woman in red and white floral tube dress

Pascal Anson, an artist, suggests that you dress in monoclo and it will change the way you view clothes. Jess Cartner Morley gives it a try

It all started when Pascal Anson was given a yellow jumper by his mum for his birthday. “I already had yellow pants, yellow socks, and a yellow belt. I decided to wear them all together as an experiment. Students and staff were asked to wear one color, one fabric, or one pattern from head-to-toe. People were able to exchange their pieces: One person may have a spare pair pink trousers while another might need size 10 blue shoes.”

woman in red and white floral tube dress

“On the day I loved that people were wearing everyday pieces of clothing – not fancy clothes from Gap or anywhere else – but it was still a uniqueness and strangeness to them,” Anson says. He is now a tutor at The Royal College of Art, as well as one of two mentors in the BBC’s Big Painting Challenge. “You can make Christmas jumper day art school.” Monoclo grew into an Instagram project, with Anson styling himself in immaculately curated single-shade outfits (when stumped, he occasionally went shoeless) that not only look glorious, but make a serious point. He says Monoclo is all about enjoying what you already own. It has changed the way I think about clothes and about myself. The key to blending style and sustainability is creating new looks from the mountains of clothes we already have. Monoclo gives you the dopamine rush of fashion newness without the need to go to the shops.

Anson says, “It redefines excitement so that I don’t slip into overconsumption.” Monoclonism isn’t just about clothes. It is important to keep your eyes on what you have and to find joy in it, rather than constantly seeking more. This is not only a mantra for fashion but also for life.

It’s all wonderful, but is it head-to-toe yellow?! I have my doubts. Anson, whom I met on Zoom, lives near the sea and smiles quite a lot. Because of his lifestyle and inclination, he is less restricted about wearing one color. He says that it is beneficial to step outside your comfort zone. Monoclonal antibodies are the same as learning a new language, becoming vegan, or engaging in exercise. Although it’s uncomfortable at first, you soon realize it was worthwhile.

I told him that I wouldn’t hesitate to wear head-to-toe pink or green for an important meeting. Monoclo may be more difficult for women because they are not taken seriously. Anson points out, however, that monoclo’s queen is actually a woman, the Queen herself. She wears bright colours from head to foot, with hat and accessories for official engagements and looks nothing less than royal.

When I wrote about single-colour dressing for a column two years ago, I compared it to playing Snap. After a second attempt, inspired by Anson’s, I changed my mind. It’s more like solving a Rubik’s Cube. It’s very difficult, but extremely satisfying. To offset the sweetness of my monoclo challenge, I pull out a ballet-slipper skirt from my closet. It’s paired with a M&S washed-out pink linen shirt – the label even says St Michael – and a chunky, oversized bubblegum sweater. In a Gucci-inspired way, it looks great. An hour later, as I get ready to leave the house for the day, it’s too hot. The cardigan must be removed. Without it, the skirt and shirt go from cute to boring. You need a third component. “Are you brave enough to wear pink socks on your ankles?” Anson advises. “It should look deliberate. If you don’t do this, you can be on shaky ground visually. You shouldn’t be tempted add some contrast or to break it up.” He is right. I wear the socks. My khaki pants look great with an olive T-shirt the next day. But, the look really shines when I wrap a mossy green jumper around me shoulders.

Anson states, “When you wear, for example, a blue shirt and black trousers, it just appears blue.” Your brain becomes more familiar with different shades of blue when you have different types of shoes and trousers. It gets even more interesting.

I believe the last time I wore head to toe green was when I was a student playing a tree in school plays. Spread thick as royal icing with no jolts or black, any loud colour can be calmed. Shoes can be difficult. It’s not easy to find shoes of the same color. I look at Anson’s Instagram, and see that he’s wearing wellies with his “green” outfit. I don’t think this is going to work for me. So I buy a pair of Converse in off-white.

Monoclo works well with vintage clothing than with newer, more modern clothes. A few shades are dominant in any given season. For instance, every shop window displays the same apple-green color. He says, “But when you combine a blue jacket and blue trousers with a blue jumper and one from different times, and some of them are more worn than the others, the subtleties and the different blues shine through, and that’s beautiful.”

black and white lace up sneakers

Open your closet and find the pattern or colour that jumps out at you to help you decide where to begin. You could see stripes or red. It could be animal print, which is slightly concerning. Anson says that Monoclo is self-selecting in terms of the colours you like.

Monoclo enthusiasts are a select group who only wear one colour every day. Mike Davies, an architect, only wears red. He also owns a red car, and writes in red pen. Elizabeth Sweetheart is a fashion designer who is known as the “green lady” of Brooklyn. She has worn lime green for nearly a quarter-century. She dyes her hair to match the color of her front door. Anson says that artists have made such rules about clothing for centuries. It simplifies things. You make one decision and then don’t have time to think about clothes afterwards. Monoclo is happy and simple – all that the past 18 month has not been. Anson believes that being free from the office dress code has helped colour catch on as the old rules have fallen away. He now sticks to one style: no black. He says, “I find the black-rollneck, design-studio aesthetic boring.” “So, that’s a very strict rule. Monoclo is funny, but it doesn’t have to be a joke.”