Back in India, black was strictly considered an ‘evening’ color. But working in fashion, I kind of gave myself a free pass. I wore head-to-toe black for everything — from breakfast meetings with designers to press conferences that I was covering. And of course the occasional black-tie event.
I wore black saris to wedding receptions, black maxis to boozy brunches and one of my 100 black tops for drinks with the girls. Black one-shoulder, black off-shoulder, black cold-shoulder, black turtleneck, black mock high neck, black tunic, black button-down, black cami, black basic tee, black wrap top, black peplum, black kimono, black blouse. You get the drift.
One would think that all this black would make my mornings so much easier — having a uniform and all. But try pulling out one of the many, many black things from a pile, step back, and watch how it all falls down. (Chances are that you have pulled out the wrong black piece and depending on how your closet is designed, the step back can be important.)
When I moved from India to New York a couple of years ago, the black wardrobe fit right in. I felt so cool from the outside, even as I was melting from the inside in the heatwave. I did have my pop of hot pink (famous editor Diana Vreeland was spot on when she called out pink as the navy blue of India) and flaming orange (more on it later) and turmeric yellow, but I found myself rarely and barely reaching out to those.
Last October, I moved to San Francisco and quickly bought a bunch of things (mostly navy, some grey, lots of stripes) and between all that black and blue, the pops of color and print just kept dwindling further down.
Hi. My name is Shradha Agarwal.
I dared to go black-less.
4 weeks. 10 lessons learned.
Lesson #1: I missed black pants more than tops. I thought I’d be miserable without my auto-reach-out to my barrage of black tops. But, surprise surprise, I missed reaching out to black bottoms more than tops. I didn’t realize how much I depended on my cropped black pants till I gave them up. This in turn made me realize that I only have one pair of blue jeans that truly spark joy (evident from the picture collages below) and if I ever get down to reading Marie Kondo’s book, I will be throwing out my other six pairs happily.
Lesson #2: Getting ready for work was quicker without black. Mornings were simpler since the few colored things that I owned stood out in the closet nice and bright and made the what-to-wear decisions easy. But it took all my will (and my co-workers’ watchful eyes) to stay away from black when the sky was turning 50 shades of grey in signature San Francisco style.
Lesson #3: But going out at night sans black was much harder. I desperately needed a new date night outfit recipe since black-top-blue-jeans was no longer on the table. It took all my will not to go with navy blue (I did pat self on back).
Lesson #4: I learned that color gets complimented more. Much more. There are greater chances of someone saying “that color looks really nice on you”. People hardly ever say “hey nice black top”. Added bonus: Color also looks nicer in my Instagram feed.
Lesson #5: Giving up black makes you less lazy and more interested in your #ootd. As a result, you make an extra effort overall. Shoes, makeup, accessories, everything. You feel good. You look good. You know the cycle.
Lesson # 6: A denim jacket is indeed a must-have. I have renewed respect for the humble American staple. And it took just one week without my favorite black blazer to realize that a jean jacket is as versatile and trusty as it promises to be.
Lesson #7: I had forgotten how joyful wearing color could be. One of my happy goals this summer was to shop less in-store and more in-closet. With so many of my clothes back in circulation — and spotlight — this was finally happening!
Lesson #8: And when I did go shopping or tote-swapping at Le Tote, I came back with more print and pattern than ever. No more guilt since I didn’t bring home the 107th black top or the 25th LBD. I experimented with boho prints, new (for me) colors and exciting patterns.
Lesson #9: Old habits die hard. Just when I thought I didn’t need another black top, I went and bought seven. Actually, it was more like a one-in-seven top. God bless the genius Norma Kamali!
Lesson #10: It’s never too late to make new friends. My new friend is called Orange. It’s my new go-to color. It gives me confidence, makes me feel pretty and powerful; and that’s a pretty powerful combination. It works wonderfully as an accent (orange fringe earrings anyone), as a neutral (paired down with a military jacket) or when you want to make a statement (I dare you to ignore me in orange).
Orange IS my new black.