No woman’s wardrobe is complete without a Little Black Dress (LBD).
A staple garment, your LBD should have a clean silhouette, a feminine elegance and be versatile enough for any occasion. A design classic, from its first appearance the LBD revolutionised the way women dressed, and even today it is considered on of the most important garments for a woman to own.
The Origins of the LBD
We have iconic French fashion designer, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel to thank for bringing the LBD into our lives and, ofcourse, into our wardrobes. Renowned for turning fashion completely on its head, Chanel had already liberated women from the constraints of the corset and in the early part of the twentieth century introduced more practical women’s clothing in the form of boyish sportswear, suits, and unisex pants. However, it was the Little Black Dress that was to be her most ground-breaking fashion statement when made an appearance in 1926.
Throughout both Victorian and Edwardian eras the colour black had been reserved for those in full mourning; in fact, it was considered indecent to wear black otherwise. Chanel dismissed this prehistoric attitude to colour by designing a plain, black, sleeveless, calf-length, sexy dress. An immediate success, not only did it catch the eye of women who appreciated fashion, but it also grabbed the attention of the industry as a whole.
Vogue magazine labelled the dress as “Chanel’s Ford,” insinuating that it was comparable to Henry Ford’s Model-T car – simply designed and economically priced – and so ensuring that every woman was able to own one. It was also said that the Little Black Dress would become a sort of uniform for all women of taste, a prophecy that has surely come true.
It is easy to see why this simply cut, plain dress was so alluring. Colour had reigned supreme for some time, with heavy prints, embellishments, and embroidery adorning most women’s garments, especially dresses. The LBD was a complete contrast. Its sleek lines outlined a silhouette that possessed an air of restrained elegance, and so to this day, this garment has become perhaps the most vital ingredient in every woman’s wardrobe.
“When the Little Black Dress is right, there is nothing else to wear in its place.” Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor and style icon.
You would be mistaken in believing that every short black dress automatically qualifies fo the higher status of an LBD, because not all such dresses are considered chic enough. In fact, in order to qualify as an LBD, a dress must meet certain rigid criteria.
The dress should be short (the very reason it is referred to as “The Little Black Dress”,) so it should generally sit on or above the knee and should be no longer than calf-length.
Simplicity is the key to this classic design, but you also need to take in consideration that the dress must be flattering. The shift is the most common shape for the LBD, as it possesses clean lines that suit most body types. Women with a fuller figure may prefer to opt for a wrap dress as this will accentuate their curves. Another crucial factor is that the dress should be traditional in style rather than at the cutting-edge of fashion. Chanel once said, “Fashion passes, style remains,” so steer clear of trend-setting dresses that only last for one season. Your LBD is required to stand the test of time.
LBDs combine in an assortment of materials and there is no real hard and fast rule regarding which you should choose. Some say Chanel’s first LBD was produced from silk and featured a slashed neckline, while others believe it was made from wool, had long sleeves for daytime, and came in other variations in a choice of satin, crepe, or velvet for the evening. So the choice of fabric is really up to the individual, although it’s important always to select a material that is flattering to the figure. Silk and satin are both excellent choices as they work well for all sizes, and they look great for daywear, and glamourous for the evening.
The LBD can feature embellishments, but nothing over the top or too heavy. Beading, lace, chiffon, or sequins are all perfectly acceptable, but only if they, too, are black or in a complementary colour, and are used economically rather than cover the whole dress.
One of the most important rules of all is that the LBD has to be sexy but still sophisticated and elegant. The LBD needs to celebrate your curves, showcase your legs, and honour your neckline, shoulders and arms. However, never try to squeeze into a smaller size than normal, which is so tight the very little is left from the imagination, or raise the hemline to just below the buttocks, as this is not elegant sexiness but instead gives out a very different message.
It is worth paying a little more for the perfect LBD, as good quality shows. Invest wisely and the dress should last a lifetime (or at least until it no longer fits, and you need to reinvest in a new one.)
I’m sure you have found yourself staring into the depths of your closet crying, “I have found nothing to wear,” as you desperately seek something for that special event, only to emerge once again with your old, faithful LBD gripped firmly in your hands. The beauty of the LBD is that it is versatile enough to be worn to almost any occasion.
How to Wear the LBD
Whether you are seeking a demure daytime look, a stylish ensemble for early evening cocktails followed by dinner, or even a showstopping dress in which to dance the night away, the LBD is an ideal choice. It’s all a question of dressing it up or down and choosing the right accessories for the look you wish to achieve.
For example, say you are dressing for an important work meeting and then need to attend an event in the evening. For the day look, team the LBD with a stylish tailored jacket, a simple string of pearls (as Chanel intended,) opaque pantyhose, and a pair of court shoes to give you the perfect business outfit. You can take the look from day to evening simply by replacing the pearls with a glitzy necklace, jazzing up the jacket with a sparkling brooch, and replacing the opaque pantyhose with a pair covered in motifs. Afternoon tea has suddenly become in vogue again, so what better outfit to wear while eating finger sandwiches and delicious cupcakes than your simple smart/casual LBD. Dress it up just enough with some flashy costume jewellery that will get you noticed, but don’t go over the top or you’ll be noticed for all the wrong reasons.
If you are going to a dinner dance, wear a sparkling shrug or a faux fur jacket over your LBD. Choose a necklace and earrings that make a big statement and finish off the look with a pair of killer heels. It is not imperative that you stick to black shoes – in fact, introducing vibrantly coloured shoes that pick up a shade in your necklace will dramatise your look.