Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, once said “Really, they are so badly dressed,” she once reportedly said. “I will put them all in black to teach them good taste.”
Three. Little. Words. The Little Black Dress is now common fashion terminology for every woman in Britain regardless of age and social class. It is a democratic piece of clothing that is timeless, elegant and just gets better with age. Vogue called it “Chanel’s Ford.” Like the Model T, the little black dress was simple and accessible for women of all social classes.
Vogue also said that the LBD would become “a sort of uniform for all women of taste.” Its prediction was correct.
In the Edwardian and Victorian times black connoted mourning. Black made a statement and said what had to be said without any words passing from one’s mouth. Chanel’s 1920 designs completely transformed the act of wearing black. It went from being the uniform of mourning to a fashion statement.
Today the LBD is as popular as ever. Film stars like Audrey Hepburn (in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – where the LBD became definitive) and Marilyn Munroe reinforced its chic appeal. Liz Hurley through it in to scandal in ‘that’ dress (complete with safety pins) while Victoria Beckham, Kate Middleton and Michelle Obama have ensured its high fashion status endures.
So why has it lasted so well? It’s such a simple formula but it works. It is practical, slimming, versatile (dress it up with pearls) or down for a day look. It is the safe bet but is also brilliant in its simplicity.
“For any girl, any woman with little money, it’s marvellous to have the possibility of having one dress for the whole season, for the whole year, and be well dressed,” the magazine wrote.
So take it out from the back of your cupboard, dust it down and rejuvenate it with accessories to give it a new lease of life.
When and how to wear the LBD
- Take inspiration from Michelle Obama who looked ‘gorgeous’ in a simple, black halter dress and Jimmy Choo “Lantern heels” to celebrate her and Obama’s 17th wedding anniversary in 2009.
- Take Audrey’s lead and dress it up with pearls and sunglasses.
- Wear it with a cigarette like Kate Moss.
- Rock it with trainers like Lily Allen.
- Kate Middleton opted for an LBD in January 2011, after her and William’s engagement has been announced. Everybody wanted to see her in a long, white dress but she opted for a short, black one instead.
- Wear it when it’s not expected: Do a Kate Middleton who opted for an LBD in January 2011, after her and William’s engagement had been announced. Everybody wanted to see her in a long, white dress but she opted for a short, black one instead.
- Dress it up with red accessories for a 1940s look.
Famous LBD quotations:
Wallis Warfield Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, was known to own several little black dresses and said much in praise of the garments. One quote of the Duchess: “When a little black dress is right, there is nothing else to wear in its place.
Edith Piaf, the French folk icon, performed in a black sheath dress throughout her career: for this habit she was nicknamed “little black sparrow.” It was thought that the dress helped audiences focus more on Piaf’s singing and less on her appearance.
“One is never over-dressed or underdressed with a Little Black Dress.” – Karl Lagerfeld
‘It must be so hard for you Victoria. I mean, having to decide whether to wear the little black Gucci dress, the little black Gucci dress or… the little black Gucci dress’ – Sporty Spice to Posh Spice in Spice World
Vera Nazarian: “What is it about wearing a tuxedo or that little black dress, that makes us feel confident, beautiful, splendid, even invincible?”
Rigel Celeste: “Every woman needs a little black dress (LBD) in her closet that she loves, feels sexy in, and can pull out and be fabulous in on a moment’s notice.”