Adding Sass to the Work-wear Separates Formula

I’ve begun updating some of my greatest hits posts so they’re more current. This is one of them!

How to make the office outfit of black pants and a solid top look modern and chic.

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Black slacks. Present in nearly every office-working woman’s wardrobe and considered to be a versatile workhorse. Which they are. BUT they can be a bit of a crutch for anyone stuck in a style rut, especially those relying almost exclusively on the black-slacks-bright-solid-top combo. I applaud ANYONE who opts to wear bold colors for any reason at any time, but this combination of pieces always gives me pause. Here’s why:

  • Black can really suck the life out of other colors. Bold, cool brights generally do well, but anything with warmth or dustiness won’t look its best when paired with black.
  • An outfit comprised of one solid color on top, another solid color on the bottom divides your figure into two chunks. I generally prefer a more unified look that gives a less blocky impression of the body. Or, at least, a look that includes more than two chunks – something that’s more aligned with the golden ratio.
  • It’s my impression that many women wear bright tops to keep the focus high and wear black pants to make their bottom halves disappear. And while every woman has the right to direct focus exactly where she wishes, there are other more balanced and creative ways to keep the spotlight on your top half. (Also I believe that bottom halves of all shapes and sizes can be seen, loved, and celebrated.)

All that said, I know that this pairing of pieces constitutes a work-wear formula that forms the foundation of many, many wardrobes. So instead of telling you to stop wearing these pieces together, let’s look at ways that this combination of separates can be made to look more unified, fun, and creative.

Black or printed scarf: A solid black scarf will serve to unify top and bottom halves, but a printed one that includes black AND the color of your top is even better. It’ll add movement and interest, introduce some additional colors, and create a cohesive look.

Necklace that includes black: Any necklace with black stones or metal will work well, though a long strand or pendant is a great option, if you can find one you love. It will draw the eye up and down your figure, which helps offset the two-chunk look created by the top and pants.

Black brooches: Just as a black scarf echoes those black slacks, pinning a black brooch or two to your top or blazer helps complete this ensemble. It’s amazing how much more pulled together this simple pairing looks with just one piece of thoughtful jewelry.

Sense a theme? Yep, all of these recommendations suggest using accessories that include some black. One of the reasons that a colorful top and black slacks can look disjointed is that nothing unifies those two halves. And since it’s pretty difficult to add colorful elements to your PANTS, it generally works better to add black elements to your top.

You’ll also notice that I haven’t added any additional clothing elements to this simple mix. Including a black blazer or black cardigan can help create an unbroken figure line, but also means that that nice punch of color from your top is further dampened. And when it comes to black slacks (or skirts!) I’ll always suggest swapping a solid top for a printed top that includes black. But if you prefer to do solids, a few accessories can go a long way toward unifying this look and making it feel more chic and modern.

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  • You are right on the money about black slacks being in almost every woman’s wardrobe and an easy rut to slip into. It seems so easy to just slip them on and forget about it. I would suggest for women who like black slacks to try a black skirt in the mix. If it’s warm weather go bare-legged but if it’s cold wear black tights and black boots. It’s similar to black pants but can help you get a bit of courage to try something a bit new. As always, your tips are so helpful!

    Julia
    http://www.whenthegirlsrule.com

    • Ginger

      It’ll go with all the tops you like to wear with your black pants!

  • Lisa

    This is one of my pet peeves. Bright solid top/black pants can look good on women with vivid, high contrast coloring, but it really doesn’t suit the rest of us. Not a universal panacea, unfortunately.