How to Wear Black Pants with Intention: SIA Lotus Pond
Salazar at 14 Shades of Grey is the curator for this round of Style Imitating Art (SIA), and she selected the gorgeous woodblock print "Lotus Pond" by Japanese artist Ray Morimura. I love a good nature motif, and this one is lovely and restful to look at. Salazar likes the "modern, graphic quality" of Morimura's work and shares a link to additional information about the artist in this post.
As soon as I saw the artwork, I knew that I would be wearing my seafoam mint/cream striped long-sleeved T from CJ Banks ($7.19, 5/2020) to represent the white-on-mint striped lotus pads that form the largest part of the piece. The black background was calling for a black skirt or pants to "ground" the look, and I selected this thrifted pair of pull-on pants (CB/Goodwill, $4.49, 10/2018) that are comfortable, relatively lightweight, and have a nice body-skimming straight leg cut. (I'm glad that pull-on pants are more common and stylistically acceptable than they were pre-pandemic. For those of us who like to wear an untucked T, they provide a smooth, flat surface for the fabric of the top to lay against. Few women are like "If only my pants could be bulkier and bumpier in the waist and belly area...")
Does the photo of this top + pants combo make you a little uneasy? (And I don't mean the wonky tilt in the pants photo, though that is kind of goofy-looking.) I admit that I find it a bit awkward to look at this combo because the top has two quite light colors and the pants are about as dark as can be. It would look a bit better if the top were a solid seafoam mint T, but the pants still would look very heavy with it. As it is, to my eye the cream stripes just emphasize how much the colors of the two pieces don't relate to each other.
It also reminds me of a very, very common business casual uniform/outfit formula for women: a pair of black pants, black shoes, and any color/print of top/sweater. I understand why that combination is so popular! Black (as a dark neutral color) is "slimming" (as in, the color recedes), is the absolute easier color to find in business casual pants, is a safe option because everyone wears it, and pretty much doesn't register with most people when they see it. (I say "most people" because however much you may wish it were otherwise, I am among that approximately 20% of people who do really notice things, including what you're wearing; I may not say anything, but I do notice. Sorry!) And people generally think that black "goes with everything."
But as this mint + black base outfit shows, even though the pieces don't clash, they also don't look all that good together either. (When I imagine subbing in navy, grey, beige, or any blue denim for the black, the combo is better.) I mean, no one's going to cover their face and scream "Oh no my eyes!" when they see you. But the combination looks a bit awkward and pretty much random and phoned in, like you got up in the morning and picked up a pair of black pants and literally any (hopefully clean) top you could find and called it an outfit. Which, you know, OK. But I'm guessing if you are reading this post, you are not generally looking at "I have clothing on my body that will not get me fired/arrested" as your style standard. (I mean, sometimes, yes, that is where even the most stylish person is at, but not as a #lifegoal for every day.)
All this said, I really do like black pants! I probably wear them less often than I'd like. So it was kind of exciting to me to be like, Yep, I'm totally styling a light colored striped top and black pants for a business casual outfit as part of the SIA! But it wasn't going to look boring or random...I definitely wanted it to look intentional. And quite seriously, isn't looking intentional the key to style? I think if you are wearing a combination of clothing and accessories that look like they were selected with intention, with purpose, with something going on in your head, that means people will interpret your outfit as a "look," which surely gets you 80% of the way there. (This idea seems in opposition to the "effortless" look that is also highly valued by many. I guess both approaches can work...but ironically, I find intentional much easier than "effortless.")
So with my striped top + black pants outfit, I wanted to accomplish a few things:
(1) Add more elements from the inspiration artwork;
(2) Integrate the black pants into the outfit by making them look intentional and part of a cohesive "look";
(3) Give the outfit a Sally vibe that isn't boring.
And if you're familiar with this blog, you know my favorite way to achieve all of these things...add a scarf! It's my signature piece. So I started going through my scarf collection (digitally) and found several with prints that combined a mint-like color and black. I chose to wear this one from Loft ($8.94, 7/2020) with a dark mint background and a black/light mint/pink/rust floral design. The dark mint color brought in another mint-like hue with more of the depth of the black, so it seemed like a good candidate for adding a medium value stairstep between the light top and dark pants. While the black in the print isn't prominent, it is significant enough to extend the black from the bottom up to the top of the outfit. And from a replicating-details-of-the-artwork perspective, I loved that the pink flowers can represent the lotus blooms and that the rust flowers bring in a hint of the rust-brown on the walls of the building.
