Razzmatazz is the New Black

oneinathousandlogoE.O. Schaub

My friend told me the other day she needed a black dress for a funeral she is going to be in this summer.


No wait- wait… wedding, sorry, it’s a wedding she’s in. Right. So of course, she needs a black dress. To be in the wedding party. Of course. Will the bride wear black too, I wonder? How about the flower girls? Will the bouquets be black? How about the cake? Perhaps the guests could all throw black beans instead of rice.


And then at the reception they could all enjoy a nice aperitif of human blood and perform a ritual sacrifice. How festive.


Seriously, are Miss Manners and I the only ones who have a problem with this idea that black works with e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g? That it’s appropriate for every conceivable occasion from christenings to space shuttle launchings? Since when did the color of Darth Vader and Hell’s Angels jackets get to be our collective color of choice? Our default hue? The chicken with broccoli on the fashion menu of life? Heck- black is so devastatingly important to our sense of style that it is now THE COLOR against which all others are measured, as in: “Brown is the new black!” and “Pink is the new black!” And then guess what? That’s right: “Black is back!” And so on.


Personally, I have had it up to HERE with all the supposed truisms: choose black dear, black goes with everything you know! That’s what makes it so economical! And everyone looks good in it… plus it is so very slimming!


You know what black also does? It collects pet hair. It’s hot. It makes regular people look pale and pale people look nauseous. Look black up in the dictionary and you find words like: bleak, dim, dark, sinister, grim, mordant and opprobrious. Do you want to dress opprobriously? I didn’t think so.


I’d like to here and now disabuse everyone of the notion that everyone looks good in black, because I have proof: I don’t. Over the years, like everyone else, I’ve somehow, mysteriously, accumulated a ridiculous amount of black stuff to wear: clothing and accessories, high heels and low heels, boots and jackets, tops and skirts, jeans and cocktail dresses. And do you know what I look like in black? A badly burned baked potato: charred and blanched at the same time.


Way back when, about a million years ago, I wore a black dress to my high school prom and I looked so fetching my date dumped me on the ride to the afterparty. In the limo. Which was also black! Coincidence? I choose to think not.


Later, to the one and only formal event I ever attended in college I actually showed some sense and wore a beautiful emerald green cocktail dress with a pretty curving neckline. I loved it. ( Too bad it had shoulder pads, but in the late eighties it was actually illegal for women’s clothing to be sold without shoulder pads, including lingerie and swimwear.) At one point I went to the ladies room and found myself in a small waiting area with about ten or so other girls… and every single one of them was wearing black! Now, I’ve rarely been the drop-dead prettiest girl in the room at any given event, and I don’t imagine I was that night either. However I must admit, I was quite pleased to be the only girl in the vicinity who was clearly not in mourning.


Today, I look in my girls’ closet- they are ages four and nine- and I love what I see: an absolute riot of color. Frills and ruffles and fruit prints and sequins and bright oranges, lime greens and pinks of every imaginable shade, from hot stuff to powder puff. Go to the Crayola Crayon website and you can have a wonderful time perusing all the names they have come up with over the years for all the non-black crayons: Outrageous Orange, Atomic Tangerine, Electric Lime, and my favorite of all… Razzmatazz. According to the website, Razzmatazz was named by consumers in 1993, who also had the wisdom and foresight to name a crayon Macaroni and Cheese. I have no idea what Razzmatazz looks like, but it is now my official new favorite color.


Holding the multicolored crayon box out, I wonder how many parents ask their toddlers what their favorite color is and hope their answer will be “black”? (Okay, I mean parents who don’t live in New York City.) At what point do we stop loving the simple pleasure of color and instead devote ourselves to the absence of it?


Do you know what really goes with everything? Everything. My four year old proves it every morning when she gets dressed. Today she’s wearing a green and white striped dress with blue and pink and grey striped tights and a well-loved pair of patent leather shoes, quite possibly on the wrong feet. And she is delighted with herself- perhaps the truest measure of beauty of all.


So I’ve begun a quiet personal campaign- no more black for me. Just say no- to achromatism! Life is too short for basic, bleak, boring, opprobrious black. We need to take a cue from our kids and wear more fuchsia. More feathers and headbands that have those sproingy antennae with sparkly hearts on the end, too. Personally, I’m methodically progressing through my closet, purging all items that have gone to the dark side. In their place, I want a pair of pink rubber kitty cat boots for when it rains, and a yellow gingham dress with a duck on the front for when it’s sunny. I’ll carry a box of crayons in my pocket with names like Spaghetti and Meatballs and Sparkletastic. Then, I think my wardrobe will be complete.

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