Think about the silhouette – black makes a caped sleeve or wide-legged trouser feel more wearable

Wearing all black looks chic. It looks cool. I realise that this has not been breaking fashion news since approximately 1957. And I know I sound really basic for saying it aloud. Still, I think it bears repeating. Because sometimes we can’t see the wood for the trees, and it is useful to be reminded that all black can be a sanity-saving wardrobe formula that can be adapted for any occasion and never lets you down.

But do you know the best way to wear black? Sounds like a stupid question. The whole vibe of wearing black is about giving off an air of nonchalance. Like, you know, that you were just born super cool, and your outfits just put themselves effortlessly together without you having to try. But that’s not actually how it works. Black is a brilliant canvas, but to make it sing you need to – whisper it – put a tiny bit of effort in. No one ever need know.

Wearing black top to toe can make you look intriguing and a little bit unknowable. But it does need a little something to make it pop, so that you don’t fade into the shadows. There are a few different tricks you can use here, playing with shape, with texture, or with detail. Any of these can elevate black so that it doesn’t look blah.

Let’s start with silhouette. All black is perfect for wearing with a dramatic shape. Superheroes have always known this, so, if you don’t believe me, take it from Batman instead. Dramatic shapes that might feel a bit over the top or costumey if worn in bright colours look sleeker and more elegant if you stick to black. Not that I’m recommending a full-length cloak and bat mask, but black does make a caped sleeve, or a wide-legged trouser, feel much more wearable. So if there’s an eye-catching silhouette you’ve been tempted to experiment with, all black is the way to ground it.

That’s only one way to do it. Another way to raise your game is to wear more layers at once than you normally would. What I mean is, instead of wearing a sweater with jeans, you might wear a jacket over a waistcoat over a T-shirt with jeans – a whole smörgåsbord of bits and bobs, but everything is black. You get extra visual interest, and because you have built your outfit in a way that isn’t just about covering up or keeping warm, it looks more considered and thoughtful. But not messy, because the lack of colour streamlines everything. It works even better if you introduce different textures to the layers, or gradations of shades of black. So, for instance, the soft, washed-out black of a cotton T-shirt, then a glimpse of a corduroy waistcoat, then the saturated shine of a tuxedo jacket: perfect.

Even if you prefer to keep the foundation pieces simple, you can keep black from looking boring with the lightest of finishing touches. Are you wearing a belt? I am going to keep nagging about this until you start wearing belts, you know, so you might as well get on board. A smooth or plaited leather belt with a shiny buckle adds polish and nowness to a simple trousers and shirt, or to cinch in a blazer or cardigan. Don’t underestimate the power of jewellery: you want brightness and gleam, so go for silver or gold rather than beads and soft colour. Or a string of gleaming white pearls works especially well if your outfit isn’t the sort you would expect to see pearls with.

Simpler still, you could just switch up the shoes. The one thing better than head-to-toe black might be head-to-ankle black, so a ground-level diversion from the all-black rule is permitted. Encouraged, even. Red ballet pumps, or metallic sandals, or a creamy trainer. Or black shoes, but with bright socks. Black should make getting dressed easy, not boring. Think all black, not all blah.

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Styling assistant: Sam Deaman. Model: Liz De Aza at Milk. Hair and makeup: Sophie Higginson using Hair by Sam McKnight and Merit. Trench coat and sunglasses: All Saints. Dress: Zara

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