Welcome back, black. After a season of brilliant, happy hues, fashion’s most beloved neutral is making a huge comeback.
Some chalk up the vibrant florals, sunny yellows and vivid pinks of seasons’ past as a nod to the joy of real, in-person celebrations. Though color still plays an important role in the autumn/winter fashion scene, the little (and not so little) black dress is a power player now, along with other black garments … and they’re anything but basic.
“Black is back with a vengeance and proves a chic alternative to the camera-ready influencer brights of the last few years,” says Avril Graham, Harper’s Bazaar executive fashion and beauty editor. “Playful textures and embellishments are the order of the day to keep this new palette so very of the moment: think feathers, barely-there sheers, satins, lace and sequined sparkle to update black for fall,” she says.
She credits the “much-loved power roots of the '90s,” as inspiration and adds, “It just looks so completely, elegantly sophisticated for now.”
For Gabrielle Banschick, the owner of Penny Lane boutique in Huntington, black is m-a-n-d-a-t-or-y.
Now, if it doesn’t come in black, I don’t want it."
— Gabrielle Banschick, owner of Penny Lane
"Edge is coming back; it’s rock and roll meets fancy. And in my opinion, everything looks richer in black,” she says. Here, garments including dresses, pants and jackets turned out in the moody shade are amped up by tulle, lace and fringe.
Stacey Bendet, creative director and CEO of alice + olivia who is known for her lively prints and blasts of eye-popping color is on board, too. “Black is back,” she says. “It’s a return to sophistication, sexiness and grunge.”
At Gallery Couture in Manhasset, co-owner Afshin Haghani says the trend took him by surprise. “I wasn’t ready for it. We were all a rainbow of color and then I started seeing what was going on in the fashion crowd and everybody was wearing black again.”
On a whim he says, “I brought in some wider-leg, palazzo pants and they all sold out.” He believes that part of the new appeal is a shift in proportions. “I’m seeing the modern, edgy tailored blazer with stronger shoulders than the norm as a standout, along with high-waisted slit fronted pants. It’s feels new and it’s definitely not boring.”
Apparently, attendees at last month’s VMAs got the memo. Traditionally, it’s a night of shock and awe when it comes to red carpet fashion (you may recall Lady Gaga’s meat dress) but this year, black ruled. Perhaps a bit more subdued, the moody looks were easily as glamorous as wackier carpets’ past. Among the standouts, the foursome of K-pop group Blackpink, Lisa, Jisoo, Jennie and Rosé who all wore high fashion garb beautifully and in black.
From drab to fab: A dress gets a makeover
When Susan Candia, 52, of Dix Hills, a client service executive in the financial industry, rummaged through her basement cedar closet she discovered some 20, (yes, 20!) old black dresses, one she bought shortly before the pandemic.
“I’ve been trying to stay away from wearing black even though I love it and when I saw the VMAs, I got happy again,” she says. But on close examination, she just wasn’t feeling her own collection. “It’s not that they’re bad, they’re just out of date and boring.”
With a fancy affair upcoming this month, she coveted a smashing black dress, but looking at her stash, was wistful. “I was like no, no, no. They all needed something else … I’d love a corset, or cutouts, or embellishment, I wish I could fix them.”
Her wish came true thanks to the expert skills of Kimberly Towers, couture designer and owner of Runway Couture in Bellmore and her partner Blanca Fuentes, a technical designer and pattern maker, who took on the challenge of transforming one of Candia’s so-so frocks into a knockout.
“It was an average dress, and we made it memorable, sexy and flattering,” explains Towers, who dramatically changed it up by adding a corset, attaching what once were formerly frilly straps to the bustline and creating a graceful drape between the corset and the bottom.
When it comes to the black revival, Towers says, “I am definitely seeing it emerging for fall and winter. One hundred percent black has become the most popular mother of the bride color and we’ve been elevating it with more texture — velvet, feathers, shredding and interesting sleeve treatments. The idea is to add dimension.”
Reworks like Candia’s have become more commonplace for Towers, who says women often bring in their expensive gowns and dresses hoping to give them new life. “We can make them look totally unrecognizable, like a different dress.”
For Candia, the finished product was magical and she was ecstatic. “This is absolutely an extreme makeover. That corset was the clincher — it changed the whole dynamic of the dress,” she says.
A better LBD
So, you have a decent, if not fabulous, black dress that you want to take beyond basic? In addition to designing original gowns and dresses, Kimberly Towers, owner of Runway Couture in Bellmore does loads of remakes, but these can be time consuming and sometimes expensive. Her advice? “I believe in buying one really good quality garment and wearing it often.”
Here are some of her tips on how to make it look different for those all-important Instagram posts and social media:
— For DIY’s, please have some sewing skills,” she implores, “you can always add sparkly trim or feathers on the hem.”
— If the dress is an off-the-shoulder number, change the geometry and “wear it as a one-shoulder,” suggests Towers.
-Mostly, explains Towers, “It’s all about the way you accessorize. That changes everything and will make the dress look different in photographs.” Some of her tips include: Wearing a great belt; adding statement jewelry pieces like long necklaces and big earrings; topping the dress with a colorful shawl or a “great little shrug.”
— Footwear can make a world of difference, says Towers. “One day, put the dress with high boots, and the next a high pump. It’s really transformative.”
— Finally, she says, “Change your hair and makeup. Think high drama in the makeup department whether a smoky eye or a red lip for one affair, and more subdued looks for another. As for hair, says Towers, “One day wear a high ponytail for an event and for another wear it down.” The dress will almost be unrecognizable.