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Classic Style Inspiration: the Monochrome Dress

Why you should opt for monochrome if you want to stand out from the crowd


Simplicity can be incredibly striking. Whilst both white and black dresses stand out in their own right, monochrome dramatically combines the two. Examples of this glamorous, dramatic look are demonstrated in the images of Hollywood starlets below:


Lauren Bacall looking chic in a striped monochrome dress (in what appears to be her home) in a 1940's image by Ralph Crane.
Lauren Bacall looking chic in a striped monochrome dress (in what appears to be her home) in a 1940's image by Ralph Crane. (newyorker.com)

Grace Kelly posing in the elegant v-back monochrome dress that she wore in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rear Window' (1954).
Grace Kelly posing in the elegant v-back monochrome dress that she wears in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rear Window' (1954). (rebelangel.co.uk)

Grace Kelly wearing a monochrome beach outfit, that was designed by Edith Head, in the Hitchcock movie  'To Catch a Thief' (1955).
Grace Kelly wearing a monochrome beach outfit, designed by Edith Head, in the Hitchcock movie 'To Catch a Thief' (1955). (costumeloverz71.tumblr.com)

Grace Kelly wearing a costume consisting of a white skirt that opens to reveal black pedal pushers. Designed by Edith Head for the 1955 Hitchcock movie 'To Catch a Thief'.
In Edith Head's unique design, the white skirt opens to show black pedal pushers beneath (1955). (costumeloverz71.tumblr.com)

Marilyn Monroe wearing a monochrome striped dress with a high turtle neck for a photo shoot in 1954.
Marilyn Monroe was pictured wearing a number of monochrome dresses. Here she is wearing a black and white striped dress with a high turtle neck for a photo shoot in 1954. (elle.com)

Marilyn Monroe wearing a tight fitting white dress with black polka dots in 'The Seven Year Itch' (1955).
Marilyn Monroe wearing a tight fitting white dress with black polka dots in 'The Seven Year Itch' (1955). (elle.com)

Marilyn Monroe wearing a printed monochrome dress during a costume test for 'Something's Gotta Give' (1962).
Marilyn Monroe wearing a printed monochrome dress during a costume test for 'Something's Gotta Give' (1962).

Beautiful footage of Marilyn wearing her printed monochrome dress for 'Something's Gotta Give' (1962) can be seen in the video below:




Audrey Hepburn in her famous monochrome dress from 1954's 'Sabrina'. It is believed to have been designed by Hubert de Givenchy and/or Edith Head.
Audrey Hepburn in her famous monochrome dress from 1954's 'Sabrina'. It is believed to have been designed by Hubert de Givenchy and/or Edith Head. (hollywoodreporter.com)

Audrey Hepburn wearing a cute and elegant monochrome flower print gown, designed by Givenchy, which she wore in 1957's 'Funny Face'.
Audrey Hepburn wearing a cute and elegant monochrome flower print gown, designed by Givenchy, which she wore in 1957's 'Funny Face'. (instyle.com)

Leslie Caron wearing a magnificent white gown with black details for the the 1958 movie 'Gigi'.
Leslie Caron wearing a magnificent white gown with black details for the the 1958 movie 'Gigi'. (fromthebygone.wordpress.com)

An appreciation of the elegance of monochrome can be seen in early designs of the first high fashion houses. Lanvin was founded in 1889 and is the oldest French fashion house to still be in operation (lanvin.com). The Lanvin dress in the 1924 photograph below features a predominantly monochrome dress with black appliques and a rust velvet bow.


A 1924 photograph of actress Carlotta Monterey wearing a Lanvin gown. The predominantly monochrome dress features black appliques and a rust velvet bow.
A 1924 photograph of actress Carlotta Monterey wearing a predominantly monochrome Lanvin gown. (vogue.com)

Chanel, which was founded in 1910 (chanel.com), often include monochrome creations in their collections to this day. The 2023 Met Gala, named 'Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty', has highlighted how many people associate monochrome with Chanel; many stars chose to reference Karl Lagerfeld's work for the fashion house by wearing black and white Chanel/Chanel inspired dresses. Also, Coco Chanel herself often wore a combination of black and white.


