Alternatives to Black

I’m going to offer some alternatives to black for those seasons whose palette doesn't contain black. Essentially, that means all seasons other than the Winters.

But first, I want to explain why so many people love black the first place.

Black holds a special place in our hearts and wardrobes for several good reasons.

  • First, black very versatile. Whether you're heading to a formal event, something casual,  or a day at the office, black is almost always an appropriate choice —reliable and ready for any occasion.
  • Second, black is loved for its ability to create a slimming effect. For most people, this alone makes it a keeper.
  • Additionally, black a color that pairs easily with almost anything else in your closet, making it a stress-free choice when you're not sure what to wear. So many clients tell me they have almost nothing in there closet except the color black (that is, before they get a color analysis). 
  • Beyond it practicality, black carries an air of sophistication and timeless elegance. It's a color that can project strength, mystery, and chicness, all wrapped into one.

So with Black having so many pluses and so few minuses, why even write a post about alternatives to black?

My main reason is essentially my tag-line: It’s the difference between looking good and looking your absolute best.

For some seasons, particularly the lightest seasons, black can be very draining and simply overpowering.

I will never say “don’t where black” if you love it. But here are some alternatives to black for the three non-winter seasons, when you really want to create the best visual impact.

Think Dark Neutrals

The key is finding your best dark neutral and use that in places you might normally wear black, like blazers, blouses, and dresses.

Choosing your best dark neutral in your palette will help you curate a core wardrobe around which all other items will fit together effortlessly.

the little black dress icon

I will use the iconic LBD, the little black dress, to illustrate some alternate color options.

An LBD style dress is vital piece of clothing to have in your core wardrobe as it can be dressed up or dressed down as needed and offers so much wearability.

Winters are super lucky in that black is almost always an option in almost every single clothing item and accessories. 

Other seasons are not always so lucky.


Your best alternative to black is Dark Brown. 

Best deep neutral for Autumn is dark brown.

As a Warm Autumn myself, I SO wish retailers would offer brown as a color option as much as they offer black! 

Even Springs could do better with dark brown than black. 

Dark brown can give us the same slimming effects of black (though this model above clearly isn’t in need of that benefit). But it will also add the warmth that is needed by Autumns and Springs.

Unfortunately, unless it just so happens to be a Pantone color of the year, this color is pretty hard to find most of the time. 

Warm Autumn in a Deep Olive dress.
Warm Autumn woman in a Deep Teal Blue dress.

A couple more options for Autumns would be Deep Olive and Deep Teal Blue.

Fyi: Deep Teal Blue is one of those universal colors that looks good on everyone. I’ve never seen anyone look bad in this color.


Since Springs are the light, bright, and warm cousins of Autumns, by lightening and brightening Autumn’s best dark neutral we get a great one for Spring.

Dusty Soft Spring in a medium brown sheath dress.

Medium brown is a great alternative to black for Springs.

Dusty Soft Spring woman wearing a light navy sheath dress.
Dusty Soft Spring wearing a deep teal blue dress.

Most color systems list light navy as a great dark neutral. And I can agree with that.

But sometimes it can often be too cool for a Spring, and is better suited for a Winter. Finding a version with a slight yellow undertone will help. As you can see from the example above, left, blue eyed Springs do especially well with this shade, but my universal pick on the right, Deep Teal-Blue, is fabulous, and also enhances Springs' delicate warmth as well.

Yes, I’m recommending deep teal-blue as an option for all the seasons. Again, I’ve never seen it look back on anyone.


Summers are Winters' cool, lighter, and softer cousins. So what is a lighter softer version of Black? Charcoal.

Soft Summer woman in a charcoal sheath dress.

Charcoal is a great alternative to black, great for all Summers.

Actually, all shades of grey are staples of Summer palettes, and great color around which to build a capsule wardrobe. 

Soft Summer in a navy sleeveless dress.
Soft Summer woman in a sheath dress in the color of deep teal blue.

An equally great option is Navy.

Navy is a great alternative to black for nearly anyone looking to add a touch of subtle color to their neutral pieces while maintaining the classic, sophisticated vibe that Black provides. 

Navy is like charcoal with a twist, where the blue tones are more pronounced, offering a slightly softer feel compared to the starkness that black may have on some people.  This color is a great option for Winters, too.

In fact, Navy gets listed as a ‘universal’ color by many color systems. And while I agree it could work for most people, sometimes for the warmest seasons, it is still too cool. If you can find a ‘warm navy’, it would work better.

Of course, my favorite, deep teal blue’ is also great for Summers. You just need to make sure its not too warm, ending up with more of a deep teal-green (great for the warmest seasons). 

I admit, its tough to find this color out and about while shopping. But when you do, don’t hesitate to buy it.


Yes, I know black is your best dark neutral. For most Winters, it is even one of your Power Colors.

But just to have additional options, here’s just a couple of recommendations for Winters, too. 

Deep Winter woman wearing dress in dark red.

Deep Red on almost anyone else might be a bit too overpowering.

But on Winters, especially Deep Winters (above), it is a great alternative to black.

Deep Winter woman wearing deep cobalt blue dress.
Deep Winter woman wearing deep fuchsia dress.

As I mentioned before, Navy is an excellent dark neutral for all Winters.

But if you want a bit more of a colorful impact, try Deep Cobalt.  Deep Fuchsia is a fun alternative as well. 

How to wear Black when its not in your palette

True story: I just had a client last week write the following response on her Questionnaire that asks, “Is there anything else you want to say that you feel would be helpful to your color analysis?”

She wrote “You will pry black out of my cold, dead hands.” I heard that sentiment before but never in those words 😉

If you are one of those people who you will not let go of black, and it is not in your seasonal palette, that’s ok.

Here’s a few tips on how to wear it more successfully.

1. The farther away it is, the less effect it will have. Pants and skirts and anything farther away from you ‘hot zone’ can be in black with fewer problems than tops, jackets and scarves.

2. Show more skin. The more skin and less black that exists means of course the color has less impact. A lower neckline and spaghetti straps, for example, are better than a high neckline and thick straps.

3. Whatever color you pair with black make sure it is one of your best palette colors to try and mitigate the black. This ensures you are wearing something to pick up and enhance your coloring.

4. Most importantly, always make sure you are wearing your best makeup colors and hair color for your season. These are directly in your hot zone and are crucial to get correct.