I was struck by the story because my color evolution has been the opposite. When I was just a little older than Yuki, I began wearing almost exclusively black clothes. It was definitely a statement. Black was chic, it was edgy, it was rebellious. It embodied my very critical view of my Cincinnati convent school and my pastel and pearl-wearing peers. I am positive that I was the only girl at my senior prom in 1973 wearing a clinging black nylon dress with a deep V-neckline and shoulder-skimming rhinestone earrings. My mother—no conformist herself--tried to push me towards florals and pinks as more appropriate for a teenager, but I resisted. I found that black went perfectly with my thick black eyeliner, my attitude, and my Marlboro cigarettes.
It also looked good on me. I remember how put-together and grown up I felt when I played Mary in our school production of The Women, by Clare Booth Luce, dressed in a vintage black crepe 1940s dress with a draped waist and shoulder pads that I had found at a local thrift shop. I wore that gorgeous dress on special occasions for years.
As I grew up, black clothes remained easy, comfortable, familiar, me. When I needed new clothes, I looked at—and sometimes bought--other colors, but I genuinely did not find them as attractive. Black clothes seemed to fit better and to have more style. They also went with my other clothes. I collected black pants, black shoes, black shirts, black sweaters, black jackets, black coats, black scarves and hats, even black jewelry, pajamas and bath towels. (I just now counted the number of black sleeveless dresses I own: 6! Black pants: 7!)
I did sometimes notice as I flipped through my closet that it was hard to distinguish one garment from another to find what I was looking for. But that dark plenitude made me feel lucky, not worried. Unlike Shizuko, black made me happy!
Here are some recent pictures of me in typical attire:
One day I read an article that berated women for seeking refuge in black clothing: The writer claimed—in a way I found persuasive--that it was “aging.” Slowly, I came to realize that I was frightened of color. I had begun wearing black to stand out, but over time, I had ended up using it to blend in. Sometimes, particularly on warm, sunny days, I felt weighed down by my chosen hue. Maybe I was turning into Shizuko!
Since then, I have been working on adding more color to my wardrobe. This is harder than it sounds. First, I am habitually drawn to black in the stores, and I find it almost impossible to resist a stylish black [anything], even when I am allegedly searching for a fashionable bright skirt. Also, I have sometimes gone too far too fast, venturing recklessly on a color spree (light green! hot pink!) that I have not developed enough color stamina for. Even if I get compliments on my cheerful new garment, I can’t shake the feeling that I am walking around in the middle of a giant spotlight. (The Salvation Army, fortunately, has a drop box very close to my house.)
Mostly, for the moment, I am relying on graduated exposure therapy: splashes of color like red scarves and purple stockings. When I dig in my drawers for weekend clothes, I still usually end up choosing my black velvet corduroy straight-leg pants, but now I’m more likely to pair them with a light pink t-shirt. A huge sign of progress: I have one teal/aqua dress (with a black belt) that works for me, and I have worn it at least three times (with a black necklace and black shoes)! (Picture below).
This past January, shopping the sale racks at Bloomingdale’s, I was determined to buy some brights, but everything seemed too gaudy. Instead I bought some black things, and though I felt guilty at first, I’ve been loving them.
In the end, I doubt I’ll ever totally abandon black. It was my first clothing friend! But I’m enjoying the new perspective. Thanks, Pascale!