What Fun Can You Have With One Black Dress?

I was inspired to write this after reading a friend’s Facebook post last week where she stated her intention not to buy any new clothes in 2017.  My ears were wiggling and my nose twitching with excitement!! I love nothing more than the challenge of mixing and matching items to create new looks.

woman wearing black dress

Working with a client this week were looking at some lovely dresses in her wardrobe. The dresses were perfect for her in terms of colour and shape. I asked about how often she wore them, she admitted not very often.

We explored this and it transpired she felt she needed an occasion to wear a dress.  Her current lifestyle was more relaxed and so wearing a dress felt uncomfortable.   She felt over-dressed and that’s not going to help any woman feel fabulous!

A career spent in uniform and early parental influence to ‘keep it for best’ had reinforced to her subconscious mind that dresses were for special occasions.

We were now beyond the nose twitching and ears wiggling stage, my pupils were dilating too!

So this week’s post is to show you how you can create a range of casual looks from one black dress.

First Take Your Dress

I am going to keep this one simple and use a black dress as an example. I have picked out a number of classic and simple styles that will suit different body shapes. I’ve also selected soft fabrics opting for jersey or viscose mix.  I’ve chosen black simply because it can feel quite formal, but this is not relevant to the looks and suggestions.

If you’re not sure what dress shape suits you, take a look at my body shape guide.

I’ve selected a ¾ length sleeve, as this the most universally flattering sleeve length. This length adds height and doesn’t end in line with your bust.

If you have a large bust you do not want sleeves to end level with your bust as this makes you look broader.   However, most of the looks I’m describing will also look great with a sleeveless or short-sleeved black dress.

Black Dress

Black Dress Selection From Debenhams

You can make a simple black dress, effectively into the backdrop for outfit by pairing with the right items to create some fabulous looks.

Denim Jacket

You can make a black dress look effortlessly chic and casual by adding a denim jacket. Denim jackets don’t need to be the bulky style of bomber jacket that look great on a handful of women (small bust, slim with a need to create curves).

Denim jackets can be more blazer style or like this example from Olsen a more structured classic look.

Denim jacket with black dress

Olsen Denim Jacket – House of Fraser


BTW It’s at this point I wish I hadn’t started researching this as I’ve just found the most amazing jacket from Desigual.


Denim Jacket with Black Dress

Denim Jacket From Desigual


Sleeveless Coat

The great advantage of gilets (aka furry ones) is that they add warmth. You can create a fun and funky look but when they get too warm, simply shed them!


Faux fur gilet with black dress

Joanna Hope Gilet

Or why not add a sleeveless coat (or a long waistcoat or sleeveless jacket). The fashion industry seems uncertain about what to call them!    These can make a dress look really striking.


Longline Sleeveless Jacket with Black Dress

Mint Velvet Longline Sleeveless Jacket



Add a Blouse

Wearing a blouse over a simple black dress is an effective way to change the look. You can either wear the blouse open to create a casual look or knot at the waist.

Your choice of fabric will have a major impact on how dressed up or dressed down the look becomes. A silk shirt styled over a jersey dress can take a look from day to night. Whereas a cotton or linen blouse will look more casual.

Shoes or Boots

Your choice of shoes will make a big difference to whether you have a dress up or dress down look for your jersey dress.

If you carry on the theme of the denim jacket then why not add boots? Take a look at my post on choosing boots for your body shape

winter boots

You could also pair with sneakers but it’s not a look that I’ve ever felt comfortable with personally.


In the spring when it’s warm enough to start bearing your toes but you may still want a jacket for cooler moments, look for low sandals or flip flops.


Shrug It Off

Shrugs can come in all types of fabrics from sparkly numbers to cardigan style or more formal bolero jackets and everything in between.


They may be best suited to sleeveless dresses, simply because the sleeves will hang better. But depending on the shape of the sleeve they can work for dresses with sleeves.


But if you have a small bust they are great for adding curves and volume to your top half. Pear shaped women in particular who have a small bust and defined waist will look great in shrugs and boleros.


Shrug over a black dress

Havren Bella Shrug

 Hosiery And Leggings

If you wear opaque tights or leggings with a jersey dress this will create a more casual look. Add boots and you’ve got a great dress down winter outfit.

If you are anything like me you have a love/hate relationship with tights and stockings. I hate wearing them and I think it’s because it makes a dress look more formal.

Adding nude or tan tights or stockings to an outfit the style is automatically elevated to a more classic look.   Equally if you wear a low denier (or more sheer) style of hosiery this gives a more elegant finish.



Anyone who knows me will appreciate that I have a passion for scarves and am rarely found without one, unless it’s just too hot!

Scarves can transform an outfit completely.   If you want to create a less formal look, particularly with a monochrome dress then think about the:


  1. Shape
  2. Fabric
  3. Texture
  4. Colour
  5. Pattern


I will be doing a post about scarves in the next few weeks. But for the moment think about cotton/wool mix pattern scarves, possibly with tassels as a brilliant way to create a casual look.

So there’s some ideas and inspiration for you to try. If you do find yourself migrating to jeans, trousers or leggings as you struggle to put outfits together based on a dress, give some of these a try and let me know how you get on!
If you have any other ‘go to’ pieces that you like to use to create wearable looks with dresses, then please add to the comments below.





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8 Responses to What Fun Can You Have With One Black Dress?

  1. Patricia Wood January 26, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

    Such a useful blog – thank you.

    I had never thought of ‘dressing down’ a dress, but now I can’t wait to do it!

    • Carol January 26, 2017 at 7:46 pm #

      Glad you found it useful xx

  2. Ela January 27, 2017 at 8:05 am #

    Thanks Carol for sharing. Now I have a few ideas for my little black dress… ?

    • Carol January 28, 2017 at 6:44 am #

      Excellent glad you found it useful, Ela x

  3. Zelma Holt January 27, 2017 at 11:26 pm #

    Thank you for the very useful tips. I have a number of dresses that I simply only wear on special ocassions but watch this space…. or rather Carol’s watchful eye ?

    • Carol January 28, 2017 at 6:43 am #

      Looking forward to seeing your fabulous creations x x

  4. Gail February 1, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

    You need to buy that Desigual jacket – it is so you!!

    • Carol February 1, 2017 at 7:09 pm #

      I know just trying to resist the temptation… xx

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