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The M Dash

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The Simplest Way to Look Chic: 10 Black and White Outfits

Interesting textures, novel silhouettes, and unexpected details make these looks anything but dull.

By Emma Steinbergs

Living in Brooklyn, I’m in good company when it comes to my affection for outfits that are completely devoid of color. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why black became the unofficial uniform of New Yorkers—it probably has something to do with its unmatched ability to conceal city grime —but it’s one of my favorite things about getting dressed in this city. I don’t take for granted that I can show up to dinner, not a drop of pigment in my outfit, without feeling like the goth kid in a high school lunchroom or Moira Rose in Schitt’s Creek.

At the same time, I’m also aware that there’s no shortage of people who consider colorless outfits to be a symptom of laziness or a lack of personality. But I’m here to tell you that thoughtfully crafted black-and-white ensembles can be an expression of precisely the opposite. Think about it: Not relying on a punchy hue for obvious visual interest asks even more of your creativity. What your look lacks in pigment, it has to make up for in interesting textures, novel silhouettes, and unexpected details. There’s so much nuance involved, and that’s the fun of it.

I always love the styling challenge that an achromatic palette presents, and lately, I’ve been especially inspired to create outfits that are exclusively black and white. Below, see 10 of my favorite colorless looks for this season and beyond.

mmlafleur Black and White Outfits

Look #1

Plaid Suit

For me, the showstopper of our new spring drop is, without a doubt, this plaid suit, which combines two of my favorite M.M. pieces: the boyfriend-style O’Hara blazer and the slightly flared Horton pants. It’s unapologetically bold and certainly a statement, but it’s also timeless (read: it won’t make you look like your dad in the ‘70s). I’m not the biggest pattern-wearer, but stripes and plaids will always have a place in my closet, as their clean lines appeal to my more minimalist sensibilities and are reliably versatile. You can always add a pop of color, but I think a solid black underpinning maximizes the suit’s impact. I finished it off with the pointed-toe Lana boots for an extra-leggy silhouette, but white leather sneakers would work just as well.

Look #2

Plaid Jacket + Solid-Colored Essentials

Of course, if you invest in a plaid suit, you’re going to want to wear each piece as a separate, too. Considering my three O’Hara jackets are some of my most-worn M.M. items, I’m confident you’ll have zero trouble doing so. This version, crafted from our new knit suiting blend, is secretly stretchy while maintaining a sharp look—everything I want out of a go-to Power Casual layer. Here, I paired it with our famous Foster pants and the 365Knit Sabine top for a fitted base that balances out the jacket’s boxiness. Check out that neckline; if you end up taking off your jacket, it looks so much more elevated than your average tank. My accessories include a pair of classic Weejuns loafers and an Etsy dupe of the Bottega Veneta drop earrings.

Look #3

Miracle Shirt + Plaid Pant

I have to give my beloved Horton pants some time in the spotlight, too, because in the new plaid, I think they’re some of the coolest trousers out there (along with the just-restocked Bias and the ponte Jordan pants). I tend to style them with slouchy knits, but if you work in a more corporate setting, try a tailored top, like the Clemens shirt in knit poplin—yes: knit poplin. I first felt a sample of this insanely innovative shirt a few months ago, and I immediately wondered how we could communicate its unique feel to our customers. Here goes: It somehow looks like crisp poplin but feels stretchy and soft; classic button-up meets luxury T-shirt. I’ve truly never encountered anything like it. I did my best to show you here, but you really do have to feel it for yourself. 

Look #4

Checkered Shirt + Slip Skirt

The Lacie top is the #1 piece in our spring collection that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. Confession: I actually did order it earlier than we M.M. employees are supposed to, with the excuse that I was writing this story. There’s just something about this collared style I find irresistible. Again, I’m picky about patterns, and this one checks (pun intended) all the boxes: It’s charming, modern, and easy to pair. I love how it feels smart and stylish rather than preppy or cutesy. Our 365Knit gives it a structured handfeel, so I created some textural contrast with a flowy silk slip skirt from Quince (similar: the Harlem skirt). For some extra edge, shine, and height, I completed the look with my lug loafers from Franco Sarto.

