Why I Wear Black: Finding My Style

Every morning when my roommate and I leave our dorm for breakfast, she makes a comment along the lines of “black again today, huh?” or “love the gray.” This doesn’t bother me, because I’m fully cognizant of how monochromatic my clothes often look to others. (I usually also make a comment about her bright yellow, floral wardrobe choices.)

For me, wearing almost exclusively black and gray is a deliberate move, one that I’ve taken a while to realize. My wardrobe is the culmination of years of doubting my ability to dress the way I wanted, conforming to a style I really didn’t like, and resigning myself to wearing clothes that didn’t make me feel my best.

So why don’t I wear colorful clothes? Quite simply, I spent years admiring women who dressed in black for their elegance and class. Then, I decided that there was nothing stopping me from emulating them.

This pink tulle skirt used to be a staple in my childhood wardrobe.

Like all young kids, I had pretty much no control of what I wore. My mom chose all my clothes, so I wore bright shorts, patterned shirts, and high socks with white shoes.

Once I was old enough to choose my own outfits, I became very conscious of what all the other girls in my grade were wearing. Mostly, this consisted of jean shorts, flip-flops, and anything with an Aeropostale logo. To my ten-year-old despair, I was unable to match my peers: I wasn't allowed to cut off any of my jeans, my mom considered flip-flops too casual for school, and she never took me to Aeropostale because it was overpriced.

If you knew me in middle school, you’ll recognize this tie-dye tank top.  

This preoccupation with dressing like my peers caused me a lot of self-consciousness up until my junior year of high school. That year, my sense of style fell prey to the fatigue caused by marching band. I started wearing leggings, hoodies, and sweatshirts to school—and no one cared. It was great to be comfortable in school, especially when I had no time or effort in the mornings to plan an outfit. My self-consciousness started to wear off, especially when I saw others rocking the same sweatpants-and-t-shirt look. Despite my newfound comfort, I secretly envied the girls who came to school looking like they’d been up for at least two hours getting ready.

The summer before my freshman year of college, I entered the world of business casual. My summer job required “semi-professional attire” of all its employees, meaning I spent a lot of time in khakis and cardigans. While I enjoyed my job and had no problem meeting its dress code, I still felt uncomfortable in the clothes.

Packing for college that summer, I deliberately left a lot of clothes behind. If I knew I wasn’t going to wear it, I thought, why would I bring it over two-hundred miles to school? When I took a look at the suitcase of clothes I’d packed for my first semester, I was met with a lot of gray and a lot of black.

I wasn’t exactly surprised by the color scheme of my favorite clothes. I knew that wearing these colors made me feel great; I just wasn’t used to breaking the stereotype of a preppy public school where black clothes justified a label of “emo” or “goth” on the wearer. Going to college brought about a lot of changes in my identity, though, and I decided that this was going to be another one.

For my senior prom, I decided to wear the dress that made me feel the most confident—and it happened to be black.

Wearing black makes me feel empowered. I just don’t get the same confidence out of wearing yellow or pink or orange as I do black. Besides jeans and one or two colored shirts, I wear black and/or gray every day—and I feel good about it.

I don’t mind when people point out that I never wear colors. Spending over a decade of my life feeling uncomfortable in my clothes set me up for an incredibly cathartic realization of my sense of style. It took me a long time to be able to embrace my own taste and find value in what I see as beautiful—getting a reminder of that every once in a while isn’t so bad.

 

Image Credit: Amelia Yeager