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Colourful options in march towards the monochrome

TOM WOLFE has been sneered at for it. Screenwriter Delia Ephron has said it is "the solution to life".

But could you do what they have done, and dress in only one colour (White for Wolfe, black for Ephron)?

Monochromatic dressing has become the latest fashion trend. Designers Alexander Wang and J Mendel sent all-white sculptural ensembles down their runways earlier this year. And women wearing all green (on Garance Dore's influential eponymous blog) and all burgundy (on the blog Atlantic-Pacific) have lately been feted for their vision.

But champions of monochrome say there are benefits and drawbacks.

For Dale Spender, who decided 35 years ago to dress only in head-to-toe purple, one unexpected benefit was never having to wash her clothes again.

"My partner got tired of lilac underwear," says Spender, a James Cook University professor, referring to the fact that all her partner's delicates were turning lilac after mixing with her clothes in the wash. He took over the chore.


Susien Chong, the co-designer of the cult Sydney brand Lover, says one-tone dressing is an easy way to make a statement.

"Everywhere you look there's now so many images on street style blogs and everyone's trying to outdo each other in the creativity stakes, so if you wear all one colour, whether it's all burgundy or all hot pink, it's a really subtle way of making an impact,'' says Chong, who wears mostly white and whose latest collection features a lot of white-on-white.

Monochromatic dressing also makes packing for trips a breeze because everything matches, says Gene Sherman, the executive director of the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, who has worn almost all black for the past 26 years.

"How do they pack now?" Sherman asks of people who dress in different colours. "How do they do it? It's a mystery to me."

Those committed to a narrow palette also become magnets for free stuff.

''People send me anything to do with boats and anchors,'' says Sophie The, a Sydney stylist and photographer who adheres to a nautical theme of blue-and-white stripes almost every day.

But don't try this look at home unless you are disciplined. ''It's difficult going shopping if you're really committed [to a certain colour] and you see [another colour] to say to yourself, 'No, I'm going to stick to my guns','' says Chong.

Spender, who initially chose to wear purple because it is traditionally the colour worn by suffragettes, admits to another downfall.

"There have been times when I've been late to something and I've wanted to slip in quietly. Wearing all purple, you can't sort of cringe and go back into the woodwork."