A beautiful 1930's monochrome Chanel gown. (seamracer.wordpress.com)
A beautiful 1930's monochrome Chanel gown. (seamracer.wordpress.com)

A number of early Dior designs, a house which was founded in 1946 (instyle.com, 2022), demonstrate the elegance of monochrome and are likely to have elevated the popularity of the look during the mid-century.


A model posing during the 1950s in a 1947 monochrome Dior design. The shape of this 1947 look signalled the silhouette of the next decade.
A model posing during the 1950s in a 1947 monochrome Dior design. The shape of this 1947 look signalled the silhouette of the next decade. (marieclaire.co.uk)

An autumn 1950 monochrome masterpiece designed by Dior.
An autumn 1950 monochrome masterpiece designed by Dior. (anabelmagazine.com)

During the 1960s, a time when no look was too eye-catching, monochrome featured predominantly in mod fashion. Monochrome mini shift dresses were popular at the time and are an iconic look of the era (see image below). The popularity of block colours during the decade may have been influenced by Andy Warhol's block colour silk screen images. He began this artistic process in 1962 when he created grid-like paintings of dollar bills. (sothebys.com) Mary Quant, who has been referred to as the inventor of the mini dress (vam.ac.uk), designed many monochrome mini shift dresses in the '60s. These mod-style black and white dresses are a fun and retro look that can be dressed up or down.


Models during the 1960s wearing mod-style monochrome mini shift dresses.
Models during the 1960s wearing mod-style monochrome mini shift dresses. (rokit.co.uk)

Finally, let's look at some of the stand out monochrome dresses that have recently featured on the runway and red carpet.


A monochrome maxi dress at the Chanel S/S 2023 show.
Monochrome looks featured heavily in the Chanel S/S 2023 collection including this maxi dress. (chanel.com)

One of many monochrome looks at the Chanel Fall 2023 Ready-to-Wear show. I love the 60's mod style of this look.
One of many monochrome looks at the Chanel Fall 2023 Ready-to-Wear show. I love the 1960's mod style of this dress and the gridded print is very Warholesque. (vogue.com)

Vanessa Hudgens wearing vintage Chanel sleeveless monochrome dress at the 2023 Oscars in March.
Vanessa Hudgens wearing a vintage Chanel sleeveless monochrome dress at the 2023 Oscars in March. (dailymail.co.uk)

The recent F/W 2023 Nina Ricci show featured unusual and creative designs including this monochrome stripe look.
The recent F/W 2023 Nina Ricci show featured unusual and creative designs including this monochrome stripe look. (ninaricci.com)

Olivia Rodrigo wearing a custom monochrome Thom Browne gown at the 2023 Met Gala.
Monochrome featured heavily at this years Met Gala. The 2023 theme was 'Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty' and many of the looks paid homage to his time at Chanel. Olivia Rodrigo wearing a custom Thom Browne gown. (byrdie.com)

Blackpink's Jennie Kim wore a vintage 1990 monochrome Chanel dress with black accessories to 2023's Met Gala.
Blackpink's Jennie Kim wore a vintage 1990 monochrome Chanel dress with black accessories to 2023's Met Gala. (vogue.co.uk)

Dua Lipa wore a white and black tweed gown from Chanel's A/W 1992 collection to the 2023 Met Gala. She accessorised it with Tiffany's new white Legendary Diamond which is over 100 carats.
Dua Lipa wore an off white and black tweed gown from Chanel's A/W 1992 collection to the 2023 Met Gala. She accessorised it with Tiffany's new white Legendary Diamond which is over 100 carats. (vogue.co.uk)


Let me know in the comments what you think of monochrome dresses. Also, which of the shared dresses do you like the most? Click the Pinterest logo below to see more monochrome inspiration and my picks of current black and white buys:


Pinterest logo link to my board.


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