With the dreariness of winter approaching, I’m craving outfits of a single, bright head-to-toe color. I’m thinking fuchsia, turquoise and orange, or my favorite: chartreuse. But how do I do it so I don’t look like a crayon or a traffic cone — and on a budget? — Jessica, South Orange, N.J.
Monochrome dressing is the official name for what you are talking about. People often people associate the word with black/white/gray, but it simply means dressing in a single color. Ever since Michelle Obama modeled its effectiveness at the inauguration in neck-to-toe burgundy Sergio Hudson, it has been one of the bigger trends of the year. (See also Jake Gyllenhaal at the Tonys in a pink Prada suit with a pink shirt.)
As to why, well, Goop called monochrome “universally flattering,” as it creates a single, unbroken line that both elongates and polishes, furthering an illusion of height for almost any body. It also harnesses the power of color to establish or reflect a mood, whether it’s electric, optimistic, serene or sedate. Also, it suggests commitment and confidence. There’s nothing wishy-washy about going all in on a single shade. And you don’t have to worry about that pesky problem of coordination.
The undisputed queen of this kind of dressing is, of course, the queen, who has been wearing monochrome since at least the middle of the last century, the better to stand out in a crowd. (She does it so well that she inspired an entire book on the subject entitled “Our Rainbow Queen.”) But she’s not alone.
Pascal Anson, the artist and mentor on “The Big Painting Challenge” on the BBC, made monochrome dressing a sort of performance piece during the last year of remote work, documenting his experiments on Instagram. (He called the series “Monoclo.”) And Mr. Hudson doubled down on the look in his fall collection, showing monochrome tailoring and cocktail wear in red, yellow, blue and purple. It has kind of become his signature.
So for tips on best practice, it seemed as if there was no one better to ask. Mr. Hudson emailed me that the most important thing to keep in mind is using subtle variations of tone. For example, he said: “I would do a marigold yellow combined with a canary yellow instead of a full canary yellow look. It gives you the monochromatic feel without the harshness of the same color head to toe and creates a more pulled together look.”
Meredith Koop, the stylist and consultant responsible for Mrs. Obama’s look, also suggested playing with texture: “Look for contrasts in fabric,” she said. “Something silky with sheen, a plush wool, a matte crepe, a textured bouclé or a rich velvet. That will move the eye around and make the look more dynamic.”
To be frank, it’s also easier since you don’t have to go nuts matching fabric swatches, and you can shop around to find what works for your budget.
Start, for example, with a simple bias-cut silk skirt like this one from Quince. Or try wide-leg trousers like these from Pangaia (they come in flamingo pink, orchid purple, apple red and saffron). Then build.
Ms. Koop recommends looking at Michelle Mason and Le Superbe on the pricier side, as well as Banana Republic and BR x Harbison at Banana Republic for more budget-conscious styles. And, she said, “Always check out second hand on the RealReal and ThredUP to score a deal.”
As Mr. Hudson said, the result suggests forethought without fussiness. “And that’s always elegant.”