Everything About Little Black Dresses
Last updated on : March 09 2017
It's Saturday night and you have been looking forward to that party all week, only to realize you have no cool clothes to wear! Let's face it - you probably have two hundred ladies dresses in your wardrobe but none of them fit the bill. Or maybe your best friend still hasn’t returned your favorite low cut dress. Instead of getting all worked up, you can turn to the one solution for all occasions - the little black dress!
Yes, it is a cliché, the little black dress. But there couldn’t be an easier way to look sexy. With the increasing focus on today's trashy and tasteless fashion everyone can do with a fresh breath of sophistication. Show off your little black dress the right way and you will have the right type of men falling all over you.
What is the LBD?
By definition, a little black dress is a short black cocktail or evening dress with a simple and feminine design or style. The general consensus is that the little black dress must be simple because simplicity equates to versatility that allows you to wear the dress everywhere - literally. A short black dress that follows a specific trend would appear dated once the trend wears off and would not qualify as the quintessential LBD.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the Little Black Dress (LBD) as a woman’s short or medium-length black dress that is suitable for almost any social engagement - and we could not agree more.
Why is the LBD so Important
When you ask fashion experts about one must-have closet staple for women, the answer is most often a little black dress.
There are a number of reasons why the LBD is considered such an important piece of clothing in your wardrobe and the key to understanding this lies in accepting its minimalism. Black is a statement that does not need to make a statement at all. The best designers in the world agree that true style lies in the form, and not in embellishments or garish trends. This is where black rules the roost. Its minimalism takes away everything that is unimportant, and channels your focus only on its crisp color, and pure aesthetic.
A quality little black dress symbolizes effortless elegance, simplicity, and style. It is an essential dress in every woman’s wardrobe because it is not only iconic but also versatile and timeless. Dress your LBD up or down using different accessories, shoes, and add-on clothing such as a denim shrug or blazer with ease and enjoy style flexibility you need in a pinch.
Who invented the Little Black Dress
- During the Victorian era, a grieving widow was expected to wear black for at least two years - All of this changed at the will of a woman named Coco Chanel - The story behind the little black dress
- The LBD is most famously associated with Coco Chanel, but it is worth noting that Chanel did not invent the Little Black Dress.
Some famous Little Black Dresses over the ages:
Black dresses are always iconic statement dresses. Worn over the ages, a few have been remarkable enough to be constantly remembered and referred to. Audrey Hepburn's Givenchy dress from Breakfast at Tiffany's is nearly 60 years old and it will always be 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 - Maleficient. Check out the amazing photos with Brad!
- Kim Kardashian - sexy before the wedding
- Rihanna - Most Desirable Women Award 2014
How to rock a LBD
There are many ways to style your little black dress, depending upon the occasion and venue. Dress it up with a chunky necklace for going to a gallery opening or dress it down for a casual evening out with friends. A little black dress is must-have attire that is easily taken from classic to sexy, from day to evening, from casual to dressy simply by accessorizing it differently.
- If you are going for a chic look, fashion experts and magazine editors tend to prefer all black. Pair a little black dress with a hint of lace on the neckline and with sheer black hose when you are going for a sexy polish. If you have long hair, give your tresses a wavy look for a dose of softness.
- When you are planning a casual outing, dress down your little black dress with sneakers. Let your hair down and wear a baseball cap to give yourself a sporty look.
- If you want to accentuate your waist, the best way to do this is to add a metal belt along the smallest part of your waist. This is the best way to show off your figure in a little black dress.
- Wear a little black dress and accessorize it with a motorcycle jacket and leather boots to bring out the bad girl in you. This edgy look is perfect for a casual evening out or for a date.
- One of the other fashion trends going around is the schoolgirl-inspired look. For this look, wear your favorite button-up shirt underneath your little black dress. This is the perfect way to dress if you are looking for a fresh way to up-style your little black dress.
- When going for a gallery opening or a dinner party, accessorize your little black dress with a statement necklace. A bold chunky necklace, when worn on your dress, makes it the most eye-catching piece of your outfit. Let the necklace do all the talking. Just remember, when you wear a chunky necklace, go easy on the other accessories, otherwise it might seem too over-the-top.
Ever since Coco Chanel popularized the little black dress for the first time in 1926, it has continued to be a fashion classic. Whether you have a pear-shaped body or a curvy body, there are different styles of the little black dress that flatter your body type. The little black dress is very versatile and works for wear to work, party, or a gallery opening by simply changing how you accessorize it.
Here are more ways to stand out in a world where so many women are relying on their own little black dresses.
