The Graying of America…

April 20, 2012

I bet you think I’m going to talk about your hair, don’t you? So many women are contemplating letting their locks go naturally gray and some are even doing it (and looking great!). I’m all for it if you feel good about it. But, that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about today.

One day, not too long ago, I was standing in line in New York City waiting to place my lunch order. With not much to do except look around (and gawk at the sheer number of people waiting to order and the efficiency with which the restaurant was handling the crowds), I did a little people-watching.

It will come as no surprise to you, I am sure, that I am always curious about what people are wearing. On this particular day, there had to be at least 30 people in line and about two-thirds of them were women. It shocked me to notice that every person (men and women) was wearing either gray or black. Yes, every single person! Not one person was wearing another color. Not one!

Well, that’s New York City for you, you might say. Maybe, but let me assure you that sadly the black/gray epidemic has spread beyond the Big Apple. When I gave a presentation to 140 young business women in the Boston area, ninety-eight percent of those in the audience were wearing black or gray (perhaps there was a smattering of navy blue but you get the idea). It was startlingly noticeable.

So, here’s what I’m wondering…Why?

Of course, I hear all the reasons from the women I work with but let’s really look at what gray and black are doing for you…or not doing for you, as the case may be. Let’s start with black because there is so much of it out there and everyone assumes it’s a great neutral.

1. Black goes with everything.

This is generally true if black looks good on you and you are wearing all your best colors with it (which are probably pretty strong colors). But, if your most flattering colors are soft and you try to mix them with black all eyes will be drawn automatically to the black because it will be too harsh compared to the colors that look best on you.

And, let me just say this about black. If it isn’t one of your best colors (and your best colors are based on your hair color, eye color, skin color and your personality) wearing black will naturally drain you, and I’m not just talking about color-wise. Black is very powerful and intense, and it will, if it’s not your best color, stifle your natural joy and radiance.

2. Black doesn’t show dirt.

True enough but there are lots of other beautiful dark colors that will do the same thing. So find the one(s) that look great on you, and they will hide a multitude of sins just as well as black does and often look more flattering.

3. Black is slimming.

Again, who cares if it’s slimming if the overall color is harsh and draining. Other deeper colors will do the same thing. And, guess what, even shades of white will work on you when the outfit is well balanced and in your most flattering colors. (I know the thought of wearing shades of white scares a lot of women so just keep breathing…). Creating a slimming effect is not just about color, by any means.

4. Black is a neutral.

For some it is. But for others it’s not. While some stylists believe that a neutral is a neutral, I don’t. I know that everyone has two or three great neutrals they can wear that work beautifully with their natural coloring and blend well with their best colors. They could include brown, navy, gray, black, camel, cream, and white. This creates a seamless look and gives you lots of ways to play with it without worrying about trying to make a color “work.” Who needs or wants that extra stress?

5. Black is easy.

While there is truth to this it’s mostly because the designers throw so much black (and gray) at us that you can build an entire wardrobe all in black in about 20 minutes. Will it be easy? Yes. Will it be satisfying and delicious? Usually not. As you begin to integrate more of your fabulous colors into your wardrobe, an all black outfit (unless black is really one of your absolute best colors) will lose its appeal.

In many women’s closets black is there for all the reasons above, and it’s no wonder that when they get dressed, they easily find an outfit that is “good enough” or “easy” but that feels lacking in personality. Why end up with an entire wardrobe of “good enough” when you can have (and deserve) so much more?

Now let’s look at gray for a minute, too.

For a couple of years now, gray has been the “new black,” and as a result many women have entire wardrobes created around this color. It felt refreshing to them after so much black, but they were hoodwinked into believing that everyone can wear it well and were told that’s because “it’s a neutral.” Yikes! Light gray only looks good on a tiny fraction of people but huge numbers of women are actually wearing it. Charcoal gray is slightly better but then it just comes close to black. Like any color, if it looks good on you then it’s amazing and that makes it a great neutral, otherwise leave it on the rack. (And, if you’re not sure, steer clear!)

I often hear women say, “But gray looks decent on me.” Be careful of this. In most situations, ‘decent’ is synonymous with “good enough,” and that is a far cry from awesome. There was so much gray in the stores that it made buying it easy but, again, this is not a way to build a lasting and delicious wardrobe. As Cheryl Richardson says, always pass up good for great!

It is never worth it to settle for colors you don’t love and that don’t look beautiful on you. Ninety-nine percent of the time you can find at least some of your best colors in the stores (or wait 2 weeks and new shipments of clothes come in in new colors and you can look again). Do this long enough (even in those seasons when the color choices are challenging), and you’ll have a complete (and beautiful) wardrobe. The more you hold firm and select only the colors that look great on you, the better chance you will have of creating a wardrobe you absolutely love. Give in too often and you end up with a ‘decent’ wardrobe – that doesn’t sound particularly inspiring or fun, does it!

This is one of the key steps in creating a beautiful wardrobe, and there’s very little “gray” area here.

Not sure what colors look best on you? Find a color expert (not someone who does colors by the seasons) and have your own personal palette created. It will be one of the best steps you’ve ever taken toward a fabulous wardrobe. For more information about what a consultation with me looks like, go here: https://totalimageconsultants.com/services/personal/color-analysis/

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