I think it works very well! Technically the striped top + floral scarf is a print mix, but it's a very subtle one because the stripes are narrow and low-contrast with the mint, which makes the top read as an "almost solid" to me. If you are new to print mixing or have a style that is more understated but would like to expand the mix-and-match capacity of your current wardrobe, I think a low-contrast accent-and-white/cream striped top + floral print scarf with the accent color in it is an easy print mix to try.
Of course I could have worn black shoes but I went with a pair of leopard print ballet flats with black on an olive-aloe-mint background. This brought in another layer to the print mix as well as another variant on the mint-like accent color theme in the outfit. And I thought the mottled black + olive-aloe-mint print did a good job of representing the trees in the upper right of the artwork.
So next I added my daily bracelet stack, picking up the mint and pink colors and floral motif from the scarf with DIY pink quartz, DIY white/mint/pink floral paper tube bead, purchased silver bead, DIY mint with floral bead, and DIY pink/taupe striped paper bicone bead bracelets. I find that 5 bracelets in this size range (4mm to 6mm) make a nice stack.
Just in case there was any doubt about my wearing black intentionally, I added my DIY faded black braided t-shirt headband and a pair of black/silver drop earrings. My hair has a high-volume, particularly unruly look today that is rather "young Hermione Granger in an Alice band" but let's just call my air-dried, no smoothing gel hairstyle a continuation of the "natural" theme, OK?
I mentioned finding multiple scarves as candidates for this SIA, so I thought I'd use those scarves to create some alternative Lotus Pond-inspired outfits to share with you in addition to the Late Spring version above.
In this Summer version, I switched out a pair of black capris for the full-length pants. The ivory striped scarf has a lighter colorway and it's made from lightweight fabric. If it's too warm to wear in a traditional way, braid it up into a fabric necklace. I finished the outfit with mint leather earrings, black flats, and a brightly colored DIY bracelet stack. Light and bright = Summer in my color world. I would 100% roll up the sleeves as I did in the Late Spring version.
In this Late Summer / Early Fall version, I wanted to use this deeply, richly colored geometric print scarf in a range of olive, mint, and teal to mark the change of the season. (The darkest color in the scarf is actually a very dark olive-green, but it reads as black a lot of the time.) I substituted a black knit asymmetric skirt for the pants. I kept the color palette tight for the accessories with DIY glass pearl earrings in a multiple mint/teal/aqua shades and a teal-and-black-based DIY bracelet stack.
Finally, in this Fall version, I changed the color palette to include the rust color from the artwork and added a top layer to bring the outfit into the cooler weather. I switched out the lighter weight straight leg pants for thicker skinny pants that would work well under the long cardigan/vest. A dark floral print is nice for fall (and keeps up the floral theme from the artwork), and this one introduces a charcoal grey to the outfit. I repeated the dark grey in the structured flats, which also have a black ribbon. I created a glass/stone bead bracelet stack with one multi-colored stone bracelet as the anchor, supplemented by silver, mint-aloe, rust, and dark grey.
Now it's time to turn our attention to the Rabbit Imitating Art selection! Working with the elements of "stripes" and "black," I chose this gorgeous loaf of Magpie Harlequin. Wait a minute...does she look familiar? Indeed, she was also my selection for the Sunday Morning - Norman Rockwell SIA back in February! What can I say? There are only so many breeds of rabbit with stripes! And I think it's as perfectly OK to choose the same rabbit twice on my blog as to wear the same pair of black pants multiple times.
The Harlequin has found a comfy spot on the lotus pads to take a rest. I think we are seeing her in the last moment before her right ear starts to droop and her eyes close up and a doze overtakes her.
To see other outfit interpretations of this artwork, check out the round-up on 14 Shades of Grey.
Additional reading on making black pants outfits stylish from Bridgette Raes (with no scarves!):
Do you like to wear black pants? Do you try to style them with a strong intentional vibe or do you go for a more laissez-faire, "effortless" look with them? Do you like to wear black with light accent colors?
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