Styling Black for Summer

4 Tips to Lighten It Up!

Happy day, Reader Dear!

Much better.

I fixed the typo. Sometimes the fingers get ahead of the brain. The first time I typed eader Drear, which I am hoping most fervently that you are not!

Although… Eader drear sounds like something from an Edward Gorey book, and I do so love Edward Gorey. He appeals to my dark side. (I’m happy to let mine out to play.) I often think of my personality as Cheerful Subversive, which feels rather Gorey.

Oddly, for the dark of heart, I prefer to live my life in color rather than in black and more black. Some people do. (I know, I used to be one of them.) Just because I don’t wear much black (Any more, doesn’t mean that others don’t! I need to spend some more time with black. Then, back in March, Gail asked ” I only wonder how to lighten the look of black in the summer (a new topic for you perhaps)!” Her comment led me to realize that I really haven’t been giving black the love it deserves.

I had been thinking I had already done that topic somewhere… But I hadn’t! It was only a throwaway comment about black for summer.

Yes, some of these tips are related to my 5 Tips for Wearing Black post from ages ago!

Tip #1 Show Some Skin

Make there be less of the black… Show some skin. Choose shorts or skirts rather than trousers. Sleeveless tops create a lighter look than long sleeves. Sheer and eyelet (broderie) can work the same lightening magic!

Images: Old Navy

Tip #2 Add Light Neutrals

Add some lighter neutrals to your mix. More than one, in fact! I love the textures and variations of color here…

Images: Bag-Target, Beads-Amazon, Shoes-DSW

Want neutral but a little trendier and flirtier? Try these…

Images: Bag & Earrings-Target, Hat-DSW

Tip #3 Add Pattern (I’ll Choose Gingham!)

You can choose any pattern you like, but I’ll add gingham! In color or black and white. Yes, you can go for other patterns too, but gingham just shouts SUMMER! And it’s everywhere this year. Can’t you see these with a little black shift dress?

Images: Bag-Target, Sandals & Hat-DSW

Tip #4 Add Color

Summer brights can feel “shouty” when juxtaposed with black. Or maybe summer brights feel too hot to you? Try a subtle color for less shout and heat… I’d love to see black with a watery aqua, too! Or a eucalyptus green…

Images: Beads-Amazon, Bag & Sandals-Target

If this post inspires you to try and step out of your little black box, read this for more way to kick the black habit!

How About You?

Right now we are in the middle of a ridiculous heat wave. I don’t even want to wear my skin! How is it where you are? Are you a lover of black? All year long? How best do you like to wear it? What is your favorite Black + combination? Do tell! I love to hear from you!

And try to stay cool…

Stylishly yours,


  • yourtrueselfblog

    Hi, Liz – I was surprised to see this post just four days after I contributed my post on how to wear black in summer in the last Beauty Spotlight Team on my blog! Such a coincidence…or maybe just a popular subject since so many of us love to wear black! I like how you say to add summery accessories. I would add a pop of color to my black outfit as a person who’s coloring is neutral plus one. But I recall you telling me at the Influencers of Midlife conference that you didn’t think my turquoise jewelry with my black outfit was right for my coloring. I’m still wishing to find out what colors you think I should wear and pair best! Meanwhile, I’ve been shying away from black. But since my coloring is true spring, when I do wear it I try to show more skin with a lower-neck top, put on some sunless tanner and add color or gold at my face. And finally, since I have low contrast between my hair, eyes and skin, I choose colors to go with black that are medium to dark in value. I appreciate your expertise in the area of color and style. So thank you for providing this fun post on lightening up a black outfit! – Angie,

    • Liz K

      Hi, Angie! Lovely to hear from you! I agree, wearing black is a popular subject that I generally choose to avoid since it feels overdone. Gail’s reader request (And the darling bags from Target!) tipped my hand. I think my comment to you at the conference was more about the black than the turquoise, which is fabulous for so many different personal coloring combinations! I’d love to see you wear turquoise with mid to light browns rather than black, which is cool and dark. Your contrast is low and your overall value, light, which is why I’d prefer to see you in lighter colors that create a face focus for you. Hope your summer plans include stylish fun!

      • yourtrueselfblog

        Hi, Liz – Thanks for the feedback! I hardly ever wear mid-to-light browns. I veer toward dark colors for some reason(?!) I realize those mid-to-light browns are supposed to be my best neutrals but they’re not my favorites. I may have to consciously choose them just like I have to consciously choose the right foods. Have a great summer! – Angie,

        • Liz K

          That’s a great comparison, Angie! It IS a matter of choosing and growing accustomed to seeing yourself differently.

  • Sally in St Paul

    This is a great topic. Black is not my go-to choice for summer but I do wear it with white, chambray, mint, a muted coral, or very bright colors like aqua or hot pink. I have not really done much with other light neutrals, so I think that’s the tip that speaks to me the most. I do have a beige/stone linen skirt with vertical stripes that are very much like those in the espadrilles you show (in terms of being a bit desaturated), and I like it a lot with black. But I think that I could do more with the cool beiges. Overall, I think black linen is really great for summer, not only because it’s breathable fabric that keeps you cool but because it creates a softer black that doesn’t look faded or washed out (like a T that’s been through the laundry too many times). I like pairing my black linen blend skirt with light colored tops for a contrasting look that isn’t as stark as a deep black would be.

    • Liz K

      I agree with you on the lovely softness of black linen, Sally! I’ve pretty much given up on looking for cool beiges; when I run across one, I jump up and down for joy. The same for cool animal prints! Black and mint is lovely! Black and brights feels “shouty” on me with my lighter hair and lower value contrast, but I will wear it for speaking engagements and other events where I need to keep the focus from a distance on me… I hope to see your vertical stripe skirt on the blog. Sounds like it goes with a bunny to me!

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