Our Favorite Non-Boring Ways to Pair Black and White

Avoid looking like a waitress with our daring style challenges—or try one of these statement-making pieces that pair the shades.

Ask any stylist for his or her must-have basics, and the list will inevitably include two essentials: flattering black pants and a well-fitting white button-down. Sure, it’s easy to wear ’em together and call it a day, but really the only people who should resort to that look are the ones carrying a tray of unpronounceable appetizers at some black-tie shindig. C’mon, we know you can get a little more creative than that! To help you kick your fave neutral combo up a notch, we came up with three fun style rules to try out, then went shopping for a whole bunch of standout items in the two shades. Once you get the hang of it, the possibilities for your own wardrobe are endless.

1) Wear multiple patterns at once.
The beauty of working in the same color palette for all pieces is that you don’t have to think too hard about whether that striped shirt matches those floral pants. Keep everything in roughly the same scale (do: small polka dots with skinny stripes, don’t: teensy florals with oversize chevron) and you won’t throw your body’s proportions out of whack.

2) Pick unusual shapes.
Believe it or not, a white blouse with Donna Karan–style cutout shoulders is still a white blouse, and a see-through black maxi skirt is still a black skirt. Funkier cuts and shapes don’t stop these pieces from being as versatile as their more traditional siblings. So next time your basic needs replacing, go out of your way to try a different hemline or a top with cool draping. That way, any look you pair it with will automatically be more interesting.

3) Texture, texture, texture!
Fringe, sequins, rosettes, and other 3D fabrics can make even the fittest of figures look larger than they are, so make-you-look-ten-pounds-lighter black is a great shade to try them in. And adding texture is an ultra-easy way to make it seem like you sweated the details.

Sarah is the Editor-in-Chief of Washingtonian Bride & Groom, and writes about weddings, fashion, and shopping. Her work has also appeared in Refinery29, Bethesda Magazine, and Washington City Paper, among others. She is a Georgetown University graduate, lives in Columbia Heights, and you can find her on Instagram at @washbridegroom and @sarahzlot.