One of my all-time favorite New York magazine pieces is this one from 2008, which features five New Yorkers who wear one color, and only one color, every day of their lives. There’s the shoe designer loyal to Yves Klein blue, the singer-songwriter who never deviates from brown, and the delightfully kooky fabric designer with a commitment to Kelly green (it reminds her of nature, she explains). I relate on precisely zero levels, but man, do I love that people like this exist.
For those of us who don’t feel so fervently attached to a singular shade, the more approachable method is monochromatic dressing. Black isn’t the only color (or non-color, as it were) that does well with the head-to-toe treatment, after all.
So, what does “monochromatic” mean, and how does it differ from turning your body into a perma-shrine to, say, bright turquoise? According to color theory, monochromatic color schemes start with a single hue—red, green, beige—and vary in tint and shade, so blue jeans worn with a chambray shirt, navy jacket, and pale blue sneakers would qualify, as would a khaki trench layered over a tan dress and brown suede boots.
Click through street-style shots from fashion week and you’re sure to see quite a few examples, some loud and proud (matching mustard yellow), others more subdued (head-to-toe pale gray). And it makes sense—the look is automatically striking. As Rick Owens put it: “In this room, your head is going to look so much more interesting if it’s on a monochromatic column … I’m always thinking of the line of a person standing with their head in a room and I always feel like a stalk, or a stem, or a pillar is nicer.”
Whether or not you care to look like a head perched on a pillar, there are advantages to monochrome: for petites, sticking to a single color family can instantly make you look taller (check out Miroslava Duma’s all-camel ensemble in the slideshow and you’ll see what I mean), and for the rest of us, coloring within the lines can make getting dressed a breeze.
Below, see 31 outfits to inspire your next monochromatic ensemble.