Look #5

Sleek Turtleneck + Checkered Skirt

Despite the fact that I’m featuring two skirt outfits in a row, I don’t wear a whole lot of them. I find most a little too fussy, requiring frequent adjustment when they rotate at the waist. I will, however, make exceptions for those that fit especially well—like our new Marlowe skirt. Just like the Lacie top, it’s made from 365Knit that lends a substantial (but not heavy) feel, which means it doesn’t cling to your hips or shift at the waist. I also appreciate that the silhouette is distinctly flared without being flouncy. To complement the volume, I recommend pairing it with a sleek, fitted top; here, I wore it with one of my Axam turtlenecks. To keep with the geometric vibe, I added a pair of square-toed sandals I got from Miista a few years ago (similar: Ella sandals) and a set of sculptural Mejuri hoops.

Look #6

Polka-Dot Knit + Ponte Pant

I think my new Patty top is the first polka-dot-adjacent piece I’ve ever owned (at least as an adult), and I can’t wait to wear it more often now that we have some above-60° days in the forecast. The dots are sparse and small, and the handfeel is thick and breathable, adding the perfect amount of visual and tactile texture to your black essentials. I recently paired it with the ponte Jordan pants to achieve a fully slouchy, sophisticated look and bookended it with a pair of white, square-toed Mary Janes from Vagabond. Incredibly comfy and effortlessly stylish, this is a combo I can easily see myself wearing both at the office and on the weekend.

Look #7

Delicate Sweater Set

Our new cotton-silk blend is yet another example of how our knitwear designers have mastered the art of subtlety. 90% cotton and 10% silk, these pieces are polished, breathable, and non-sheer. To set them apart even further, we’ve included pointelle detailing at the seams for a uniquely delicate look. Here, I’ve tied the Mel cardigan over my shoulders on top of the Crimmins tank, and for some structure, I went with the kick-flare Archie jeans and my square-toed flats.

Look #8

Lady Jacket + Distressed Jean

Pairing something prim and proper with an item that’s distinctly casual is one of my favorite forms of sartorial juxtaposition. This general formula not only results in highly stylish looks, but it’s also a good insurance policy against feeling like you’re under- or over-dressed in any given setting. I often reach for my Lilia jacket, which could absolutely stand in here, but I wanted to try out the Evangeline, a brand-new jardigan silhouette crafted from a thick, stretchy boucle. With contrast detailing and gold-trimmed buttons, it’s our take on the lady jacket and is the perfect counterpart for a pair of oversized, distressed jeans I got from Agolde. To further play up the luxeness of the Evangeline, I added my heeled sandals (similar: Ella sandals) and our glitzy Martine earrings.

Look #9:

Jardigan + Printed Top + Wide-Leg Jean

To no one’s surprise, I love the Milo jeans. They’re wide-legged, easy, and can pass as trousers when styled with polished pieces. For an easy office outfit, I tried pairing them with the Annika top in scribble print, a doodly yet refined pattern, and the Merritt jardigan, whose lapels instantly sharpen up the look. I opted for relaxed styling, but for a more buttoned-up vibe, you could tuck in the top, tie the Merrit’s waist belt, and swap out the sneakers for pointed-toe flats.

Look #10

Double-Breasted Blazer + Off-White Base

I said it several times this winter, and I’ll say it again: Yes, you can and should wear your white styles throughout all four seasons. This look features my other pair of the Milo jeans, which I tend to wear even more than my black pair, despite my very klutzy tendencies. The tusk hue is already slightly warm, so it won’t yellow over time, and it goes beautifully with any one of our alabaster tops. I went with the Bobbie, as it features cloth-covered buttons that offer subtle but notable thoughtfulness to this outfit. I topped it off with my Kati jacket, a dapper double-breasted style I’ve had my eye on and finally ordered last month, and tied the look together with my black Adidas Sambas.

Written By

Emma Steinbergs

Emma is M.M.LaFleur's Brand Manager. She previously worked as an M.M. stylist and still loves thinking through styling challenges and solutions for customers.

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