Black as night, black as coal
If you haven’t seen the record-breaking Netflix tv show Wednesday or at least her famous Wednesday dance on TikTok, you must have been living under a rock. While I was watching the show, her wardrobe served as inspiration for this article. Specifically, the two colors used to create her wardrobe and their ever-turbulent relationship: black and white.
Wednesday Addams is the kid from the Addams family, it’s just that… she’s not a kid anymore. She is a teenager who goes to a boarding school and solves mysteries, still obsessed with everything obscure and wicked and, together with her parents and brother, still stands for a mordant inversion of the perfect American family.
However, it is not any of the above, but her impeccable style in this ecarnisation that you really shouldn’t miss – Wednesday stays true to her signature style.
Black and white: Gen Z style
Even though the brilliant designer on the show, Colleen Atwood chose to stay true to the character’s base colors, she was definitely able to indulge her own creative vision by showing us Wednesday’s everyday, typical gen Z looks (I hope I don’t get called out for being a hopeless millennial because of this remark).
Atwood goes on to say in the video interview that Wednesday’s “trying to conform but not quite fitting in”, which according to her, “people relate to in a way today”. This struck me as interesting, because the eccentric members of the quirky Addams’ family are not exactly intended to be relatable. Or are they?
Ms Atwood’s words got me thinking: are we trying to convey certain messages through the colors we wear?
Black and white: Presence and absence of light
It is a known fact that humans perceive the world through color and those who have a regular ability to discern colors are able to distinguish about 2.3 million perceptible colors that can create an infinite number of combinations.
However, all throughout history, from the white, divine-looking roman togas to the black associated with the Salem trials in the 17th century, it seems that these two colors are the underlying leitmotif with symbolic value attributed to them. Could it be because they have been around since the dawn of time? On the other hand, colors such as brown and gray have probably been around for as long, but I don’t believe anybody would call them the classics.
Black and white: Symbolic value
The vila is a creature from Slavic mythology, a female spirit closely linked to nature, which usually inhabits forests or fields, similar to a fairy or a nymph. Different tales of its obscure presence are widely known amongst Slavic peoples, and when I was a little girl my grandma told me an eerie story told to her by her grandmother.
She claimed that she was waiting for her husband one late evening to come home from work, and as she kept peering out the window to see whether he was coming, in the distance she saw a group of girls dancing in a circle under the moonlight. She recognized them immediately and, as it wasn’t wise to get in trouble with the vilas, she went back to wait inside the house.
Wide-eyed, I would ask my grandma: “But how did you know they were vilas and not just some girls?” to which she responded each time: “They were dressed all in white.” What I find interesting about this story is that vilas were thought of as ambivalent creatures, whose relationship with humans could best be described as unpredictable.
These mysterious, longhaired spirits help people in some folklore stories, but they are no strangers to turning against them either. Even though vilas, fairies or nymphs are always presented wearing white – the symbol of chastity and a pure heart, they are not purely good, or purely evil, but these two opposing forces live side by side in the tales of vilas’.
Black and white: Yin and yang
The story of the vilas, which resurfaced from my memory while I was doing research for this article, got me thinking about the symbiotic relationship between polarities, black and white, light and dark, yin and yang. Black and white have long been synonymous with simplicity – the complete absence of light, and its complete presence as two ends of the spectrum.
The concept is as old as time: two opposing forces could not exist one without the other – you wouldn’t know what hot is if you didn’t experience cold, you wouldn’t know day if you didn’t know night first, and you couldn’t appreciate pretty fashion if you haven’t seen Balenciaga high heel Crocs… or any Crocs, now I come to think of it.
I mean, really?
Black and white: Shades of white
We attribute certain characteristics to certain colors and tend to perceive them as either attractive or unattractive. People have started considering some colors as more prestigious than others during the Renaissance. For example, colors such as purple were hard to find and thus expensive, so only higher class and nobility could afford to wear them.
Neutral colors were available to the masses and were a symbol of simplicity, as the people who wore black, brown, gray or white clothes obviously had bigger problems on their minds than color-coordination.
This can be seen in the unwritten rule “do not wear white after Labor Day”. Labor Day is a holiday celebrating the working class, which, in the US, falls on the first Monday of September. This is considered to be the unofficial end of summer and white clothes are usually associated with summer and vacations. In the early 1900s, the old-money people (think: Daisy from The Great Gatsby) would wear white or a shade of beige, light fabric, breezy clothes.
By wearing white after the summer has ended, you would show that not only you don’t have to earn a living, but you are able to enjoy the summer vacation even after it has ended for the regular people.
Black and white: The contrast
Wearing black or white around your face can create a blank canvas and it is a trick often used by stylists in movies, tv shows or photoshoots. For example, in Billy Wilder’s 1954 Sabrina, all of the outfits Audrey Hepburn wears in the movie are a variation of black and white. Some might say it has to do with the fact that the movie is in black and white, but I disagree.
The truth is, Audrey Hepburn is so mesmerizingly breathtaking with her dark hair and porcelain complexion, that adding any colors to her outfits would simply be distracting. Wearing solely these two clear colors gives her face an opportunity to shine through, as there is no hiding behind prints or flamboyant shades.
I see a red door and I want it painted black
During my research, I stumbled upon a couple of articles titled something similar to: “I wore colors instead of black for a week and this is what happened” written by people who thought that wearing black was the be-all and end-all of life, with interesting results.
According to this well-thought out article that cites a color-therapy expert Constance Hart, wearing colors can feel like a bit of a stretch if we are not feeling particularly secure or focused. She goes on to say that most of us resort to wearing black in order to feel more secure, and it makes sense: Black is predictable, constant and honest to a fault. There are no surprises there.
Black and white: Black cat, white cat
A part of the research for this article happened on the streets, as my friends served as guinea pigs and I asked them: “Do you color-coordinate with how your mood is on a certain day?” Most of them responded similarly: “No, I don’t think about that when I get dressed.”
However, Ms. Hart claims that the colors we choose to wear are influenced by our subconscious, whether we are aware of it or not.
So, the next time you choose to dress in a certain color, do not think it is completely random. Even if you haven’t, your subconscious has probably made the decision for you.
This article made me think about the colors I wear the most and the truth is, everywhere I looked around I saw the same signature tune: My running shoes – black and white, my backpack – black and white, my warm winter jacket – just black, the preloved oversized jacket – black again, my combat boots – don’t even have to tell you.
Black and white: The conclusion
Why is this particular color combination used for Wednesday’s wardrobe? Is it supposed to represent the way she experiences everything around her? She seems to be relying solely on logic (an important thing if you’re trying to solve a murder), emotions don’t play a part in this process, no shades of gray, things either are or aren’t.
It’s not unusual that our minds try to untangle the complex world surrounding us by resorting to the theory of two polarities. A situation is either terrific or terrible. Black or white. All or nothing. Truth be told, it is not realistic to describe the nuanced world around us using only two categories, but a mechanism that we resort to because it helps us feel in control. Life should be about the balance between the two extremes, and all the shades of colors in between. And gin and tonics.