- How to rock a little black dress
- 14 ways to wear a lbd - includes with a red bag and a statement necklace, plus red lips!
- Can you really 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 a LBD in dead of winter - it's my anniversary!
- Look at how I layer my LBD in the cold (video) - Now that its cold out, layer layer layer it up.
- Spice up my LBD (video) - Don't get boring in your LBD.
- 5 ways to wear a LBD (video) - with a $15 dress from H&M.
- One last video by Fabsugar
How to Flatter Your Body Type with a LBD
Coco Chanel once said, “The little black dress is a uniform for all women of taste”. Her belief in the little black dress continues to be the momentum behind each design and cut for this closet staple. When it comes to choosing the perfect little black dress, it is important to remember that it is not a one-size-fits all dress.
There are different styles of little black dresses available in the market today because the dress must flatter your body and personal tastes. With the wide range of choices it is often a challenge to choose the right style for you. The key to picking a perfect little black dress is to know your body type and what style flatters your figure. We’ve compiled a list of the most common body types and the best little black dress styles to put on them.
If you have a pear-shaped body, your backside and hips are wider than your shoulders. Generally, you also have a smaller bust line. If you are looking for a little black dress that flatters your body type, choose a halter style dress. This style of dress creates a more balanced look by showing off your shoulders. When you wear a halter black dress, your hips will seems smaller and proportionate to the rest of your body shape. Avoid dresses made of flimsy fabrics.
For petite body, the ideal little black dress for you is the sheath dress. The elongated and clean shape of the sheath dress gives your body the illusion of appearing more lean and tall. Ensure that the dress hits above your knees, as this creates an illusion of longer legs. If you want to go for texture or prints on your dress, choose vertical designs to keep your look fluid. Remember to avoid large details such as ruffles because they have a tendency to overpower your demure stature.
The challenge of having an apple body type is the lack of a defined waist line, so the perfect little black dress for you would be an empire waisted style or design that gives you a waist such as shirred dresses (dresses with gathers at the waist). The gathering pulls your waist in and makes it appear slimmer than the rest of your body. Another dress style that flatters your body type is the fit and flare dresses or skater dresses. The skirt helps put the illusion of curves in your lower body, while the top portion accentuates your bodice and bustline.
When you have a curvy body type, the little black dress becomes akin to a best friend because the color black is naturally slimming. Choose a V-neck dress that emphasizes your middle, ensuring that you draw the eye downward, which in turn makes your waist look more narrow. A wrap dress or a sheath dress is the ideal little black dress for a woman with a curvy body type or a little black dress with waist cinching detail. The hemline of the dress should be either slightly above the knee or right below the knee.
Figure out what your favorite assets are and emphasize them with a little black dress. For example, if you love your legs, wear a short little black dress. However, if you would rather not show your legs off, wear a black dress that is long and flowy or midi length. As you can see, no matter what your body type, you are still able to enjoy the effortless elegance of a little black dress.
Wearing your LBD during Hot Weather
If your closet boasts bold colors of midnight skies, blacks, and deep navy blues then the thought of how to get through summer and spring months likely gives you chills and wardrobe worries. How to wear black in the summer when onset temperatures surpass 90 degrees Fahrenheit is a challenge for even the most innovative and bold style trendsetters.
I've found that you can rock black in hot weather just as easily as you can rock it in cooler temperatures. Keep these simple rules and tips in mind as the weather heats up and discover how to wear black with style, panache, and comfort anytime of the year.
Opt for Breezy Fabrics
Fabrics make and break styles and looks. For example, mixing fabrics such as satin and leather give you an edgy and risky look while matching fabrics such as cotton and crochet provide a more complete and polished look. Choose breezy fabrics such as chiffon, crochet, mesh, tulle, and lace to show off your favorite black looks and styles without making you feel constrained by your wardrobe.
Simple and quick fixes that work well include sheer blouses, tank tops, short black dresses or rompers. Summer dresses in any translucent and sheer fabric are also ideal for warmer seasons. Our bodycon dresses offer a combination of style and breezy fabrics and are fully lined so you can also wear them in the cooler temperatures. See-through black tops or opaque yet light ones are breathable fabrics that naturally reduce sweat by offering airy circulation.
Show Skin (lots of it)
Exfoliate and moisturize your skin to achieve the glow you see on your favorite celebrities then slip into into a black spaghetti strap camisole, navy trendy jean vest, black cutoff denim shorts, or a black whimsical cotton dress. Showing skin puts you in sync with hot weather and keeps you cool all the same.
