentional.

Tip: Sunday is also laundry day. To keep my dark clothes from fading, my mom taught me to wash them inside out and with cold water. I've also read you can add white vinegar during the rinse cycle to help colors set and to prevent a build-up of detergent residue, a culprit of color fading. 

To shop the looks from this article, click through the slideshow below: 
Karen Kane loose-fitting v-neck top, $89
Lulus vegan leather pant, $55
Jeffrey Campbell leather bootie, $220
Sandro geometric textured top, €117
H Halston satin pant, $29.59
Barney's rounded-toe suede pump, $295
Lacoste sunglasses, $176
Monki tunic, $39.50
Joe Fresh drawstring pant, $6.94
Steve Madden slip on sneaker, $59.95
Rebecca Minkoff satchel, $375
American Apparel crepe pant, $68
ASOS floral ankle boots, $81
Asos cape dress, $36
Leather bomber on Etsy, $83.78
Everlane leather tote, $365
Chamberlain's leather protectant, $17.95
Vince Camuto jumpsuit, $98
Aldo stilettos, $75
Vintage black clutch on Etsy, $23.27
Bobbi Brown red lip pencil, $28
Zara high neck swear, $25.90
Asos double-slit skirt, $41
Forever 21 triangle necklace, $3.99
All photos by Marina Manesi.