How To Wear Black after 40 (4 Tips + a Special Offer)

I remember the very first time I wore a black dress. It was my 15th birthday and my parents took me to Wolf Trap to see A Chorus Line. It was a rite of passage since I was not allowed to wear black prior to this special occasion. The reasoning I received from my mother was that it was a little too mature…no reason to rush into looking older than you are and no wiser words were ever spoken in the name of style! So if this were the advice I was given at 15, why wouldn’t the same hold true so many years later?! After a certain age, could black be “too mature,” adding unwanted years?

Think about the ever-polished and always chic Anna Wintour. She has gone on record stating that black is her least favorite color. When she does wear black, there are usually embellishments, or she mixes it with texture and other hues.


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Photo by: Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Black. By definition: of the very darkest color owing to the absence of or complete absorption of light; the opposite of white. I think it’s safe to say we all have some black items in our wardrobe…some of us perhaps have more than others. Part of my job as a stylist is to help my clients understand their wardrobe. More times than not, I have directed the women who work with me to stop purchasing black pieces. This now has become almost a running joke among a few of you — I’ll refrain from using names but you know who you are!  “Alicia told me I shouldn’t wear black!”  Having my clients compare notes post-meetings ensues all sorts of banter and laughter. I would like to emphasize when statements are taken out of context, the meaning can become completely and utterly skewed!  The ultimate takeaway should be DON’T WEAR SO MUCH BLACK! And the next takeaway is KNOW HOW TO WEAR BLACK…especially after 40.

Women usually reach out to me for help for either a closet purge or to help them find outfits with items they already own. So many closets I come across are lacking color, texture, print, and punctuation…but there’s hardly ever an absence of black. So yes, I feel there is an overuse of black in general. I understand and appreciate the WHY. There is a natural tendency to choose black since it will definitely go with your other black items…no color matching. But black is very harsh on aging skin tones (yes, I said it…aging!) and there are so many other options that should be considered before you go to your safe place and buy another black dress, black pant, black sweater, and let us not forget…black coat. A core wardrobe should most definitely have black covered, but not to the degree of multiples of pants, dresses, tops, sweaters, and coats.

Here are a few tips on how to wear black without dimming the light within.

1) Stick with classic pieces.

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If there really is a Santa Clause, this would be under my tree!!

Your classics can be in black. This includes a great fitting pair of pants, a fantastic LBD with a flattering neckline, a cashmere sweater, or a moto jacket. Here I took a print two-piece silk staple in my own closet and paired it with the Veda moto jacket from The Hive.

2) Your makeup matters.

Be thoughtful of your makeup if you wear black directly next to your face. Black can suck the life out of your complexion, especially Caucasian women (generally, the more pigment you have naturally in your skin, the easier it is for you to wear black). Changes in skin tone occur as we age and black can be jarring, harsh, and wash some women out. Using self-tanner, bronzer, a little more mascara, and a suitably brighter lip color can help. The other option is to add a scarf or choose items that have a contrasting color at the neckline to warm your skin.

I asked Angela, owner of Bellacara, to give me a few ideas on products that help when wearing black.

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Kevin Aucoin Neo-Bronzer in Siena is a lovely warm coral

Add some necessary warmth with this palette from Kevin Aucoin. The nuances are built in, showing you the deepest hue for under the cheekbones, the pop of color for the apple of your cheek, and the highlighter to enhance your brow bone and tops of your cheeks.

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Jouer Noisette Long-Wear Lip Crème Matte Liquid Lipstick + Jouer Cosmetics Skinny Dip Shimmering Champagne Lip Topper

Define your lips when wearing black. For me it’s crucial. I think I may be one of the last women in Old Town to discover this cult-favorite lip crème from Jouer. This matte color stays in place and if you are going to wear black, you want to make sure you keep your lip color on your lips.  I chose a color that closely matches my lips and may go back for another to pop a little coral-pink for the holidays! Angela explained that the shimmer can be added with the topper…which I also indulged in!

3) Use print, patterns, and texture.

Using print and patterns that have a black field will soften the effect to get the look without the harsh edge all black has. Texture is another way to add more definition to black pieces. Think feathers, fringe, pleating, jacquard, or lace.

black-lace-hive-topTop from The Hive

This top is exquisite and IF I had some fun money, it would be mine in a New York minute. But it can definitely be yours! It’s perfect for a Christmas engagement photo, holiday party, or just because!

A quick aside…I went into The Hive and shared with Katie the topic of my post.  She shared a few interesting things about black. Her grandmother was her style mentor and was a major influence on her sense of what looked best on her. Ironically, Katie was wearing a super awesome black outfit that day but said she rarely wears black because it is overpowering. “Growing up in Texas, no one ever wore black except to a funeral!”

4) Add color.

Color blocking is one of the most polished ways of utilizing black. Finding some great colors to pair with black pieces instantly elevates a look and increases the impact. This equation also lends itself to adding a few stunning accessories. This velvet vintage-inspired jacket is an easy addition to all black.

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Jacket from TSALT

Consider some alternatives to black in shades such as dark green, dark teals, dark burgundy, navy, graphite, etc. All of these can be used the same way black is and will be much more dynamic.

Finally, what would Black Friday be without an offer?!  A treat for Stylebook readers, I’m offering a gift to either give or receive. Purchase a two hour consultation for $200 (25% off the regular price) or 5 hours for $500 and have something to look forward to in 2017. You can either treat yourself or give this package as a gift to a friend, sister, mother, daughter, husband…whoever would appreciate some wardrobe attention. Gifts will be sent in the form of a certificate in a beautiful envelope before Christmas.

Happy Holidays Stylebook readers!!

  • The latest from Alicia
Alicia was born and raised in Alexandria, and married a local boy. She is happily married and the mother of two amazing children and one adorable and terribly smart border terrier named Dixie. Alicia has always known she was a creative. She collected editions of Vogue from junior high on and has always loved clothing and design. She studied interior design at VCU and parlayed that degree into commercial interior design, the web design, and ultimately found herself managing a local boutique and serving as a stylist to many Alexandrian women. She now has a successful full-time styling business, The Tulle Box, and makes it her business to make her clients feel great about themselves and the way they look.

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