Office comeback: Mix white with black for a masterclass in monochrome

Fastest way to smarten up your act for an office comeback? Simply mix white with black for a masterclass in monochrome

  • Columnist Shane Watson shows what post-lockdown Spring fashion will look like
  • She advises us to wear monochrome this Spring rather than abandoning black
  • She says we haven’t worn much black as we have instead donned exercise-wear
  • Shane insists spots and stripes can mix up monochrome for a Spring wardrobe

The start of April is, traditionally, when we put away our winter clothes. 

We’ve been getting into our spring stride, trying out a few lighter, brighter things, but April 1 is when we dare to mothball the duvet coats and chunky sweaters.

It’s the point at which we know things can only get better — the days longer, the weather warmer — and this year April marks the beginning of freedom.

Even those of us who don’t care that much about fashion are itching to put away the grey and the shapeless jersey, and start afresh.

Shane Watson advises us to wear monochrome this Spring (above, £32.99 blouse, Topshop at ASOS; trousers, £230, cefinn.com; heels, £139, kurtgeiger.com; £35.99 bag, Mango)


The columnist says mixing black and white can provide a new, uplifting and eternally chic combination to keep your outfits fresh and appealing

Most Aprils mean setting aside all the black, but this past year we haven’t worn black, apart from exercise-wear.

It just hasn’t felt right — too hard-edged, too cold, and every bit as out of tune with our mood as Melania Trump heels.

More than once over the winter I’ve peered into my wardrobe and thought: ‘All of this black stuff must go.’ 

I was ready to not just put it away, but take it straight to Oxfam on April 12 and never look back. Now I’ve changed my mind.

It’s true that black is not what we’re in the mood for right now, but black plus white is an entirely different matter.

If you look at the pictures on these pages, you don’t see black, you see the crisp, uplifting, eternally chic combination that is monochrome.

Shane says monochrome makes wearing white easy (above: Blazer, £79.99, zara.com; top, £59, Mix/Yaitte at next.co.uk; skirt, £81.75, karenmillen.com; boots, £125, jigsawonline.com)

Shane says we haven’t had the chance to wear black this winter because people have swapped their formal-wear for exercise-wear amid the Covid-19 lockdown

Black and white, white and black, is arguably the smartest colour combination there is, and — particularly since we’ve had a year off black — this new wave of monochrome looks fresher and more appealing than it has in a long time.

What’s clever about monochrome is it makes wearing white or cream so easy. A white pleated skirt and top might be a little too white and ethereal for the UK in spring but, with a Zara black waistcoat on top, it’s suddenly smart everyday wear. 

A bit of black in the mix grounds white and stops it from looking too high summer, too whimsical, or too dental hygienist.

And of course it works the other way around, too. A classic black double-breasted tuxedo, like this Reiss one, is suddenly light and spring-friendly when paired with cropped white trousers.

This is where you can see the magic of monochrome in action: an all-white trouser suit would be too summery and glaring, a black trouser suit too severe, but the two worn together are just right, and somehow more relaxed and modern — not to mention summer weather appropriate — than either matching combination.

This outfit also neatly demonstrates the only rule of monochrome: don’t just wear black and white in blocks, one on top of the other — mix it up a bit. 

The white lapels on this Reiss jacket are the reason the combination looks so chic — without them you might end up looking like a penguin. Or a zebra crossing.

The same goes for the black Cefinn trousers and white Topshop shirt; in this case it’s the black pointy collar that makes it a stylish monochrome outfit rather than just a plain old white shirt and black trousers. 


Spots and stripes are a ready-made way of mixing it up, and a white stripe down the outside of a wide black trouser (right) is the fast route to sharpening up your spring wardrobe 

Shane says monochrome can keep outfits fresh (above: Coat, £186.75, karenmillen.com; trousers, £119, whistles. com; shoes, £130, ghbass-eu. com; earrings, £95, merola.co.uk)

Black and white together aren’t automatically glamorous, but stick to crisp tailored shapes and avoid a white and black sandwich, and you can look super chic with very little effort.

Spots and stripes are a ready-made way of mixing it up, and a white stripe down the outside of a wide black trouser is the fast route to sharpening up your spring wardrobe.

If this look is too busy for you, then the trousers plus a white shirt, tails out, and a black V-neck sleeveless sweater has ‘ready to work from the office again’ written all over it.

You may look at these images and think: ‘Yes, but what about the shoes? I’m not a natural correspondent loafers kind of woman and I don’t fancy white shoes either.’ 

Fair enough, but don’t let that put you off. Black flats would work just fine, black ankle boots, too — and then black mules when the summer takes off.

Do consider a white handbag for summer, though. Black handbags are definitely for putting away until further notice.

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