When it comes to fashion trends, monochromatic dressing rarely goes out of style. The act of wearing garments in variations of a single hue is a style tradition that is universally appealing and visually empowering, though never as simple as it looks. With monochromatic dressing, you’re limited to using one colour to tell your sartorial story.
“Every colour has significance in specific times and places,” says Dr. Alison Matthews David, author of Fashion Victims and professor and graduate program director of the Creative School at Toronto Metropolitan University. “Historically, dressing in one vibrant colour was a way of displaying wealth and status both in terms of the luxury expense of fabric and because dyeing that fabric in one colour was technically difficult and expensive.”
One of the most recent – and headline-making – expressions of that decadence was Valentino’s fall 2022 ready-to-wear collection, which took street style and celebrity dressing by storm with its all-pink silhouettes. The bold statement, developed by Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, crowned vibrant fuchsia the colour of the year. Other designers have followed suit. Christopher John Rogers’s Resort 2023 collection used head-to-toe blues, yellows, acid greens and more hot pink to express a sense of joy. On the red carpet, Timothée Chalamet’s Haider Ackermann halter top at the 2022 Venice Film Festival shifted expectations about men’s wear with its silhouette in shimmering crimson.
What makes this trend cycle different from past monochromatic moments is the glowing vibrancy of the tones. “In the modern world, colours have shifted from nature to being synthetically created in the laboratory,” Matthews David says. But throughout fashion history, being on the cutting edge of colour technology has been an important subtext of dressing in one hue. “Many colours were made using toxic ingredients including arsenic and mercury to achieve bright colours. These colours indicated that the wearer was fashion-forward and literally dressed in the latest chemical concoction.”
Wearing a uniform colour in a seemingly effortless way depends on achieving a tricky balance. “Play with textures, some shine, some interesting fabrics – it’s okay to use shades of a colour,” says Aloïs Guinut, a Paris-based stylist, personal shopper and author of Dress Like a Parisian.
“Every colour, every shade has a message it’s giving to the world,” says José Manuel St-Jacques, co-founder of the Montreal-based label UNTTLD. For their spring summer 2023 collection, St-Jacques and co-founder Simon Bélanger included monochrome looks in softer shades of yellow, green, beige and brown. “Yellow came in to bring a bit of light,” St-Jacques says. “We included green, as it made me think of water.”
Making colour the foundation of an outfit is part of what brings harmony and practicality to a look. “Our sole accessory is colour,” says Kirk Pickersgill, co-founder of Toronto-based Greta Constantine. “We produce bright, structural garments as we’re looking to bring a smile to the face of both wearer and beholder.” Inspired by flowers for the most recent fall and resort collections, Greta Constantine’s monochromatic signature is a way to focus the line.
That strategy can apply to a wardrobe too. Pick your favourite colour and build a closet of nuanced shades season after season.
Hot pink was 2022′s signature shade but there are other options for embracing a monochromatic look
Psychedelics were on the mind of Alexander McQueen’s creative director Sarah Burton for fall. Pulling from that world’s colour palette, she showcased acid greens and yellows on tailored suits and accessories.
Jacket, US$290 at COS (cosstores.com).
Alexis dress, $490 through modaoperandi.com.
Gloves, $1,090 at Bottega Veneta (bottegaveneta.com).
Bag, $2,590 at Alexander Mcqueen (alexandermcqueen.com).
Gucci shoes, $1,205 at Nordstrom (nordstrom.ca).
For a quieter take on a monochromatic look, camel layers can come together to create a cozy signature. Look to The Row for direction on how to combine shades of tan, taupe and brown.
Sweater, $138 at Kotn (kotn.com).
Baserange skirt, $135 through farfetch.com.
Coat, $2,690 at Coach (coach.com).
Khaite bag, $3,007 through net-a-porter.com.
MM6 Maison Margiela boots, $805 at Ssense (ssense.com).
La vie en rose
Created with colour authority Pantone, Maison Valentino’s Pink PP magenta hue belongs exclusively to the house, but that hasn’t stopped other brands from offering their own variation.
Loewe sunglasses, $480 at Holt Renfrew (holtrenfrew.com).
Lapointe sweater, $1,635 through modaoperandi.com.
Alice + Olivia trousers, $430 at Nordstrom (nordstrom.ca).
Marni shoes, $1,150 at Ssense (ssense.com).
Jacquemus bag, $720 through jacquemus.com.