A Visual Content Analysis of the Color Black as a Means of Visual Communication in the 21st Century: A Look at Western Society Women’s Fashion from Vogue Magazine

Primary author: Anastasia Frattali
Co-author(s): Rebecca Anderson
Faculty sponsor: Dr. Jihyeong Son

Primary college/unit: Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences
Campus: Pullman


Color is involved in every aspect of our daily lives, from clothing to food, as a way to visually communicate messages and meanings to others. The purpose of this research was to examine how western society women in the 21st century is using the color “black” to communicate meaning(s) in their fashion. Symbolic Interaction Theory explains that the meanings of clothing are visually perceived by not only the wearers, but others as well. Therefore, the research question was “What are the meaning(s) of the color “black” in the 21st century?”

To address the question, a visual content analysis was conducted with Vogue Magazine from the years 2000-2018 with the three most prominent fashion month issues: March, July, and September. The content analysis confirmed four meanings of “black” color in fashion found in the literature reviews: sophistication, sadness, chic, deviation, and fetish wear. During the content analysis the researchers found an additional two meanings that were not established in the literature review; active wear and work wear. The researchers believe these to be new meanings being established in 21st century fashion, that were unable to be examined in the literature. In conclusion, chic and sophistication are the predominant meanings that are being portrayed by women in mainstream fashion to visually communicate meaning in their dress, when wearing the color black.

The results of this study can help to identify how mainstream fashion is utilizing black as a means of visual communication for contemporary women.