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Monochromatic Dressing Is Timeless—and You Can Wear It Today

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Case chapter.

Recently I started watching Murder, She Wrote, one of the best shows I get on my 10ish channels. Maybe I’m biased since I already love Angela Lansbury (most of you know her as the voice of Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast, but she was also great as the original Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, among many other things), but I was struck by how great she always looks playing Jessica Fletcher. Her secret, and the secret of many other classy women throughout the years? Monochromatic dressing. Wearing one color, or a few similar colors in the same color family, is a surefire way to look put together without much effort.


Just look at this great jacket-skirt-scarf combo:


And this top with matching shawl:

You can tell this guy is totally impressed with her outfit.


Or how about this coordinating sweater and collared shirt:

Even her glasses match.


The benefits of monochromatic dressing are myriad. Besides just looking sharp, it makes you appear taller and can help show off a great accessory in a contrasting color.

But these examples, great as they are, are very 80s. While it’s true that everything old is new again at some point (I am wearing a big sweater and big glasses as I type this), monochromatic dressing looks equally great using updated silhouettes that are stylish right now.

For example, check out this look:

A-line skirts such as the one above have been back in style for a few years now and are still going strong. See how the brightly colored accessories stand out? Also note how the sweater and skirt are in different enough hues for it to look intentional. That’s the trick with monochromaticism; your pieces should either be the exact same color, or one piece should be a few shades lighter or darker. If the shades are almost matching but not quite, it can clash and actually look the opposite of put-together.


In this photo, the two shades of pink are just different enough to look good together. Anything slightly closer in hue might look a bit off.

Here’s what I mean. I’m not a fan of this Max Mara example of high-fashion monochromaticism for several reasons. Besides being the color of Barney the dinosaur, to me the sheer top is just a different enough shade from that skirt to clash.


You can’t go wrong with colors in different shades. Whether you love or hate the textures in this photo, the colors are definitely on point:


Bonus: black and white are opposites, but wearing them together is still considered monochromatic for some reason. Maybe because they’re both neutrals?

Here’s me being monochromatic: 

(Cropped out my bf to focus on my outfit. Sorry, bf.) Again, anything not in the same color family will really stand out, like the red lipstick I’m wearing.


Monochromatic dressing is found throughout the decades because it works, plain and simple. You can bet it won’t be going away anytime soon, and now you know how to pull it off and still look modern. 

One last note: yes, all my examples use skirts. I believe this is because of the popularity of jeans and the relative lack of pants in different colors compared to skirts, but if you have a pair of jeans or shorts in a fun color, feel free to wear those with a similarly colored top as well.


I'm Emily, a senior at Case Western Reserve University studying Psychology and Evolutionary Biology. My favorite animal is the two-toed sloth, and I do research on moths, which can live on the fur of sloths. When I'm not in the lab thinking about moths (and sloths), you can find me drawing, singing, writing poetry, eating macaroni-and-cheese, or getting way too interested in pictures of vacant malls. Also, check out my recently created blog on animal reproduction: http://www.sextraordinary.wordpress.com