To say the perfect little black dress (or, LBD) is a closet essential is a major understatement. It’s a true icon in the world of fashion that transcends decades.
The LBD is iconic not just in style but as a statement, too. Audrey Hepburn’s understated glamour in a Givenchy gown filled the silver screen in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961). Princess Diana also rocked one as she stepped out in her “revenge dress” following her divorce to Prince Charles. More recently, in 2018, women like Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, America Ferrera and more wore black to the Golden Globes. They united in a sea of little black dresses to rally against gender inequality in the film industry. As you can see, the LBD has been appropriated for a myriad of reasons.
The perfect little black dress is arguably the most versatile piece of clothing. It knows no boundaries and lives among all genres, from punchy punk to prim and proper. The LBD is a blank canvas—a simple garment with clean lines that you can easily make your own. It has evolved in hemlines, necklines and silhouettes and will continue to undergo metamorphosis as the years go by.
Now for the age-old question: who invented the little black dress?
Who Made the Little Black Dress Popular?
We often credit French fashion designer and businesswoman Coco Chanel with popularizing the perfect little black dress. However, women have been wearing black dresses since basically forever. It’s safe to say the LBD has a long history of origin dating back to the Georgian and Victorian eras.
Black attire was once reserved for mourning, but Chanel challenged this idea by giving the color new life in her designs. Vogue published her sketch of a sleek black sheath dress complemented by a string of pearls. The fashion magazine dubbed her design “Chanel’s Ford” after the Model T for its overall simplicity and accessibility. Her reimagined designs revolutionized the industry, with the LBD finding a home in just about every closet.
Thanks to her vision, the little black dress can take on many forms, and be anything and everything you want it to be. In her honor, let’s raise a glass of your favorite bubbly and cheers to that.
“One is never over-dressed or underdressed with a Little Black Dress.”― Karl Lagerfeld
How To Find Your Perfect Little Black Dress
The perfect little black dress is universally flattering, but don’t settle for the first one you can find. Just like our bodies, LBD’s come in all shapes, sizes and silhouettes, so we’re confident there’s one (or many) that are flawless fits. We’ve narrowed down a few key factors to look for when on the hunt for your quintessential little black dress. Take notes, and tuck away these tips in your fashion toolbelt.
Suit Your Shape & Flaunt Your Favorite Features
Finding a favorable fit for a perfect little black dress starts with dressing for your body shape. You may not fit into just one category, and the secret is out—a majority of us don’t—and that’s okay. Use these guidelines to help play up the parts you love about yourself.
Embrace the yin and yang philosophy by downplaying certain features and highlighting others. It’s truly a balance of proportions. Are you more comfortable covering your arms, but flaunting your décolletage? Opt for a chic wrap dress with three-quarter sleeves. Are your shoulders a sight for sore eyes? A strapless floor-grazing maxi may be the winning ticket for you. A good rule of thumb is to pick one area to show off at a time. With that being said, if you want to rock a plunging v-neck mini dress—we certainly won’t stop you. Wear what makes you feel good, and your confidence will shine through.
“You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty and irresistible for the rest of your life.” – Coco Chanel
While black is a neutral that looks good on most, it may be a bit harsh for fairer complexions. Navy or charcoal grey are sleek substitutes that will help you achieve the same air of sophistication and versatility. Is your heart set on black? No worries—there’s always a workaround.
This shadowy shade can play well with any other hue on the color wheel. Is red your power color? Add a swipe of scarlet lipstick and accessorize with a printed headband in colors that are most complementary to you. In addition to accessories, your layering options are endless. A simple sash in ecru, cream or ivory can lighten your overall look and brighten the area around your face. Voilà—a perfect little black dress ensemble achieved.
Stylist Tip: Maintain vibrancy in black by turning them inside out in the wash. Invest in a color-safe detergent, and always follow the wash instructions on the label.
Wearability: Repeat Offender or One and Done
Choosing just one perfect little black dress can be daunting. Our advice? Pick one for warm seasons, and another for cold ones. When choosing, keep an eye out for variations in material. Opt for thicker fabrics like velvet, tweed and leather for fall and winter. On the flip side, cotton, linen and polyester blends can offer the breathability you need in heat and humidity.
Our biggest tip? Buy dresses you’ll actually wear and that suit your lifestyle. What does your office dress code entail? What events do you attend on weekends? Be realistic about the styles that you’ll get the most miles out of. A midi dress may offer maximum versatility with its mid-calf length. It’s work-appropriate and cocktail-party approved, allowing you to take it from the desk to the dance floor. A T-shirt design is an edgy take on the spring fashion trend, the house dress. Keep scrolling to read our tips on how to wear these different styles.
How to Jazz up a Little Black Dress?
The perfect little black dress can be dressed up or down, making it suitable for any occasion. From brunch with girlfriends to casual couch days to black-tie affairs, the LBD is often the answer to your “what-to-wear” woes. It’s seasonless and ageless—is there anything the perfect little black dress can’t do? We’ll leave that for you to decide, but we’re confident these style tips will show you that this dress can really do it all.
The Perfect Little Black Dresses for Corporate Couture
No matter what LBD silhouette you love, a structured blazer will add instant polish and elevate your look. For a modern twist, emanate cool-girl vibes in a juxtaposed ensemble composed of a fitted frock under a relaxed boyfriend blazer. Stack delicate, layered necklaces and slip on a chunky square-toe mule. You’ll be ready to conquer your 9-to-5—no need to change after you leave the office for an after-hours pow-wow with peers.
Would you rather skip the layer and opt for a tailored dress instead? A perfect little black dress can stand alone with the right accessories. Pay homage to the original LBD circa the roaring 20s with pearl earrings. Add nude pumps in a modest height as a nod to the ever-elegant Jackie O, who loved her kitten heels.
Keep It Casual with a Little Black Dress
The aforementioned T-shirt dress is the equivalent of your favorite classic tee. It reigns supreme as the cute, comfy and casual choice for weekends and running errands. Keep it simple with a denim jacket and white sneakers. For those chillier transition seasons, layer with a chunky cardigan, warm tights and suede booties. Wondering what occasions these outfits are suited for? Frolic in a sunflower field, watch a hometown hockey game or unwind on a porch swing— sweet tea in hand.
The Perfect Little Black Dress for Holiday Glam & Fancy Affairs
Does your minimalist heart have a black satin slip dress on hand? For an unexpected take on this perfect little black dress, add a sheer blouse on top. Look for romantic details like billowy sleeves or ruffles, one of our favorite summer 2021 fashion trends. Tuck away this tip as a unique way to elevate your look for your next social soiree.
Headed to a holiday celebration? You can’t beat a shimmery black number with a pleated skirt. Take it up a notch by adding depth and dimension with a soft pullover. Bonus points if it comes in a luxurious material like cashmere or merino wool. Metallic strappy heels and dazzling accessories will add holiday cheer for an unforgettable night of merriment and mistletoe.
Are you ready to dip your toes in the LBD world? Sign up for a Fix, and request an assortment of styles in your search for the perfect little black dress.