l-r ASOS, Marc Jacobs, Zooey Deschanel in vintage
Sometimes a person will look at a trend as it materialises on a runway, and have a distinctly maternal reaction to it. By maternal, I don’t mean the urge to comfort and coddle whatever stern-looking tween is wearing said trend (as much as she might need it). That’s a bit creepy.
This is maternal in the Irish Mammies sense, which is the unwanted thought explosion of “Mother of Jesus, she’ll get a cold in her kidneys/I wouldn’t let any daughter of mine wear THAT at the table/My Jimmy had a pair of dungarees like that when he was small, didn’t he?”. The Irish Mammies reaction is one borne out of incredulity – and there’s enough of that going around for all of us these days without even touching on the Prada flipflop/sock/wedge combo that Elle Fanning is so enamoured with.
One trend which may not put the scares up your mammy is monochrome. Black and white, worn together, in one item or in separates. It’s just that simple. “Sure, Father O’Reilly down the way has been wearing that kind of stuff for years and I always said what a distinguished looking man he was” should be a typical Mammy reaction – either that or “You’re looking a bit pale, you’d want to get a bit of colour into you”. Any owner of an Irish Mammy, whether real or as the voice of reason in your head, knows that once the ‘looking pale’ card gets whipped out, all bets are off and you have automatically lost whatever argument is to be had.
Ignore her. She does not know that monochrome is for all skin types. It is especially suited to very pale or very dark skin, giving a slightly unnerving checkerboard look if done correctly.
The easiest way to wear monochrome is a combo of black trousers and white shirt. Unfortunately, you may have to deflect unwanted male attention. Don’t worry – it’s not unwanted sexual advances you’ll be dodging, it’s orders for a rare steak and a bottle of Pinot P’lonk, thanks. Because, of course, you look like a waiter. Reclaiming the look from the service industry is made easier with the application of heels, liberal amounts of jewellery and a kick-ass black jacket that says, “I take no (food or drink) orders from no man”.
Of course, you may not want to wear what looks like a sombre suit, and that’s more than ok. Thanks to Marc Jacobs and Chanel, whose Spring/Summer 2013 shows were chock-a-block with monochromatic dresses in stripes, zig zags, chevrons and trippy Op-Art inspired prints, there is a monochrome tone for everyone. If you have an urge of go all Gallic and channel Brigitte Bardot in a horizontally striped tee, you can. If you want to make the maximum impact and look like a living magic eye picture, you can do that too.
It’s a trend that is brilliantly versatile in its simplicity. Pick two neutral colours, and wear them however you like. It could not be easier. If only we could see all other aspects of our lives in such black and white terms.