Black, Brown, and the Third-Party Colour
style advice Thursday, November 1, 2007
I belong to a Facebook group for shopaholics that has a very active discussion forum. One of these discussions centres on the age-old question of whether it's appropriate to wear black and brown together in the same outfit. Most people thought black and brown were revolting together and that it represented a heinous fashion crime. Some conceded that light brown, such as beige or camel, looked "okay" with black, but chocolate brown was definitely a no-no. Others insisted that black and brown in one outfit would make a girl look drab because it was so dark.
Personally, I think black and brown can have the potential to look really good together, and the vehement hatred these other girls express toward the colour combo comes from a painful fashion misstep in their past, a blind adherence to some "rule" they soaked up long ago and never questioned, or a failure to experiment and push boundaries. As far as painful fashion missteps go, black and brown can look awful together if you wear the two colours in big unbroken colour/texture blocks (e.g. a plain black top and brown skirt or vice versa, matte fabric on matte fabric)or if you mix shades of brown. Some girls probably discovered this long ago and then forever dismissed black and brown as a lost fashion cause.
Also, many girls absorb the notion that black and brown should never be worn together the same way they internalize the "no white after Labour Day" rule: in other words, they obey blindly and don't really question the rationale behind it. If Stacey and Clinton on What Not to Wear have taught me anything, it's that as long as outfits go together, the old rules don't apply. Dressing well is about putting together outfits that fit your body and have complementary colours, patterns, and textures rather than outfits that match exactly. This technique takes time and experimentation to perfect, so I suppose many girls stop short of going the extra mile, timidly accepting someone else's stale rules at face value.
Brown and black can also co-exist harmoniously in one outfit provided that they are not the only colours in an outfit. They need a Third Party Colour, or a TPC, to detract from the harshness and intensity of two dark neutral colours worn together, and to provide another level of visual interest. Finding good TPCs requires a bit of experimentation and trial and error. In my experience, teals, blues, burgundies, terra cotta reds, and deep purples make excellent TPCs. You need saturated colours that will compete with brown and black in colour intensity to counterbalance them.
Posted by Lisa