Black vs. Brown: What’s Your Best Neutral?

October 14, 2015

As I navigate through the stores shopping with clients for their fall/winter wardrobes I am overcome by the sheer amount of black available. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate black. Nearly everyone (myself included) has at least some of it in her closet, but the sea of black that unfolds before my eyes in every store I enter means there is that much less room for color.

I am not here today to talk to you about the lack of fashion colors, in general. I am here instead to talk about the absence of a very important neutral that has all but disappeared completely.

I am talking about brown.

Go ahead. Search online for brown anything and watch what comes up. Tan, taupe, caramel, whiskey, honey and even beige. What is missing is a true dark brown that is one of the most versatile neutrals.


Not since I first became an image consultant 28 years ago have the stores been so void of this practical, beautiful color.

Again, there is nothing wrong with black. But, often as we get older, in particular, too much black can look harsh and even squelch the warmth and vibrancy in your skin and eyes.

Those of you who rock black are shaking your head in disbelief.

But for those of you who look in the mirror and feel tired or look in your closet and feel burdened by all the black in there, you know what I am talking about.

The truth is that in many cases a true dark brown is a much more forgiving neutral than black. But, right now, you have to search high and low to find it and even then you often come up empty-handed.

Last fall I spent hours upon hours searching for brown ankle boots both for myself and some clients and finally gave up. I am back at it again, but if anything it is even harder than it was last year.

So, this newsletter is for those of you who are sick of drowning in black and want another neutral (and no, gray is often not your best alternative). Dark brown is perfect. (Navy is another but let’s not go there right because there is still some of that in the stores…thankfully!)

To begin your love affair with brown:

Choose Your Brown Wisely

Not all browns are created equal. While most blacks can be combined relatively easily, that is not necessarily true with brown. Some browns are cool, some are warm.

The brown that is the most flattering brown is a very, very dark brown.

Here is an example:

The brown below, however, is much more difficult to wear. It looks great on redheads and other people with really warm skin and hair, but when I talk about brown as a neutral this is not the one to which I refer:

Matching Browns

It is true. When you wear black most blacks go together (although not always). With brown the variations are much trickier to work with which is exactly why I am sharing this information with you.

Go HERE to see many, many basics (and some fun pieces) all in a beautiful neutral brown that will mix and match easily.

See how this brown pair of skinny pants…

…goes with this pair of brown boots.

And, if you choose to wear a lighter or warmer pair of brown pants, those same boots will look good. It is a bit trickier to wear a lighter pair of brown boots with a darker pair of brown pants (although all browns look great with denim). It is not impossible, but it will draw more focus to your feet when you wear a lighter brown shoe and you want to be sure the undertones (warm or cool) are the same. See what I mean about getting more complicated if you try to incorporate a lot of shades of brown?

Brown Has All the Benefits of Black

Think of the top 3 reasons you wear black. It is:

  1. Slimming – The main reason black is so slimming is because it’s dark. Well, guess what. The brown I encourage you to wear is super dark. Check this out:
  1. Easy – Black goes with black goes with black. Well, when you stick to the browns I am suggesting in this article and even more HERE and you will see that it is just as true.
  2. Doesn’t Show Dirt – Neither does dark brown.

Guess what! Brown can do all that, too. And, while yes, black is timeless, so is a super dark brown, especially (and this is the key!) when it looks spectacular on you.

Looking great never goes out of style!

And, if your biggest reluctance to wearing brown is that you have to buy brown shoes, guess what. You don’t. Just as it is accepted that you can wear black shoes with navy you can also wear black shoes with brown. Of course, I am sharing a few dark brown shoe and boot options HERE in case you prefer them to blend.

If, like me, you have been watching the ever-increasing amount of black in the stores with an overall feeling of dread, there is something you can do about it. Stop buying so much black! You vote with your wallet and when you resort to black because you can’t find anything else you give the message that that’s what you want to wear.

It is in your best interest to hold out for colors you want and dark brown is one for which it is worth advocating.

To see all my suggestions for finding a flattering, versatile dark brown (both for basics, shoes and fun items), go HERE.

SPECIAL OFFER: I have never done anything like this before. But, I am so passionate about giving equal space to brown that if you wonder if you can wear brown, you are invited to send me a picture of yourself by e-mail or post a picture on my facebook group and I will tell you if dark brown is your friend!

Please note: All garments pictured here (and in the catalogue) are vegan-friendly (made from fabrics that did not harm any animals).

Some of the affiliate links may generate commissions for Total Image Consultants which helps support the time spent creating these very specific recommendations.

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