Everything About Little Black Dresses
Last updated on : November 21 2017
It's Saturday night, it's time to party, and you realize you have no clothes to wear.
You have two hundred ladies' dresses in your wardrobe, but none of them work. Or maybe your best friend hasn’t returned your favorite. Instead of getting into a panic, turn to the solution for all occasions - the little black dress!
Yes, it is a cliché, the little black dress. But find me a better way to be sexy? Show it off right. And you will have the right type of men falling over you.
What is the LBD?
A little black dress is a short black cocktail or evening dress with a simple and feminine design. The consensus is that it must be simple. Simplicity equates to the versatility that allows you to wear it everywhere.
A black dress that follows a specific trend will date as fashion matures. It does not qualify as an LBD, which is timeless.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the dress as a woman’s short or medium-length black dress that is suitable for almost any social engagement - and we agree!
Why is the LBD Important?
Fashion experts say the little black dress is a closet staple. The single dress every woman needs in their wardrobe.
It is essential because of its minimalism. The best designers in the world declare true style lies in form. Not in embellishments or garish trends. Black is a statement by itself. Its minimalism takes away everything that is unimportant, leaving itself to appreciate.
A little black dress symbolizes effortless elegance, simplicity, and style. It is essential for every woman because it is iconic, versatile and timeless. Wear it as it is, or accessorize with shoes or jewelry. Add layers like a shrug or denim blazer to enjoy style flexibility when you need it most.
Who Invented the Little Black Dress
During the Victorian era, a grieving widow wore black for at least two years. All of this changed at the will of a woman named Coco Chanel.
Read our detailed history below.
Some famous Little Black Dresses over the ages:
Black dresses are iconic statements. Worn over the generations a few have been remarkable enough to remember. Audrey Hepburn's Givenchy dress from Breakfast at Tiffany's is 60 years old. It is the iconic black dress.
- Audrey Hepburn - Breakfast at Tiffany's
- Robert Palmer (video) - Addicted To Love (perhaps more famous for the red lips)
- Lady Diana's Revenge Dress - After separation from Prince Charles
- Liz Hurley's safety pin dress - later worn by Lady Gaga
- Angelina Jolie - Maleficent. Check out the fantastic photos with Brad!
- Kim Kardashian - sexy before the wedding
- Rihanna - Most Desirable Women Award 2014
How to Rock an LBD
There are many ways to style your little black dress. Add a chunky necklace to a gallery opening. Or wear it plain for an evening with friends. Take this must-have dress from classic to sexy, from day to night, or casual to dressy with accessories alone.
- Need a chic look? Pair your dress with a hint of lace on the neckline. Add sheer black hose for sexy polish. Give your tresses a wavy look for a dose of softness.
- For a casual outing. Wear your dress with sneakers and let your hair down. Add a baseball cap for a sporty look!
- To accentuate your waist. Add a metal belt along the smallest part. A belt transforms your look, showing off your size.
- Put on a motorcycle jacket and leather boots for the naughty girl in you. This edgy look works for a casual evening out or a date.
- For formal events. Wear a statement necklace. A bold chunky necklace is an eye-catching piece for your outfit. Go easy on other accessories to keep the look refined.
Our favorite dress is a classic, ever since Coco Chanel popularized it in 1926. Whether your body is pear-shaped or curvy, there are different styles to suit you. Wear one to work, to a party, or a gallery opening by changing accessories alone. It's a versatile dress!
Here are more ways to stand out in these fantastic dresses.
- How to rock a little black dress with a mom body
- 14 ways to wear an LBD - includes a red bag and a statement necklace, plus red lips!
- Can you wear black to a wedding - Yes you can but..
- Get your LBD ready for summer - go beachy and cool with flat summer sandals!
- How to wear an LBD in the dead of winter - it's my anniversary!
- Look at how I layer my LBD in the cold (video) - If its cold out, layer layer layer it up.
- Spice up my LBD (video) - Don't get boring in your dress.
- Five ways to wear an LBD (video) - with a $15 dress from H&M.
- One last video by Fabsugar
How to Flatter Your Body Type with an LBD
Coco Chanel said, “The little black dress is a uniform for all women of taste.” This statement is true. However, it isn't a one-size-fits-all dress. Finding one that matches your body type is the key to flattering your style.
We look at the most common body types below. And the best dress styles to put on them.
If you have a pear-shaped body, your backside and hips are more extensive than your shoulders. And you have a smaller bust line. For this body type choose a black halter dress. Halters create a balanced look by showing off your shoulders. Your hips look more modest and in proportion to the rest of your body.
For a petite body, the ideal style is a sheath dress. The elongated and clean shape of a sheath makes you look lean and tall. However, ensure that it falls above your knees. A shorter hem makes your legs longer. If you want texture or prints, choose vertical designs to keep your look fluid. Avoid extensive details like ruffles because they overpower your demure stature.
