A Lesson in Contrast

If you're like me, you LOVE the classic look of black and white!

I think no matter when you wear it, the black and white combo always looks modern. 

As awesome and classic as the black and white combo looks, it isn't as easy to wear as everyone thinks. The element of contrast can make or break your black and white ensemble 

Let's talk about contrast for a minute. Scientifically speaking, the eye is naturally drawn to things that are visually interesting. "Visually interesting" in this context, refers to things containing high levels of contrast. When you look at a person, a picture, a landscape or anything else, your vision automatically goes first to the point of highest contrast of whatever you're looking at. 

For example. Look at this painting. 
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Your eye is immediately drawn to the yellow sailboat, even though it's not the biggest thing in the picture and it's not in the center of the painting. 

Here is another example. 

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The first thing you see are the crests of the waves, even though the subject of the painting is actually the ship.

The reason why you are noticing these specific aspects of the paintings is that they are the areas in the paintings where the sharpest contrast is found.

Your clothes work the same way. 

Black and white is the sharpest possible color contrast. This is why it makes such a bold statement. However, if you're not careful, it can overshadow the most important part of an outfit: the person wearing it! Facial contrast, that is, the contrast you have naturally between your hair, skin, and eyes, is where you want the eye to go.

Take a look at this image. 

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 None of these girls have what I'll refer to as a "sharp natural contrast." They all have soft hair colors, fair skin, and light eyes. Do you see how their faces almost completely disappear when you look at the picture? All you see is the clothing. Basically, instead of the girl wearing the dress, the dress wears the girl. Since this is from a runway show, it was no doubt intentional. The main goal of clothing retailers is to sell clothes. They want you to see the garments, not the girl. In real life, you want the opposite. 

Now consider this photo. 

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See how with this black and white ensemble, the first thing you notice is this woman's face? That's because she has a sharp natural contrast. The contrast between her skin and hair is enough to balance the contrast found in the dress. She is one of the lucky ones who can pull this off without any help!

If like me, you aren't lucky enough to have a super-sharp natural contrast, there are things you can do to "create" facial contrast in your black and white outfit. 

1)  Choose something with a lower neckline. This way, the bold black and white pattern is not right next to your face, therefore giving your face the spotlight.

2)  Create contrast with your makeup. A bold lip color and black mascara will give your face visual appeal in terms of contrast, therefore drawing the eye toward your face. I am planning to do a later post on finding the perfect red lip color. 

3) Break up the contrast with a jacket. But putting the solid black jacket over this dress, I have toned down and controlled the overall contrast effect of the dress so that it doesn't detract from my face. 

4) Wear a bold necklace. I didn't do it in this outfit, but it is a good technique that is used often. Do you see how even though this girl has very low natural contrast between her hair, skin, and eyes, this bold necklace basically "frames" the most important part of the outfit by instantly jerking the eye away from the stark black and white chevron pattern back up to her face?

Well, that's all I have for today! I hope you have found this informative and helpful. Now go out and rock your black and white outfits ladies!

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