Beyond the Pale

Monochrome: Perfect Harmony for Designers Past and Present

I shall not stoop to calling the current monochrome looks a “trend” – just as Nautical for Spring is NOT a “trend”. They come around so often that we might as well say the sun coming up in the morning is a “trend” for goodness sake. Yet still, designers manage to make black & white their own…

Stunning "The Birds and the Beards" Dress: $205, by me & oli

I love the humour of the me & oli collection – all their pieces look beautifully made yet with their own tongue-in-cheek lightheartedness. There are three unique monochrome prints trasformed into sixteen different styles of dress (and their accessories are equally witty and worth checking out!)

Here’s a close-up of The Birds and The Beards print (it deserves a close-up):

Detail from me & oli's The Birds and The Beards Dress

Detail from me & oli's The Birds and The Beards Dress

This exquisite vintage dress could have stepped straight from the AW10 catwalk – it has that exotic drama of an Alexander McQueen piece [who is already sadly, sadly missed, God rest his soul].

Vintage silk velvet dress with ornate cutout back: $197 from IKHAN

Equally, it could be displayed as part of an historic collection of couture in the V & A museum. In black it’s a truly timeless piece, and that would not be so – surely – were it fuschia pink or mustard yellow.

Here is a beautifully made, intricately hand-sewn 18th Century replica, museum-quality riding habit.

18th Century replica 2-Piece: $800, by Bonnie Miss Flora

Again, team the black jacket with a pencil skirt, or the whole ensemble with a corset & cascading necklaces, and it could be the latest Vivienne Westwood.

So then, black and white is not a trend but a backdrop. A constantly recurring look, one might even say a look that is always present, in differing strengths, throughout every season. And please no desperate straw-clutching claims of “turquoise is the new black” or similar. Of course it isn’t. That would be ridiculous.

Double breasted wool Olga coat: $395, by Red Doll

Black has always and shall always be king in fashion, for it allows our eye to be drawn to shapes, to lengths, to the cut of the cloth rather than the colour or pattern.

Back detail of Olga coat by Red Doll

And yes, even in Spring and Summer, black works!

Custom made Kate dress: $135, from She By Cindy

Mixed with white, as the base for an extravagant peacock-like array of accessories, worn heaped with colours in layers, it will always be there.


And white is the epitome of warmer weather, of the ever-present wafty ethereal gowns that flow around the body in the style of a Grecian Goddess; or at least you in a wafty frock. Yet even a more structured look is crisply presented in white, stunning in its simplicity…

Natural cotton ruffled dress: $165, by Red Doll (who obviously excells in monochrome!)

In a more classic, yet still fashionable (whatever that means these days) style dress, this cutaway back dress with a tiny touch of embroidery is elegant simplicity at its best:

Flower applique sun dress: $85, by Viva Veritas

White in combination with a natural fabric (be it linen/hemp/cotton) bespeaks of tropical holidays to come, balmy breezes wafting (there’s an awful lot of wafting about with white clothes), or a more homespun kind of crisp cleanliness.

Missing You hemp dress: $76 by Meat Master

Together, black an white are the key to that oft repeated style demigod of “Effortless Chic”. It’s very French – particularly in Spring, I think.

Classically styled in a Chanel-esque manner or, as below, more cutting edge Fashion as Art by up-and-coming designers to watch; black and white are always a clear choice for showcasing talent, no matter the season.

Unsymetrical jacket: $300 by Porcela1in

The pattern, if there is one, may be more daring without becoming overwhelming. The person wears the garment rather than the print running away with itself.

Bird Attack silk ruffled dress: $210 by Lyane Lind

Monochrome has a very knowing, self-aware, well put-together sense of drama. Yet here’s a distinct feeling of not trying too hard. Of not having to.

Look how striking this historical print becomes, just white against the black background:

Hand mit Ringen print dress: $48, by James Anthony

The ‘Hand mit Ringen’ print in White comes from an original X-ray by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen – This particular one depicting Röntgen’s wife’s hand with rings. His outstanding achievements in the world of physics earned him a Nobel Prize in 1901.

A range I have featured before – and shall unashamedly feature again – is Le Muse.

Evening Muse dress: $79, by Le Muse

The designer of this timelessly beautiful collection works in a mainly monochromatic palette that suits the simplicity & versatility of the pieces perfectly.

Angel Muse dress: $69, by Le Muse

I want one of each piece in the collection!

Well my dears, I do hope you have enjoyed this meander into monochrome. Please do explore all the shops linked above. And here is my hand-picked selection of favourites grouped together for you to enjoy…


1 Comment so far
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Love the To Do list print on the Porcelain jacket! If only the design was in any way wearable.

I love colour for spring and felt the need for an ‘Anything but black’ option when internet shopping at the weekend.

Comment by Caroline

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