Apple shapes have less of a defined waistline. The best styles are either empire waist dresses or flared dresses. Empires draw in your waist, making it slimmer. Flared dresses add curves to your lower body. And they emphasize your bodice for a balanced look.
Black is slimming and suits curvy body types. Choose a V-neck dress that draws the eye. And consider skin tight to show off your lovely curves. A wrap or sheath dress in this style is a good choice. Keep the hemline either above or right below the knee for balance.
As a general rule, for all body types. Choose a style that shows off your best assets. V-neck or deep plunge styles suit girls with cleavage. Shorter dresses to show off legs. And skin tight for curvy assets. If you need formal, try a midi length for variation. No matter your body type, there is an LBD for you!
Wearing your LBD in Hot Weather
If your closet is full of dark hues, then getting through summer months requires planning. How to wear black in hotter weather is a challenge for many style trendsetters.
Keep these tips in mind as the weather heats up. Discover how to wear black with style, panache, and comfort any time of the year.
Opt for Breezy Fabrics
Fabrics make and break styles. For example, satin and leather give you an edgy and risky look. Cotton and crochet is a polished look. For hot weather, choose breezy fabrics like chiffon, crochet, mesh, tulle, and lace. These are great fabrics to show off black and stay cool.
Breathable fabrics that reduce sweat are a help too. Bandage dresses are an excellent example of dresses in a breathable fabric. And they come in black!
Exfoliate and moisturize your skin to achieve a celebrity inspired glow. Slip into a cut-out, mesh or short strapless dress in black. Showing skin puts you in sync with hot weather and keeps you fresh.
These are reasons we like showing skin.
- Short and sexy black dresses give the illusion of legs that go on for miles
- Thin straps soften your shoulders
- Strapless or plunging necklines are attention grabbers.
- Peeks of midriff are tasteful ways to show skin.
- Cut-outs show skin strategically, where we want it displayed.
Showing skin is an art. Expose just enough to tease. And hide enough to play it safe. Being naked without going too far is a challenge. Take your style cues from celebrities like Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Halle Berry, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
If showing skin is not on your fashion plate. Consider modest approaches that achieve the same effect. Slits, plunging necklines, and low backs are good examples.
Choose Cooling Accessories
Opt for sandals, wedges, or other open-toe shoes as the weather heats up. Open toe shoes transform outfits into breezy and fresh. Pair shoes with handbags or clutches in matching colors to finish the look. Sweeping updos allow air to circulate keeping you feeling and looking cool.
Accessories are simple ways to add a splash of color to black. Use bright-hued beads, earrings, or long necklaces. Bright and vibrant colors have summer written all over them.
Try a Black Bikini
After your black dress event, turn heads in a black bikini. A strappy two-piece, as expected, works in hot weather. They aren't subject to "see-through" malfunctions when wet. And are ideal for most complexions.
Shoes and your LBD
So many shoes and so many ways to wear them! This dress can get you from office to office party in a change of shoes.
- Best shoes for your LBD - from sky high to funky!
- Shoes to wear with your LBD (video) - Katherine Akra helps pick out the right shoe to wear with your LBD.
History of The Little Black Dress
There was a time when black dresses, little or otherwise, were relegated to funeral wear. They signified grief or mourning. So when did they become one of our favorites styles? Here’s a brief look at their illustrious history.
Wearing black before the 1900s was for mourning and sadness. However, by the mid-1920s, the little black dress emerged as a fashion icon. It made its first fashionable appearance as a slim-fitting dress, worn at evenings out, cocktail parties, and dinners. By the 1930s it was an essential 20th-century garment, with blue jeans and the T-shirt.
The iconic dress made its debut in Vogue magazine in 1926 in a pen and ink drawing by designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. The editors of the journal compared its design to the Ford Model T motor vehicle. And called it ‘Chanel’s Ford.'
The drawing created a stir because the color associated with the lower classes, clergy, and with mourning. However, the pure quality of the dress appealed to women during the 1930s Great Depression. Chanel said, “Thanks to me they (the non-wealthy) can walk around like millionaires.”
As time went by high profile celebrities loved the reliability of the little black dress. In the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, actress Audrey Hepburn turned it into an art form. She wore an iconic dress designed by Hubert de Givenchy. And when asked about it she said, “What is more beautiful than a simple sheath, made an extraordinary way, in a special fabric and just two earrings?”
Today, the dress remains as popular as it was a century ago. It is a timeless article of clothing. And like great wine – the little black dress gets better with age.
The Portrait of Madame X by John Singer Sargent sheds light on black dresses before the 1920s. A black dress was inappropriate to wear in situations other than in mourning. And it needed to meet preset standards. The tiniest of details including the material, accessories, and shade of black were all defined and stipulated.
