Black Dress

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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little black dress

Put The Colour Into A Black Party Dress

Ping! …The sound of the party invite landing in your inbox.

Or does it trigger a minor panic attack? Do you find yourself mentally scrabbling through your wardrobe despairing that you’ve got nothing to wear except that black party dress …

Closely followed by the ‘oh sod it’ moment of never mind I’ll treat myself to a new dress. Perhaps you start by having a quick look online – hard to be inspired when the choice seems largely to be black. Never mind you’ll pop to the shops, oh what’s that more black…


The good news is that I have some great tips to share with you that will help you to style a black party dress. You can apply this to reviving last year’s LBD or if you’re buying something new.  This can be really helpful if you know black isn’t your colour.

1. Choice of Fabric

If you go for a heavy fabric such as velvet it will look even blacker! No I haven’t gone stark staring mad but think about it for a moment. The density of the fabric and the pile will both intensify the colour.

Alternatively if you choose a black party dress, which is finished with lace or is in a sheer fabric it will look lighter. The colour will be less dense.

If you have a sparkly fabric this too will also look lighter. When the light catches the sequins or whatever is making the fabric sparkle this will lighten the effect.

black party dress

 2. Necklines

What is most important in terms of colour, is the colour is closest to your face. The colour closest to your face can make you look radiant or washed out.

So if black tends to overwhelm you, wearing a lower neckline will have less impact. Whether you should be looking for a V-neck, a scoop or a cowl will depend on your body shape, your neck, your bust and if you have angular or rounded features.  Confused? You needn’t be!  Check out this blog post for guidance on what necklines to choose.


3. Jewellery

Wearing statement jewellery will really help to take the attention away from your black dress.  Be careful that your choice of necklace doesn’t overwhelm you if you are quite small and petite.

You could wear a lovely gold, silver or a highly coloured piece which will offset your outfit perfectly.

This season chokers have really made a comeback.

I used to love chokers and was hardly ever seen without a velvet band around my neck. But this year there is much more choice and the selection includes beaded and embellished styles.  This can really offset a black dress beautifully.

4. Make Up

If you tend to wear muted tones, think about wearing something a bit brighter with your black dress. This will create more contrast. Do practice this in advance, particularly if you don’t normally wear much make up!

You do need to consider your seasonal palette so I’m not suggesting that one shade suits all. But there are red lipsticks for every seasonal palette.

Another option is to apply fake tan. During the winter months I keep my fake tan topped up.   I wear a lot of black and with my natural skin tone I can look washed out if I wear black and haven’t got much colour!

Red lipstick

5. Shoes

The traditional approach is that you that the colour of your shoes should either match or be darker than your hemline.

I am not much of a traditionalist as you may have surmised by now!

So I would advocate livening up a black dress with livened up by a pop of colour in your footwear.   You can do this by

  1. Wearing a single bright colour, such as red or crimson
  2. Choosing a metallic finish
  3. Having a pair of black shoes or sandals that are embellished with beads

embellished evening sandal

6. Handbag

Even if you decide to play it safe with your shoes and stick to black, you could still add a lovely pop of colour with your handbag.

Many evening bags tend to be small clutch bags. Carrying a small coloured bag close to your body is a great way to liven a black dress.

If your bag does have a strap just consider these points:

  1. Do not allow the bag to rest at the widest point of your body.
  2. If you have a long body don’t have the strap hanging very long that will create vertical lines.

    Evening Clutch Bag

7. Belts

Adding a belt to a black party dress, if the style allows for it, will break up the black and is a great way to add a splash of colour.

Many of my clients say that they struggle with belts but the general advice is to ensure it sits in a flattering position.

Any belt will create a horizontal line and this will have the effect of making you look shorter. A wider belt will have a greater effect than a slender belt.

Even if you have a lovely defined waist be careful that the belt does not overwhelm you with its width and size of buckle.


evening jacket8. Coat or Jacket

Think about the colour and fabric of your outerwear.

If you want to make an impact on arrival there’s no better way to do this than with a bold jacket or coat.    Animal print or faux fur is another option.

By wearing a lighter weight jacket you may want to keep this on at least during the early stages of the evening before the party gets going!   This gives you some great options to add colour to your dress.

This gorgeous example from Monsoon proves the point.  Both bold in colour and style this would make a black party dress look amazing.


9. Scarves, Pashminas and Evening CapesCoast Kimono

As someone who loves scarves, I’ll always head to my scarf rail for colour.

It’s not always easy to add a scarf to a black party dress. Think again about the fabric and texture. Keep it light and bright.

Alternatively you might want to consider a pashmina. This may mean you don’t need a coat. It also gives you something to pop round your shoulders if the party is in a hall or marquee and you’re feeling a bit chill.

For a really fun look you could go for a cute little faux fur evening cape or a colourful kimono to finish your black party dress.


I hope these tips to put the colour back into black are useful. If you have any more tips, I’d love to hear them! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


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