Fashion advice from year 200,100

I'm pretty late to the whole Dr. Who? phenomenon, but it turns out I'm a Sci-Fi-Fantasy fangirl to the core, because now I'm hooked! Been watching marathon runs of the new series on Netflix every night. :D

But back to the fashion. 

When time traveling to the year 200,100 a character called Captain Jack gets drafted into a morbid makeover TV show. While there, the Fashion Stylist Robot Show Hosts tell him: Never wear black with colour. It makes the colour look cheap and the black look boring.


I had never been able to articulate it, but this totally sums up how I feel  in bright colors with black. I always get terrible 80s Lisa Frank trapper-keeper unicorn flashbacks. 

Clearly all colors are not created equal - we at YLF have already come to terms with the fact that many colors function as neutrals (navy, olive, dark purple, leopard...). And I'm finding that I love mixing all those with black. But I feel increasingly uncomfortable pairing black with bright, saturated colors. Especially now that I have navy bottoms to substitute in. 

Strangely, this feeling doesn't necessarily translate to other people. Plenty of people look perfectly fab in this kind of combo. Lots of different factors at play, I guess - coloring, personality, personal style. And plenty of fashion spreads and bloggers show black with brights. But that makes it even stranger that this fashion "rule" is apparently floating around in the world. 

What's behind this black-bright relationship? Does anyone else (apart from the writers at Dr. Who?) feel this way? What causes this feeling?

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Hil replied 6 years ago

    I know the What not to wear girls, Trinny and Susannah, had this as a rule... which has always stuck in my head. Maybe it's a Brit thing :D

  • Deborah replied 6 years ago

    Rae, firstly I am a "Whovian" from way back.  Just watched the 50th Anniversary movie length episode that was broadcast around the world on Sunday at 6.50 a.m. our time.  Master 10 and I have now watched it 3 times!

    Secondly, that is a little how I feel about wearing black too.  I don't mind black and colour on others but it wouldn't be my default.  I think I like my black 'undilutedI' and 'pure'.  I think Trinny and Susannah have a similar thinking about wearing black and colour.

    Oh and isn't Capt Jack just a cool character!

  • KeepTheKey replied 6 years ago

    I have always felt like black with a bright color is something *I* can't pull off, but I think it works marvelously on others. I didn't know it was any sort of rule, either! Like you, I've always associated the combo with all the Lisa Frank stuff, which I love, but don't think translates to real life and clothing so well. For me, anyhow. I think my hangups also lie in the fact that I'm not sure what the dressiness level is of an outfit with those characteristics. I know, I know... It depends on the individual items, but I just can't wrap my head around it. Black is distinctly dressy, and bright are more casual, to my eye.

    I'm just spouting nonsense at this point, but I wanted to let you know you're not alone :-)


    Maybe don't listen to me? I'm the girl whose favorite color combo is black and brown, which can be a serious no-no to some. 

  • Marley replied 6 years ago

    I'm the same way!  I really like it on some people - but I just don't feel right when wearing a bright color with black.  It feels like I'm being lazy or something - you know, I didn't really have anything to wear with these black pants, but hey, black goes with everything so I guess I'll wear this bright yellow top and it's all good!  Nope. Not for me.

    I also have a hang-up about wearing red with black - sooooo predictable - but the thing that bothers me the most is that it reminds me of the tablecloths in an Italian restuarant.

  • Caro in Oz replied 6 years ago

    Fezes are cool & they are often red & black :) :)

  • Deborah replied 6 years ago

    Caro, Fezes are indeed cool!

  • Mander replied 6 years ago

    Oh dear, am I committing a fashion sin without even knowing it?  ;-)

    Black with some sort of color is one of my main defaults, and I love black and red together.  I am on team high contrast, though, which might be part of it.

  • Emily replied 6 years ago

    I wear a Stetson now.  Stetsons are cool.

    Funny, I have watched that episode a bunch of times and was always too distracted by John Barrowman to really pay attention to the Trinny and Susannah robots.  Now that I am thinking about it, I don't love brights with solid black either - I tend to match bright colours with Gray or Prints.  Maybe it is to do with your tolerance for contrast, like Mander says?  I know I generally prefer less.

    Zomg Doctor Who is awesome.  I am a bit jealous that you are watching it for the first time!

  • lyn67 replied 6 years ago

    Rae, I wonder, too...cuz I completelly feel like you in black and brights! But am much older, blonde and a low contrast...maybe that's alos to be weighing in.

  • citygirldc replied 6 years ago

    I wear black with color all the time (I like contrast too).  I guess it works for me  but maybe I'm just comfortable in that zone and maybe need to change it up a bit.

