New York Black is going to be white hot this fall.
There's nothing boring about the newest versions of fashion's favorite standby. The black garments that designers and retailers are embracing are rich, textured and luxe, yet more cozy than sleek.
Envision velvet blazers and fur-trim boots. Soft cashmere sweaters and feather dance skirts - all in not-so-basic black.
Black is the basis for two important looks, according to Sally Singer, Vogue's fashion news director. "The interesting thing about black this season is that it's either used as a pop art basic against white, a '60s look that shows the graphic nature of black and white. (Christian) Dior did it well. ... Or you see a mixing of textures and tones of black. Black velvet, black gauze, black silk or viscose. ... There's varying amounts of light that goes through it to make the black sometimes look gray, blueish or brownish," she says.
Black is never "out" since style-savvy women know that it can be worn with everything from pink ballet slippers to gold sequined tanks, and it's usually instantly slimming and sophisticated. But this fashion cycle it's certainly more "in" than the past few seasons that favored mostly brighter shades of blue, green and orange.
Some outstanding looks from the fall fashion shows were a black cashmere-sequin strapless dress with a grid pattern from Calvin Klein Collection; an ombre beaded gown in black silk charmeuse and tulle from Michael Kors; and a black satin gown with sheer black straps and velvet trim around the bust by Oscar de la Renta.
"This black is not to erase yourself or to look thinner or to look like an urban soldier. It's more sensual, textural," Singer explains. "It's not 'Matrix-y' black. This is cozy, old black, like 'Italian grandmothers' funeral' black.'
Designer Giorgio Armani's fall Emporio Armani collection features a black mixed-wool jacket and a black knit pencil skirt with fringe, and a black cotton pantsuit with floral embroidery and gold buttons. He says, "Certainly over the last several seasons there has been a greater expression through color and prints, but there is now definitely a return to a more monochromatic look for the autumn. Not a somber look, but more an ultrachic and elegant spirit."
It's a good time to invest in special black pieces, Vogue's Singer advises, perhaps a Pierre Cardin-inspired pea coat, which would look great against a white blouse or trousers, or a pair of jeans.
One of the pieces Singer already bought for herself is a Loris Azzaro black blazer that's lined in gold lame. "That was the kind of special piece I was looking for," she says, especially since it hits on three trends: black, Russian-inspired details and a shrunken jacket silhouette. (She notes that less-expensive versions of these "special" pieces are available at retailers such as J.Crew.)
At the top of Style.com's shopping list, developed by executive fashion director Candy Pratts Price, is a black trench coat.
"Most women feel that black is kind to them. When you're in a hurry to get dressed, black always works. It might take a little more time to find the right turquoise dress," Pratts Price says.
And because of the black backlash the past few seasons, suddenly the little black dress is a "completely refreshing idea," she adds.
For his made-to-order business, Isaac Mizrahi redid the little black dress as a shift with a white tulle petticoat, and for his Target line there's a black cashmere turtleneck sweater, a black tulle skirt and black riding boots. Both versions are as current as they are timeless.
"Today's black needs a shape, like a tulip skirt or a trench, not just drab black. It has glamour to it," Pratts Price says.
She also notes that black is a great canvas to show off jewelry. "You could wear a black beaded necklace on a black cashmere sweater, which will look very '40s, or you could also do it with silver - the '60s - or with pearls - the '50s."
She has a few black don'ts, though: "Unless you're very young or truly ride a motorcycle, you shouldn't wear a motorcycle jacket. A long black leather coat is not a good look, either."
She advises staying away from a very tailored, men's-style suit, but a black pinstripe suit is a wise and stylish purchase.
"Black is always a good investment ... You will be able to wear the black you buy now with the trends of the future," Pratts Price says.