Monochromatic: containing or using only one color.
One of my biggest fashion pet peeves is when someone assumes that “monochromatic” refers only to a black & white color scheme. Actually, monochromatic is much more complex. The term describes the use of a single hue and it’s variations: any tint (adding white) and any shade (adding black). This play within a single color allows for dimension and visual stimulation, without the “busy” look that would be produced by a similar composition using multiple colors.
There are two strategies when styling a monochromatic ensemble. The last thing you want is to appear boring or look like a blueberry (in the case of an all blue, same shade outfit). The first is hue variation, which I described above. The second is texture, a two part element composed of a visual component and a tactile component.
Hue, Shade & Tint
So if a tint is the addition of white and a shade is the addition of black, then a hue is the purest form of a color (think the color wheel from grade school). Of course, in fashion we take some creative liberties and therefore an ensemble may not be exactly the same hue. It’s more of an interpretation. The variations in color add visual interest, can emphasize certain aspects of the body, and create a sort of pattern or rhythm. It should be noted that within a monochromatic scheme you can add a neutral or two. It is nice to focus on one hue, but a touch of black or brown can break up the monotony without undermining the effect.
Texture: Visual & Tactile
Texture can be divided into two categories. Visual is like how shiny or matte something is. Think about how you deduce texture from a picture or film. Tactile texture would be how rough or smooth something is, you can actually feel the texture of the fabric. Now, our minds may blend these two together; we see something shiny and assume it feels smooth. That is part of the beauty of fashion, that it can be sensed without being seen.
These different textures add visual interest just as color variation does. Our eyes need something to focus on, then something to guide our attention throughout the ensemble. If an outfit is all the exact same color it is boring (or you end up looking like a fruit). If there is no mix of textures then the outfit is boring, as well. When an ensemble lacks accent colors it requires other methods to create interest. Apply these two techniques when styling your monochromatic look and you will be anything other than drab.