You don’t hear so much about the little black dress these days. I guess with so much choice, range and product out there, restricting ourselves to one key item seems perversely restrained. Of course there will always be the die-hards, the ones in the FROW at the catwalk shows who are never seen in anything but an LBD – but spotting LBDs on the high street, clubs or restaurants, is getting harder. Have they lost their power? Does nobody recognise the historic importance of the LBD in the fashion firmament?
If you are a fashion rule breaker, the chances of finding a little black dress (LBD) in your wardrobe are slim. The LBD has been the conventional, fall-back garment for party girls since time immemorial. When you need something glamorous and gorgeous to wear in a hurry, and you have no time to think, let alone shop – the little black dress can be a girl’s bestie.
However, those of us who like to push the sartorial limits often reach for the less conventional, more unusual dress silhouette. But perhaps we are missing a trick? The success of the LBD lies in its winning formula of chic, shade and shape – and you simply can’t argue with that.
Someone else you can’t argue with when it comes to fashion is Coco Chanel. She is widely attributed with the birth of the LBD as a glamour staple. In the mid 1920s American Vogue published a photograph of what they referred to as ‘Chanel’s Ford’, like the American Model T Ford car. A simple model with wide appeal. Later on, Dior and Givenchy also lent their considerable design expertise to the LBD – in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn famously modelled a LBD produced by Hubert de Givenchy, sparking a million copycat versions over the decades. Today, we still see beautiful women channelling their inner Holly Golightly, looking delicate and super chic in 60s, vintage flavoured LBDs.
Originally a cocktail or evening dress, the LBD has evolved over the years to become the catch-all solution to occasions when a little extra chic and sparkle is demanded.
Maybe we should reassess our position…Perhaps a little black dress is exactly the armoury our wardrobe arsenal lacks.
The basic idea behind the little black dress is simplicity. Intended as a fashion item with ultimate flexibility, a LBD can work in the office as a dressed down outfit with flat pumps and jacket, or it can shine with accessories and bling as evening wear. Whether it’s a sheath style cocktail number, a black short dress or a simple shift, the secret is to find the silhouette that best suits your figure. For many women a black short dress can be worn to work, normalised with opaque tights and chunky footwear. But after dark, with a few sparkly tweaks, a change of tights and some sexy heels, and you’re rocking the high glam look for all it’s worth.
Feeling tempted to bolster your wardrobe with a classic LBD? Here are a few tips for finding the one that suits you best…
Try not to be dictated to by fashion. Identify the silhouette that matches your physique best, and focus on finding a design that works. A dress that flatters and compliments you in a strong but subtle way is what you are looking for. If you get seduced by trends (stripes, sequins, bows, for example) the dress loses its understated vibe which is where its power lies. Resist the urge for detail and bling inherent in the design, you can add that yourself later.
Curvy bodies look killer-chic in A-line styles or form-fitting sheath dresses or body-con designs. Petite women can elongate their look with styles that stop above the knee. If you carry some extra up top, choose a V neckline or high neck to make the most of or minimise, it’s up to you. If you need to add extra feminine line and curves, tightly bodiced dresses with full skirts are irresistibly seductive and stylish.
Don’t be afraid to add colour to a LBD outfit – a bright scarf at the throat or vivid shoes and clutch ensemble can lift anything at risk of looking dour or mournful. Equally, pay attention to make-up when wearing black because some complexions find it sucks colour out of them. Extra blush and contouring, strong eyes and deeply pigmented lip colour usually do the business.
So, to answer the original question – has the LBD had its day? The answer is a resounding ‘no!’ There is still life in this enduring classic, it just needs a fresh approach every now and then to keep things lively.