Here are the key reasons we show skin (lots of it):
- Short shorts and sexy black dresses give the illusion of legs that go on for miles
- Thin straps soften your shoulders
- Strapless or plunging necklines tempt onlookers into touching
- Peeks of midriff and breezy layers are simple ways to show skin without tiptoeing into being a hussy
Cutouts and cutoff styles never truly go out of style either. So if you have an old faded pair of black jeans consider repurposing them as a sexy pair of tiny cutoffs. Something about the "cut" styles give the illusion of more skin without necessarily showing more. These options are also very comfortable for days out or in.
As you tackle the ever challenge of showing skin without compromising your dignity remember that cutoff or skin revealing styles are an art. Show just enough to tease but hide just as much to play it safe. Learning how to be naked (showing tons of skin) without being a hussy is a challenge. Consider taking 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 more modest approaches that achieve the same effect such as slits, plunging necklines, and low backs.
Mix Up Patterns and Textures
Black is bold and beautiful and should never be boring. Play with patterns and textures to bring out the best in your wardrobe. Mix cottons with silk and denim with satin. A bit of crochet or a lace panel is a sure fire way to show the world how to wear black in the summer with ease, femininity, and coolness.
Add animal prints, bright geometric lines, soft florals, and other patterns to your staple black shorts, skirts, and leggings to give them a unique summer texture that is breezy, a stylishly offbeat, and sassy.
Bikinis, Playsuits, and Rompers
We all call them something: rompers, playsuits, or jumpsuits. These unique and girly pieces are your best answers on how to wear black in the summer. They are designed to show off legs and usually feature a plunging neckline or tapered waist design that flatters most women. Putting on a black romper playsuit conveys an inherent coolness overflowing with flirty and youthful style.
Likewise, what would a summer be without spending some time frolicking on the beach or laying out by the pool? A strappy two-piece black bikini is exactly the kind of thing that makes wearing black in warmer seasons doable. Here are a few reasons why black bikinis are always going to make the list of how to wear black year around:
- Never be subject to "see-through" malfunctions when wet
- Black is a contouring color that flatters most feminine profiles
- Black is versatile and ideal for most complexions (often provides an illusion of a tan)
Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize (please)
Opt for sandals, wedges, or other open toe shoes as weather heats up. Open toe or heel shoe selections transform most outfits into breezy and fresh ensembles. Pair shoes with handbags or clutches that feature bold or subtle colors to finish the look. Sweeping updos held together by natural fibers such as wood, leather, and raffia are easy and affordable pieces of chic style that go a long way.
Wooden bangles, leather hair ties, oversized black sunglasses, and straw hats are all go-to accessories perfect for balancing your black wardrobe in the summer and spring. Accessories are also simple ways to add a splash of color including bright-hued beads, earrings, or long necklaces.
In short bright and vibrant colors tend to have summer written all over them but black is a universal shade that is a wardrobe staple throughout the year. Just remember to keep it short, breathable, light and uniquely you!
Shoes and your LBD
There are so many shoes and just as many ways to wear them with your LBD. This dress can truly get you from office to office party simply through the addition of varying accessories, and shoes are some of the most important.
- 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.
How to make a LBD
Of course not everyone wants to make their own little black dress especially now that you can buy a perfectly presentable one for around the $15 mark. But sometimes a girl has got to do what a girl has got to do and making, wearing and then talking about what you have done can be entertainment all in itself.
Try it, and tell us about your experience in a comment below.
- How to make a basic black dress (video)- every girl needs one.
What do men think about the LBD
Want to know what the guys think? Here are two very interesting articles on exactly that topic. Don't let the second one worry you too much, if a girl is at full confidence we all know no guy can resist.
- All the men agreed that the classic black dress — albeit fitted — was a good choice.
- RedbookMag.com - We asked seven women to tell us when they feel most desirable — then got the scoop from each of their guys on what makes him hot for her. Here, the sweet, sexy, and surprising answers.
Songs and music about the LBD
Surprisingly there hasn't been that much music written exclusively about these dresses that is sufficiently in the mainstream to be picked up here. One Direction has recently put a marker down.
- Little Black Dress (video) - One Direction
- Tim McGraw (video) - Taylor Swift, her LBD is her happiness.
- Gettin' You Home (The Black Dress Song) (video) - Chris Young
- Breakfast At Tiffany's opening scene (video) - One of the most famous LBD of them all.
