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Top Ten Monochrome Fashion Moments

by Hollie Moat
Black and white are classic colours, in fashion, in film, in pop culture, in everything. But these are the monochrome outfits that we really remember…

Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts is not an actress known for her daring sense of style. That all changed in 2001 when she picked up her Best Actress Oscar for Erin Brokovich wearing a black and white 1992 dress from the Valentino archives. Most people have now forgot about the film, but the dress remains in our minds, picking up third place in a Telegraph poll of the most iconic red carpet dresses of all time.

Julia Roberts in Valentino at the 2001 Oscars

Mary Quant

The black and white chequerboard pattern has come to be synonymous with London and the Swinging Sixties, much like mini-skirt populist Mary Quant. So of course the designer was partial to a bit of monochrome – in fact, it was practically her uniform.

Mary Quant at work in the Sixties


Whatever you want to say about his personal hygiene, Eighties film icon Beetlejuice made that black and white striped suit all his own, despite several gorgeous catwalk attempts by various designers since then. Maybe that’s because everyone still just loves that devious bio-exorcist, there’s a sequel in the works you know…

Michael Keaton as the titular character in Beetlejuice

Pulp Fiction

When Uma Thurman, as drug-addled gangster’s wife Mia, took to the dance-floor at Jack Rabbit Slims with John Travolta in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction, a million sartorial crushes were born. The crisp white shirt, the elegant black trousers, the rouge noir nails – her character won not only the Twisting competition, but the fashion world’s heart.

Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction

Comme des Garçons

Comme des Garçons
revolutionised the style industry when they exploded onto the scene in 1981 with a deconstructed, anti-fashion approach that questioned the notion of beauty. Distressed fabrics, raw edging and bleak, stark monochrome formed the basis of designer Rei Kawakubo’s radical approach.

Some directional Comme des Garçons designs in the 1980's.

The Harlequin Opera Photo

Iconic photographer Irving Penn shot his supermodel wife Lisa Fonssagrives in this ‘harlequin opera’ outfit in 1950. Harlequin can mean a type of clown, but Penn’s crisp photography and Fonssagrives’ immaculate elegance make this one of monochrome’s chicest looks ever.

Lisa Fonssagrives shot by Irving Penn in 1950

Truman Capote's Black and White Masked Ball

Riding high on the success of In Cold Blood, in 1966 controversial writer Truman Capote decided to give ‘a great big all-time spectacular present’ to himself. That turned out to be a party, his Black and White Masked Ball. It was the most celebrated event of the year, with top politicians, movie stars, singers and socialites all turning out trying to outdazzle each other wearing just two colours.

Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra at Truman Capote's Black and White masked ball

Cruella de Ville

The Disney Villainess built her look around two things – monochrome and fur – so it’s likely she would have fitted far better in the fashion industry than she ever did among the dog-loving characters of 101 Dalmatians.

Cruella de Ville in 101 Dalmations

Michelle Obama

Yes this Tracey Reese number is a perfectly nice dress, but in this case it’s the person wearing it that is most important. Since becoming First Lady, Michelle Obama has become America’s number one style influence, with critics and fans going wild for whatever she puts on. On her husband’s campaign trail, this simple black and white number is perfect for letting her charisma do that talking.

Michelle Obama

My Fair Lady

Probably one of the most famous film costumes ever (and Hepburn certainly had a knack for being the one wearing them), this elaborate black and white creation was the work of photographer and designer Cecil Beat, who won an Oscar for his work in the film it came from – 1964’s My Fair Lady. It is worn in the memorable Ascot scene where Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle urges a horse to move it’s ‘bloomin’ arse’.

Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady


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