90: Embracing Black

90: Embracing Black

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


Embracing Black

I’ve been forty years discovering that the queen of all colors was black.

~Pierre-Auguste Renoir

I walked into the same sporting goods store where I’d bought a bicycle just a few days earlier. “I need some bike shorts,” I told the sales clerk. “With lots of padding.”

She nodded sympathetically and led me to the cycling department. “Here they are,” she said, waving her arm toward a two-tiered clothing rack. “Lots of different lengths, lots of different styles, lots of different sizes.” I stared in disbelief. There must have been a hundred pairs of shorts hanging there. And every single one of them was black.

“Don’t they come in colors?” I stammered.

The clerk shrugged. “Some manufacturers offer other colors. But we never order them. Everyone seems to want black.”

I bought two pairs of shorts that afternoon — one pair that hit me just above the knee and one pair that hit me just below, both in black. As I rode my bicycle in the days that followed, I made a happy discovery. Every single T-shirt I owned, no matter the color, looked good with black bike shorts.

Not long afterward, my co-worker Ruth and I attended a weeklong conference. I took three pairs of slacks — brown, navy and khaki. Naturally, I packed tops, belts and shoes that coordinated with each outfit. Ruth took one pair of slacks (black), one belt (black) and one pair of shoes (black). And three tops.

“Everything goes with black britches,” she said. “I don’t own anything else.”

Yeah… but, I wanted to say. I love my blue jeans. And my pink-and-white gingham capris. And my neon green running shorts. And my brown wool skirt. But when I thought about all the clothes I “loved” that were crammed in my closet and stuffed in my dresser drawers, I had to admit it was frustrating and time-consuming to put together an outfit every day.

Could I embrace black like Ruth had done? It was worth a try.

I pulled all the skirts that weren’t black out of my closet, folded them neatly and put them in a box. I did the same with slacks and shorts that weren’t black. But I wasn’t going to be hasty about this radical wardrobe change. It was too early to give these things away. So I taped the boxes shut and carried them to the basement.

I tried on the few black items that remained and found that many of them were out of style or didn’t fit well. Into a “donate” bag they went. Then I went shopping, vowing not to purchase anything that wasn’t comfortable, flattering and well made.

These days, my closet is home to one pair of black jeans. A pair of black corduroys. A black wool skirt and a black polyester-blend skirt. A pair of black dress pants and a pair of black capris. In my bottom dresser drawer are black yoga pants, black running shorts and black biking shorts.

That’s it.

I also boxed up all my shoes that weren’t black. I won’t say it wasn’t painful, but I did it. My shoe rack now holds one pair of black heels, one pair of black flats, black athletic shoes, black sandals and black flip-flops. Next to it is my beloved pair of black cowboy boots.

What did I do with the taped-up boxes in the basement? A few months after I stowed the boxes away, I gave them to a used clothing drive without ever opening them. And you know what? I’ve never missed a single thing that was in them. Not once. I’ve discovered that an overstuffed closet is more than a hassle and a headache — it’s a thief of time and of joy.

I cherish the day I decided to embrace black. And I’ll never go back.

~Jennie Ivey


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