As the greyness of winter approaches, I crave clothes of a single bright color from head to toe. I think fuchsia, turquoise and orange, or my favorite: chartreuse. But how do I keep it from looking like a crayon or a traffic cone and on a tight budget? – Jessica, South Orange, NJ
Monochrome dressing is the official name of what you are talking about. People often associate the word with black / white / gray, but it simply means dressing in one color. Ever since Michelle Obama modeled her effectiveness at the opening wearing Sergio Hudson burgundy from neck to toe, she has been one of the hottest trends of the year. (See also Jake Gyllenhaal at Tonys in a pink Prada dress with a pink shirt.)
As to why, well, Goop called monochrome “universally flattering,” as it creates a single, unbroken line that stretches and shines, favoring an illusion of height for nearly any body. It also harnesses the power of color to establish or reflect a mood, whether it’s electric, upbeat, serene or calm. Plus, it suggests commitment and trust. There is nothing watered down about going all in on a single key. And you don’t have to worry about that annoying coordination problem.
The undisputed queen of this type of dressing is, of course, the queen, who has been wearing monochrome since at least the middle of the last century, to better stand out in a crowd. (It does so well that it has inspired an entire book on the subject called “Our Rainbow Queen.”) But she’s not alone.
Pascal Anson, artist and mentor of “The Big Painting Challenge” on the BBC, made monochrome dressing something of a performance during his last year of remote work, documenting his experiments on Instagram. (He called the series “Monoclo.”) And Mr. Hudson doubled the look in his fall collection, showing off monochromatic tailored suits and cocktail dresses in red, yellow, blue and purple. It has become somewhat of his signature.
So, for best practice tips, it seemed like there was no better one to ask. Mr. Hudson sent me an email telling me that the most important thing to keep in mind is to use subtle variations in tone. For example, he said: “I’d do a marigold yellow combined with a canary yellow instead of a canary yellow suit. It gives you the monochromatic feel without the harshness of the same color from head to toe and creates a more unified look.
Meredith Koop, the stylist and consultant responsible for Mrs. Obama’s look, also suggested playing with textures: “Look for contrasts in fabrics,” she said. “Something silky with sheen, a plush wool, a matte crepe, a textured bouclé or a rich velvet. This will move the eye and make the look more dynamic. “
To be honest, it’s even easier since you don’t have to go crazy to match fabric swatches and you can shop around to find what works for your budget.
Start, for example, with a simple bias-cut silk skirt like this one from Quince. Or try wide leg pants like these from Pangaia (they come in flamingo pink, orchid purple, apple red and saffron). Then build.
Ms Koop recommends looking at Michelle Mason and Le Superbe from the more expensive side, as well as Banana Republic and BR x Harbison at Banana Republic for more budget-conscious styles. And, he said, “Always check second hand on RealReal and ThredUP to get a deal.”
As Mr. Hudson said, the result suggests no-fuss retirement planning. “And this is always elegant.”
Your style questions, answered
Each week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion question, which you can submit to her anytime via e-mail or Twitter. The questions are edited and condensed.