Where is the best place to buy a LBD
There are thousands of places and you will have your own favourites but just for completeness I have added a few of my own. This is The Kewl Shop blog so clearly it gets a mention right at the top, but I'll vouch for those dresses, they have a way of making you feel wonderful, and nicely tucked in.
- The Kewl Shop - See our black bandage dress collection
- Macy's - Little Black Dress
- WetSeal.com - Black dresses
- NastyGal - LBD
History of The Little Black Dress
A LBD easily works for both day and night affairs. These little numbers are seen in board meetings with blazers and on dance floors at the hottest night clubs. A little black dress is paired with pumps, heels, sandals, or wedges. However, having an LBD has not always been a style commandment. There was a time when black dresses, little or otherwise, were relegated to funeral wear and signified bereavement or mourning. When did the little black dress begin to become one of our favorites and go to styles? Here’s a look at the illustrious history of the LBD that has made it what it is today.
Wearing black prior to the 1900s was reserved for times of mourning and sadness. By the mid-1920s the little black dress began to emerge as a fashion icon. It made its first fashionable appearance as a slim-fitting dress that was worn for different occasions such as evenings out, cocktail parties, and dinners. It became popular in the 1930s, and has since become one of the most influential garments of the 20th century along with blue jeans and the T-shirt.
This dress made its debut in the Vogue magazine as a pen and ink drawing by designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in 1926, however, it wasn’t created by the designer. The editors of this magazine compared this simple design to the Ford Model T motor vehicle and called the dress as ‘Chanel’s Ford’. It created quite a stir in the fashion industry because at this time the color black was associated with the lower classes, clergy, and with mourning. This simplicity and the economical quality of this dress appealed to the women during the Great Depression era in the 1930s. Chanel commented saying “Thanks to me they (non-wealthy) can walk around like millionaires.”
As time went by more and more high profile celebrities appreciated the simplicity and reliability of the little black dress. In the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s it was made an art form by the actress Audrey Hepburn. The dress worn by Hepburn was designed by Hubert de Givenchy and when Audrey Hepburn was asked about the dress she said, “What is more beautiful than a simple sheath made an extraordinary way in a special fabric and just two earrings?”
It has almost been a century since the little black dress made its debut, and yet it is still just as popular today as it was then. It is truly a timeless article of clothing, and like with great wine – the little black dress keeps getting better with age.
The Portrait of Madame X by John Singer Sargent sheds light on the use of black dresses prior to the 1920s. Mainly reserved for mourning periods, a black dress was considered inappropriate wear in other situations. A widow’s black mourning dress was heavily policed, with the tiniest of details including the material, accessories (well lack thereof) and shades of black defined and utilized to make mourning dresses.
The dress created by Chanel (see image below) was the epitome of simplistic elegance – calf-length, sheath design, and delicate diagonal lines. Women everywhere took notice and the acceptance and appreciation for the little black dress began. In fact, Vogue dubbed it “Chanel’s Ford”, referring to Ford’s Model T car that was known to be simple and affordable for people of all social classes.
While the black dress was not invented by world renowned fashion designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, she is credited with conceptualizing the “little black dress” to its fashion staple form recognized today. In the book “Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life”, Justine Picardine explains, “The little black dress was not formally 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, worn with a string of white pearls; and Vogue proved to be correct in the prediction that it would become a uniform for all women of taste...”
Black is flattering, and the LBD retained its popularity through the dire times of the Great Depression. Women from all economic backgrounds found that a simple LBD met all their needs – fashion-oriented as well as practical. The little black dress did not just appeal to the masses, it was also the chosen dress for glamorous entertainers such as one of France’s first international cabaret singer, songwriter, and actress Edith Piaf, aka La Vie en Rose Piaf. Piaf only appeared in a little black dress during her performances. Although the styles and designs varied the basics of a LBD was always firmly in tact.
Post the war, designer Christian Dior revamped the LBD for his legendary New Look. This look cinched the dress at the waistline and added a flowing full skirt. The look was decidedly more princess like with fuller skirts but the simplicity of the design of Dior’s little black dress in 1948 stood the test of time and simply seemed to opened up the fashion world’s perceptions of what the little black dress could be for women everywhere. As years passed, Dior amended the LBD trend to include leaner sheaths. These sleek and trendy sheath LBDs became the dominant trend of the 1950s.
By the 1950s we began seeing the little black dress fairly everywhere. Women from all walks of life loved the look and enjoyed a conservative and versatile style that allowed them to add their own flavor during a time when it was a bit more challenging to do so. From necklaces to hair bows we saw a slow and gradual move from sheath style little black dresses cinched at the waists with full skirts and back to sheath in the 1950s.