  • Jules replied 6 years ago

    I don't like it either. I believe I even came up with the 'rule' for myself on my own (not hearing it from someone else). I realized it just wasn't doing the colour any favours. I think there's ways it can be done well, styled to bring down the contrast, or even with a b&w patterned item thrown in (I think your Brahmin would work) - but I no longer default to 'have new coloured item - pair with black' mentality. And even when I see it on others I rarely like it .

  • Joy replied 6 years ago

    I'm with you on not liking most saturated colors with black for myself, although adding white or a third color really helps. Black with red or black and pink make me think of cheap lingerie. I do like wearing black with cobalt.

  • Diana replied 6 years ago

    I think many of us have developed over the years a distaste for your typical black-pants-solid-bright-top business casual uniform that was so ubiquitous a few years ago (and to some extent still today).

    I prefer my black with dark moody colors or with crazy patterns personally.

  • Elizabeth P replied 6 years ago

    Well, this looks like a good post to jump in on.

    There is a post on here about "Dressing your Truth" and Energy Profiling, which seems to pup up annually.  So I know a lot of you don't believe in this system, or don't know, nor even want to know anything about it, but this is EXACTLY what you'll learn through it.

    Black and saturated colours have the same energetics.  People also have a natural energy.  In the DYT system, you learn that only people with a certain natural energy can wear black and saturated colours well, as it harmonizes with the energy they are naturally "putting out", in the way they talk, move, and generally approach life.  If you try to wear these colours and you are not energetically in harmony, you'll look, and feel, "off". 

    From Rae's initial post, I sense she's feeling that disharmony with those colours and her own natural energy.

    I discovered DYT over a year ago, ironically though that thread I mentioned above, and it has been so incredibly eye opening for me.  Helping with cloths has been one side - this program has helped me realize what colours, design lines, textures, patterns, level of contrast, etc work for ME (and along with this goes the realization of why a lot my closet orphans are orphans).  But more importantly in terms of understanding who I am, and why I do things.  And then applying the same understanding to those around me, as I understand their energy.  Esp useful in parenting!  It's an amazing approach.

    My two cents :)

  • MuseumGal replied 6 years ago

    If couldn't wear black and a saturated color, I'd be waking around nekked half the time. It's a total fall back for me, but it also looks good on me.

  • Janet replied 6 years ago

    Black bottoms with jewel toned tops used to be my uniform years ago. I still love black, and I will sometimes wear a black-and-bright combination, but I am more likely to do black with prints or with white, and to do navy/denim or dark grey with brights. I kinda get that energy theory -- I think because my high contrast coloring and natural energy do work with high contrast outfit colors, but I don't default to that look the way I once did.

  • Adelfa replied 6 years ago

    I'm totally with you, Rae. In every detail, down to wearing darkened colors with black (love this) and substituting navy when wearing a bright (not that my pics show the difference from black). I just feel so uncomfortable wearing solid black with a solid bright.

    If I add white it can work--for example, I have a scarf that's black and white and hot pink.

    I agree with lots of the explanations--
    1. too 80's (I know Angie disagrees)
    2. doesn't work with lower levels of personal contrast (though I'm fairly high)
    3. doesn't work for some "energies"
    4. figure flattery--tends to cut you at the waist.

    Last night I wore black skinnies with a longish sweater in a sort of darkened royal blue--that's how I wear black with color!

  • replied 6 years ago

    What museum girl said, I wouldn't be dressed half the week if that was a 'rule'.

    I get lots of compliments when I do it, so I must be matching the saturation shade properly lol

  • replied 6 years ago

    May I join this chorus? I read a Trinny and Susannah library book where they had a short section on black. They said it was best to mix black with other neutrals and that really resonated with me. I never felt right in black + brights and it drove me crazy that I didn't like any colored tops with my black pants or black pencil skirts. Part of it was a bad 80's vibe, and the other had to do with intensity.

    My mom has been trained in color theory, and she always said that black and red worn together intensified each other. Not good for someone with coloring like mine, who can hardly handle either one on its own. This explains my depression over my "festive" Christmas outfit each year. It always ended up being default black pants (the only slightly dressy non-denim option I had) and some lame dark red sweater with something fuzzy or sparkly glued on--because you HAD to wear Christmas colors, and I look even worse in green. 

    This, in large part, led to the neutralizing of my wardrobe. I wasn't going to give up black, and I needed everything to go together. I do like a soft blue with black (ink, denim or chambray) and some light pinks for me. But this is something I am very, very particular about--again on me. I envy people that can mix black with anything and look great. Hey, didn't Aziraphale mention something about black jeans and bright tops looking cheap a while back? Maybe she got the notion from Dr. Who too! I have never seen it. 

  • rae replied 6 years ago

    Hm, Hil, maybe it is a Brit thing! I am drawn to British things...