The dress created by Chanel (see image below) was the epitome of simplistic elegance. Calf-length, sheath design, and delicate diagonal lines. Women took notice. And the appreciation of the little black dress began. In fact, Vogue dubbed it “Chanel’s Ford,” referring to Ford’s Model T car. A vehicle, affordable for people of all social classes.
Designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel did not invent the little black dress. However, she helped develop its popular form today.
In the book “Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life.” Justine Picardine explains. “The little black dress was not identified as the shape of the future until 1926 when American Vogue published a drawing of a Chanel design. It was an apparently simple yet elegant sheath. In black crêpe de Chine, with long, narrow sleeves. And worn with a string of white pearls. Vogue proved correct in the prediction it would become a uniform for all women of taste.”
The LBD retained its popularity throughout the Great Depression. Women from all economic backgrounds found the simple dress met their needs. Both fashion-oriented and practical.
And not just the masses! It became the chosen dress for glamorous entertainers too. France’s first international cabaret singer, songwriter, and actress Edith Piaf adopted it. And famously performed in different styles.
The 1940s saw varied styles and designs, but the basics of the LBD remained firmly intact.
Post the war; designer Christian Dior revamped the LBD for his new look. He cinched the dress at the waistline and added a full flowing skirt.
The simplicity of this 1948 design opened up the fashion world’s perceptions. As years passed, Dior amended it to include a leaner skirt. These sleek and trendy sheath LBDs became the dominant trend of the 1950s.
By the 1950s the little black dress was everywhere. Women from all walks of life loved them. They added their flavor, from necklaces to hair bows. And by the end of the era, the sheath style dominated the look.
Heads turned when Marilyn Monroe stepped out with new husband, Arthur Miller (above). She wore a black wool-crepe cocktail dress by Galanos. The dress had a sensational bare chiffon midriff which was taboo at the time.
Who can forget Audrey Hepburn in her iconic LBD? With pearl choker, oversized glasses, hat, and gloves. Playing the role of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (see image below).
Hubert de Givenchy, a close friend of Hepburn's, designed the dress exclusively for her. In 2006 this renowned dress auctioned at Christie’s in London for close to $1 million.
Indeed an iconic dress, and perhaps the most famous of all time. And a positive contribution to the popularity of little black dresses. Hepburn made them a fashion staple, standing the test of time.
The stars in the 1960s took the little black dress to heart and showed us what it could do. In 1965 Italian film actress Sophia Lauren wore a timeless black piece. She accessorized it with a brooch and a leopard-print hat. A fashion statement in the dress' continuing popularity.
Cut to the years of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in her frilly decorative LBD. Onassis first wore the dress to dinner at the La Côte Basque. A famous French restaurant lavish with style and fresh flowers. She revived it a few times later. Setting an excellent example for wearing a dress more than once. Something she believed in doing.
Hugh Grant’s escapades made it to the news again and again. However, his then-wife and actress Elizabeth Hurley claimed the spotlight. She stepped on the red carpet wearing a head-turning black dress without sides. Designed by Gianni Versace and complete with gold oversized safety pins.
She was all the talk, resetting fashion standards. Industry experts claim this iconic dress launched Liz Hurley’s movie career.
In 1994, Princess Diana brought the LBD much fame. She wore a dangerously low-cut black gown to her public debut as the fiancée of Prince Charles. Her choice of dress raised plenty of eyebrows. However, no one could deny the panache and beauty of her “revenge” dress.
Victoria Beckham aka Posh Spice from the all-girl band “Spice Girls” wore her LBDs everywhere! The most famous was her strapless Gucci worn onstage during her concerts.
Favored by the British Royalty and the White House. First lady Michelle Obama stepped out in a lovely Azzedine Alaia dress in 2009. It was reminiscent of the 1950s LBD silhouette, with modern allure and sophistication.
Canadian model Heidi Klum made waves at the 2010 Emmy Awards in her strapless LBD. The 42-year-old model confesses her love for the LBD. She wears different versions of it regularly. From low-cut dresses to skin-tight leather numbers. Klum’s choices show how versatile, timeless, and photogenic a little black dress is.
In 2014 Beyoncé was the highest paid female musician in the world. The “Drunk in Love” singer showed off her flawless looks in a $130 sequined LBD from the British high-street store Topshop. Reinforcing the idea that the LBD has panache, whatever your budget.
Taylor Swift took center stage on her world tour in 2015. And she inspired a new-age of little black dress wearers. She paired her short black dress with a monogrammed bag from Louis Vuitton and black platform shoes.
The Little Black Dress is Now Here Forever
The little black dress is a sartorial powerhouse. You can dress it up or down depending on the occasion or your mood.
From Hepburn’s Givenchy to those worn by iconic women over the ages. It is the uniform of choice for women from all walks of life, as predicted. It is a closet staple with timeless appeal. Inspiring designers over the years to keep it classic.
The LBD continues to be a fluid fashion choice in our wardrobes. And a dress we keep in our closets forever. It's go-to in a fashion pinch.