One of the most famed displays of the little black dress was noted when newlywed Marilyn Monroe stepped out with husband Arthur Miller in a wool-crepe LBD cocktail dress by Galanos. Monroe’s dress had a sensational bare chiffon midriff that was very risky and taboo at the time.
When speaking about the most iconic LBD, who can forget Audrey Hepburn in an LBD, pearl choker, oversized glasses, hat, and gloves, playing role of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? The dress worn in the film was designed exclusively for Hepburn by one of her closest friends and a world famous fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy. This little black dress became exceptionally famous and was auctioned at Christie’s in London in 2006 for just under $1 million.
The dress is described as “perhaps the most famous little black dress of all time”. Helen Cowley, publisher of the LOVEFiLM survey of 2010 remarks, “Audrey Hepburn has truly made that little black dress a fashion staple which has stood the test of time despite competition from some of the most stylish females around.”
The stars in 1960s took to the little black dress and began to show us just what it was capable of. In 1965 Italian film actress Sophia Lauren added an animalistic appeal to the LBD and was photographed wearing a timeless black dress, accessorized with a brooch, and a leopard-print hat.
Cut to the years of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in her frilly decorative LBD that she choose to wear on more than one occasion. Onassis first wore the dress to dinner at the La Côte Basque, a famous French restaurant known for its style, lavish, and fresh flowers. Onassis revived the dress quite a few times after that as she was a staunch believer of not retiring a dress just because she was photographed in it once.
Hugh Grant’s escapades, sexual and otherwise, made it to the news again and again. But the minute his then-wife and actress Elizabeth Hurley stepped on the red carpet wearing a head-turning black dress complete with gold oversized safety pins designed by Gianni Versace, she was all anyone could talk about. Resetting fashion standards, industry experts vow that this iconic LBD launched Liz Hurley’s career into the movie business. If the highest form of flattery is copying, this dress is much-loved as there are many modern-day replicas of this scintillating number.
In 1994, Princess Diana brought the LBD much fame by wearing a dangerously low-cut black gown to her public debut as the fiancée of Prince Charles. While her choice of dress raised plenty of eyebrows back in the day, no one could deny the panache and sheer beauty of her “revenge” dress.
Victoria Beckham aka Posh Spice from the famous all-girls band “Spice Girls” wore her LBDs everywhere! Perhaps the most famous one was her strapless Gucci LBD worn onstage during her concerts.
Favored by the British Royalty and the White House, the LBD made an appearance in 2009 when first lady Michelle Obama stepped out in a dainty Azzedine Alaia little black dress. The dress was reminiscent of the 1950s LBD silhouette yet provided modern allure and sophistication. The first lady continues to put on a LBD as often as she sees fit for various situations.
Wearing an ornate necklace and a strapless LBD, Canadian model Heidi Klum made waves at the 2010 Emmy Awards. The 42-year-old model confesses her love for the LBD and has been seen wearing different versions of it regularly. From low-cut dresses to skin-tight leather numbers, Klum’s choices go to show how versatile, timeless, and photogenic a little black dress brilliantly is.
Beyoncé was named the highest paid female musician in the world in 2014, and the “Drunk in Love” singer showed off her flawless looks by donning a $130 sequined LBD from the British high-street store Topshop, reinforcing the idea that the LBD can be worn with panache, whatever your budget is.
Pairing her simple little black dress with a monogrammed bag from Louis Vuitton and black platform shoes, Taylor Swift inspired the new-age of little black dress wearers in 2015 as she got ready to take center stage on her world tour for the album 1989.
The Little Black Dress is Now Here Forever
The little black dress is a sartorial powerhouse that easily dresses up and down depending on the occasion or your mood. From Hepburn’s Givenchy to the little black dresses worn by iconic women over the ages, this dress has become the uniform of choice for women from all walks of life, as predicted. It is a closet staple with timeless appeal and has inspired designers over the years to keep it classic, get a bit risky, or find a stylish and attractive balance of the two. The LBD has evolved and continues to be a fluid fashion choice in our wardrobes. While there are plenty of bling alternatives out there, a classic and elegant version of the LBD is something that you keep in your closet forever as a go to in a fashion pinch.
An Infographic on the Evolution of the Little Black Dress
Fitting into your LBD
Just in case you are worried about whether you can still fit into your fav LBD, we've added this one last link below. There are no mentions of diets here, just pure raw physical exercise as that is the best way to lose the weight (I can feel another lengthy blog coming on here).
The little black dress workout (video) - what you need to do to get into your LBD!