Last year I noticed a spate of articles circulating on my Facebook feed about the benefits of wearing all black. “Want to be seen as sexy, intelligent and confident? Wear black, say researchers,” read a headline on the U.K.’s Independent online. While many people have tried to convince me, a born maximalist, of such a theory, the idea hasn’t stuck. Those go-black-or-go-bust studies claim it’s because others take you more seriously when you’re dressed like a nihilist from The Big Lebowski. In a neutral shade, you’re a thoughtful person with too much on your mind to consider leopard print. But my natural impulse when I see someone wearing anything colourless and unembellished is to imagine how much better they would look with a statement necklace and neon platform shoes.
While my fashion preferences lean towards Gucci’s pattern mash ups, Anna Sui’s mystical Bohemianism and the over-the-top textures of Shrimps, I do admire the work of many designers with a more pared-down aesthetic. I fondly recall how powerful a scant Calvin Klein slip dress looked in the nineties and love the louche elegance of Haider Ackermann’s lean pantsuits today. On a recent photo shoot, I was happy to throw on a black Christian Dior jacket to see how fabulous it would look on me.
For my whole life, though, I’ve gravitated towards the flamboyant, the bold, and the outré aspects of fashion. My style icons are David Bowie, Ginger Baker and Auntie Mame, and I dress to make myself and others smile, with the heady mix of English garden patterning and a rainbow palette. The 1 per cent of my closet that is black is solely made up of my “funeral dress.” With the myriad options of colour, print, pattern and texture available, why would I want to disappear into a crowd in something sombre out of choice? But as more and more designer collections took a minimal turn for fall – once ornate Valentino toned down its palette, while Givenchy became utilitarian instead of Kardashian – the more I wondered about the appeal of being a minimalist. And I came to the conclusion that you can’t really judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in her black leather Loubs.
When Montreal-based label Unttld showcased its autumn collection at Toronto Fashion Week in March, I was struck by the exceptional texture of one black look. It couldn’t truly be called a little black dress (its voluminous silhouette in lace and mesh with grosgrain detailing was less sexpot, more teapot), so for a colour fan like me curious about the dark side of style, it would make for a gentler transition.
I wore it to Operanation, the Canadian Opera Company’s annual spring fundraiser in Toronto. It’s an event where I’ve been photographed often wearing one of my many trademark kaleidoscope outfits. On one occasion, after seeing my ensemble, a friend mused that I looked like the “female Jimi Hendrix” – a compliment that thrilled me to no end.
But this year I was not channelling Hendrix’s iconic psychedelic finery and mystical approach to life. Instead, I was Angelina Jolie, Rooney Mara and every other Hollywood style icon that forgoes flash in the name of sleek chic. I wore a darker shade of lipstick than I normally would and tried to adopt the persona of someone who’s mysterious, not gregarious. As I walked into the crowd, I noticed how many other women were also wearing black dresses. I was a stylish attendee of the gala just like them, but, to me, those who chose bolder ensembles were the life of the party.
I faded into the crowd, so much so that – horror of horrors – not a single event photographer (who normally whisk away my wine glass to get a shot for an event gallery or a street-style blog) looked my way. I had to rely on my phone to capture my look that night, and when I posted a picture on Instagram it received a comment that read, “Didn’t recognize you!” Looking at the photo I feel the same. I see someone in a glamorous onyx dress, but not the kooky, outgoing person I know I am.
Likewise, when I put on the sexy jet-toned jersey and fauxleather Paria Shirvani wrap dress I’m wearing in the photo above, I became an intriguing-yet-foreign character. I knew I looked good in the sleek, body-hugging getup, but I didn’t feel comfortable. I was betraying my natural inclination to be outspoken without having to say a word, and I couldn’t wait to get back into my usual maximal milieu. Claims that a minimalist aesthetic leads others to believe you’re more attractive or intelligent might be true, but I’d rather take the time to prove I possess those qualities without compromising my style.Report Typo/Error
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