    Deb, that special is something to look forward to! I can hardly wait. 

    KeepTheKey, I adore black with brown, too! And black with blue, that was also a no-no when I was growing up. Is there a rebellious personality trait that goes with black and soft colors?

    Marley, I just felt that way when we were supposed to wear black, white, and red for the half yearly sale. All I had on was a red belt, but I felt sooooo uncomfortable all day long.

    Caro, looking forward to that ep, too!

    Elizabeth, I am not familiar with DYT, but that is fascinating. I'm guessing there is a system for finding your energy level? So interesting that psychology is so tied to a practice viewed as superficial by some.

    Jody, that sounds just my speed! I like color with gray and denim, too. 

    It looks like plenty of us here like the combo! It would be so interesting to meet you all and see your DYT energy firsthand!

  • rae replied 6 years ago

    Claire, we cross-posted! Hm, wow, yes, I can totally see now how this rule will lead to a highly neutral wardrobe. Makes sense, too that I've cut myself down to only a few bright colors and amped up the navy/ink this year. Joining you in uncomfortable memories of Christmas sweaters with black dress pants... I'm sure that happened at the office every year...

  • Alexandra replied 6 years ago

    That rule probably came from somebody who doesn't wear black with bright color well. Just like the rule that an LBD is a must-have came from somebody who looked great in black. As always, consider the source.

    For me, black and bright is perfect because it captures my intensity as well as the Bright Winter dichotomy of stillness vs movement, calm and reserved vs bubbly and open.

  • replied 6 years ago

    Loling about us in our Christmas sweaters. 

    @Alexandra, exactly! You have the sort of intensity level that would thrive in black + color (and looking at both Trinny and Susannah, they do not). Very interesting!

  • Diana replied 6 years ago

    Hmm, I feel like I should add that I don't actually dislike the black+bright color combo and I think I even look pretty good in it, but the truth is that I don't really like colorblocking at all.  So I don't as a rule do big chunks of black + color, but if it's in a pattern or something like a colored scarf with black dress, that's fine. 

  • shedev replied 6 years ago

    I get 80s flashbacks with black and color, but not even my 80s. Those were spent in black and more black. I think I don't mind so much if one of the colors is an accent but not colorblocked.

  • Gaylene replied 6 years ago

    It's so interesting how we all have such different reactions to color combinations. I've always felt alive and energetic when I combine black with a saturated color. My preference is not to do it in equal amounts, like wearing a red sweater with black pants because I find that a rather uninspiring combination, but an emerald top with a black suit would be something I'd wear in a heart beat. The same goes for black and optic white combos and colouring blocking. To say that combining brights with black is somehow wrong is like the old adages that one ought not to combine navy with black, or black with brown.

    I think it's a combination of personality and personal preference, as well as individual colouring, that governs our reactions to certain combinations. I love it when I see others mix olives and browns with black, but that combination would look, and make me feel, half dead. I've also admired some of the burgundy and yellow outfits that I've seen in the forum this past week although that combination is one that I've always disliked intensely and would never wear. Who knows why we have these personal reactions, but it seems silly to turn our own preferences into rules for everyone.

  • Amy replied 6 years ago

    I guess I'm a unicorn Trapper Keeper girl because I wear black with brights all the time. I didn't realize this was a faux pas. :(

    I hate rules like this. I've been feeling pretty good about my outfits lately, and now am second-guessing myself. 

    P.S. Unicorns are awesome. :)

  • DonnaF replied 6 years ago

    Hmmm.  I didn't realize black + color was an '80s thing so maybe that's why it makes me vaguely uncomfortable so that my solid black skirt and pants/jeans frequently get passed over.  Also, I tend to wear flat black instead of deep, saturated black since my coloring is not super high contrast, and flat black + color doesn't look all that wonderful.  In retrospect, yes, when I wear solid black it tends to be with gray or other dark colors that are pseudo neutrals, and I am likely to pair brights with brights.  Now, IMHO, a black and white print is a completely different kettle of fish, and I love a black and white print with color!  For whatever reason, I don't find solid black with a colored print nearly as interesting.

  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    What Diana said.  I'm wearing a version of this today, actually - black plus crazy pattern.

  • annagybe replied 6 years ago

    Yeah they just lifted the whole phrase from Trinny and Susannah.

