Why we’re back in black
Dr Stone has extensively researched the colour black and its cultural significance. She’s contributed to the book Black in Fashion, available at the Museum of Wellington City and Sea, where there’s an exhibition of the same name. Presented by the New Zealand Fashion Museum, it explores the dark depths of the colour black.
“Try colour on Lambton Quay during the working week and you stick out like a fire engine,” says Dr Stone, “I always admire the fashion nuts with enough money and flair to work bright orange or turquoise amidst that ‘sea of black’”.
In the beginning, people looked to God’s authority, and a black dress code was adopted in the church for its brotherhoods and sisterhoods says Dr Stone.
“A very primal association for the colour black resonates through every Creation story around the globe, including Maori, e.g. ‘…in the beginning there was darkness…’” says Dr Stone, “Every day we ask ourselves, “what to wear?” And that is essentially an ‘in the beginning’ moment.”
Black denotes authority through dress, and this dress code has evolved into the common “downtown black” of the world’s cultural capitals, including Wellington, and New York’s financial district, for example, says Dr Stone.
“Beyond the symbolic associations of the colour black with creation and authority, the symbolic associations of the shadow black often lend themselves to the ‘safe’ downtown dresser. “Perhaps the decision to dress in black reflects a desire to avoid attention, to stay under the radar. That inherent ‘safety’ in adapting to a ‘code’ diminishes your capacity to be ‘fashion-forward.’”
But wearing black is political, and it’s a Wellington uniform, says Dr Stone, and as such, you might as well work it.
“The design aesthetic amongst most Wellington designers is a resistance, a tension with that ‘sea of black’, and a considered effort to incorporate more colour and be bold about doing so… I suggest on a Tuesday or Thursday you pull out that turquoise 3/4 length coat or bright orange handbag with matching sunglasses.”
Museum of Wellington City and Sea:
Black in Fashion, February 24 – March 18.
Best in Black fashion competition, February 24 – March 1.
‘Do we wear too much black?’ debate moderated by Dr Prudence Stone, 5.30pm, March 1.