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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Do Black & White Better: 4 New Ways to Wear Your Work Basics

Admittedly one of the most classic color combinations out there, black and white is a no-fail way to look sleek and put-together in the office.

But how do you keep from looking like you’re a waiter or feeling like your outfit is missing that extra punch? I’ve got some ideas that will add that extra je ne sais quoi to your favorite colors.

1. Wear All Black With One White Piece (or Vice-Versa)

Sure, an all black outfit may be on the safe side, but what if you wear all black and then have one unexpected white piece? Say, black pants, blouse, shoes, and blazer with a white necklace? Or a white belt?

It adds just enough oomph to stray out of that safe zone and into something a little more playful. Reverse it and wear all white with one black piece, too!

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2. Make Use of Textures

One thing that makes an outfit infinitely more fun is sticking to one color palette but wearing all different textures.

For example. I love wearing my black pants that have a black leather stripe down the side with a black silk shirt and a black satin tux jacket. So many different textures and fabrics, but all the same color! You could also try mixing wool and raw silk or chunky knits and denim—once you get going, the options are really endless.

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3. Try a Pop of Color

You probably saw this coming—but adding just a touch of color definitely keeps an outfit from looking ordinary.

Wear your tried and true black and white outfit with one colorful piece, but keep it something small—think an accessory or pair of shoes. Or for the guys, try a solid tie or brogues or loafers in a more unusual color—don’t be shy, it will look great!

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4. Mix Patterns

There really isn't any easier way to add interest to your work uniform than adding a couple of different patterns that work together in the same outfit. And it’s not just for ladies—guys can try this, too!

Mixing black and white patterns is super easy because there’s not a wide range of shades that could potentially clash. Play around with different patterns to see what works—you can usually figure out what will look good by trial and error. (Though a couple no-fail options: polka dots and stripes, or windowpane and checks.)

Get the Looks

Photo of woman in black and white courtesy of Maegan Tintari.