  • Marley replied 6 years ago

    Hey you guys - this is not a rule!  Some people absolutely rock black with brights - and so please do not change!  For myself, I wish that I could wear it - but with my coloring (and probably my energy) I just don't feel like myself when I am wearing it.  But that's just me.  I also don't feel right wearing camoflauge - because it reminds me of violence - but that doesn't mean that someone else can't wear it and look fantastic! 
     It's all good!
    OK - carry on.  ;-)

  • Jewell replied 6 years ago

    Oooh I remember those Trapper Keepers- excellent comparison. I've never heard it presented as a hard and fast rule, but I can remember pairing my bright fuchsia blazer with a black top and not liking the effect at all. The only exception for me is red and black. I find they look great together to my eye no matter what.

  • rachylou replied 6 years ago

    I feel that way, but then I see there are lots of exceptions. So, it occurs to me it may have to do with clothing cut more than the combo of colour with black.

  • jayne replied 6 years ago

    I am on the PRO black and color side.  Color blocking was an eye opener for me and I love it. Like Alexandra, I am a winter and the contrast suits me.  I so so glad many have jumped in to point out that the rule is not a rule.  Trinny and Susanne also HAD (ie no longer have) a rule that pears should always wear a long jacket/sweater and so on to hide our long bottoms.  I don't see them using that anymore as that would be totally dated.

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    I love wearing black with brights. The colours are the same intensity, so to my eye the combination works very well. I wonder if my blonde hair and pale complexion adds another colour, thereby neutralizing the effect? That said, I love black with brights on those with dark hair too. Yo would look great wearing black with brights. Horses for courses I guess. 

  • Beth Ann replied 6 years ago

    Love Doctor Who!  I think your best Who fashion moments are yet to come in later seasons -- so much to look forward to!  To of my favorites are River Song's dress and Clara's red bag.

    And yes, Fezzes and bow ties are cool, but I still miss David Tennant's Cons! 

  • deb replied 6 years ago

    I never wore black with brights in the 80's so maybe that is why I am wearing them now. According to my colors analysis, black can go with any of my colors and brights are my colors. Hmmmm.....

  • FlorenceFearne replied 6 years ago

    I like black with bright. And if I didn't wear black and bright, I'd never wear bright, because I always wear black. I think blacks and brights are far easier to pull off than black with chalky pastels. Black and pastel is really tough. 

  • rae replied 6 years ago

    Interesting FF, because I like black with pastel far far better! Black and blush especially.

    Angie, you do look so good in black/brights. There has to be something going on with complexion. The combo looks chic to me on some but makes ME feel low rent and tacky.

    Anna, I bet it was a spoof on T&S and I didn't realize. There were two robots doing makeovers...

    I hope I did not come across as advocating this as a rule for everyone! As I said up top, I like the look on others but don't feel right myself. It was just so interesting that what I took as a personal quirk was presented as a rule of thumb.

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    low rent and tacky


    Not at all, Rae. Thanks for the kind words though. 

  • Deborah replied 6 years ago

    Lol Beth Ann I just miss David Tennant!!

  • Aziraphale replied 6 years ago

    Rae, I had heard this somewhere before too (not from Doctor Who) and I thought it was right on the money. In fact this conversation has come up recently -- I think it was from a post by Fruitful? Anyway, I must have articulated this at some point in the past, and she remembered, and then paraphrased me in her recent post. What I had said was actually more specific: if you pair black bottoms with a bright top, the bottoms look boring and the top looks cheap. To my eye, the same doesn't seem to be true for bright bottoms and black top, although I don't have a clue why that would be so.

    Sorry to anybody who likes black bottoms paired with bright tops. I don't think it works, ever. (Sorry Angie). Or, well, it doesn't look terrible, but it doesn't look particularly good, either. Could be that I'm wrong, or narrow-minded, but if so I'm not the only one -- certainly the writers of Doctor Who, at least, feel the same way.  ;-)

    You know, this does remind me that colour choice is so, so personal. For example, Sally did a post recently where she asked about people's "fashion powers" -- i.e. your particular strengths when it comes to fashion choices. She went on to say that her special power was a facility with colour combinations, which made me spit my coffee -- because I feel that colour choice is the LEAST distinguished aspect of her blog outfits. She does flattering silhouettes really well, but then wears these really jarring (to my eye) colour combinations that make me think of clowns or flea markets. But clearly she thinks it looks great, and probably lots of other people do too.

    All this is by way of saying that it's really hard to make rules when it comes to aesthetics, because qualitative elements like elegance, harmony and beauty are always subjective.  :-)

  • Jacky replied 6 years ago

    I think it's about balance in a lot of cases - having an even cut like black bottoms and a bright top often feel unbalanced to me, and the sharp line around the waist definitely looks off! That said, I love the high contrast of bright colors and black when it's more balanced. I actually think a black suit with a bright jewel-toned shirt looks amazing.

    Doctor Who does have some great fashion moments! One of the most memorable pieces for me was Rose's electric blue jacket - I eventually went out and got one thanks to seeing her wearing it :)

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