How do you even begin to talk about why the Little Black Dress (LBD) is a wardrobe staple? It is versatile. It is chic. It is wearable and figure-flattering on every body. It is easy to find and care for. It hasn’t gone out of style in almost a century.
The LBD IS the wardrobe essential.
Originally made “en vogue” by Coco Chanel in the early 20th century as women yearned for more practical clothing, the LBD became Chanel’s most recognized contribution to fashion.
Since its appearance, this staple has made many famous appearances:
Princess Diana’s LBD (above) actually managed to steal the spotlight from her then-husband Prince Charles’ publically admitted extramarital affairs that same night.
The LBD is everyone’s confidence booster and ultimate comfort piece all wrapped into one. Whether you’re single, married, divorced, a student, a professional, a stay-at-homer or a fashionista, a LBD is a vital piece of artillery to have in your wardrobe arsenal (because let’s face it – the LBD is part of a woman’s weaponry).
What to Look for when buying a LBD
1. Fit. I know I almost always put this as the first tip when buying a wardrobe essential but that is because it is the most vital when investing in staples. That dress make look fabulous on the hanger but the most important thing to see is if it will look fabulous on you. Closely examine a potential addition to your wardrobe and pay attention to how the garment fits you on all sides. Make sure the dress is flattering and accentuates elements of yourself that you want to highlight. If the piece doesn’t fit perfectly can it be tailored (and more importantly: will you take it to be tailored)? Don’t forget to figure tailoring expenses into the dress price.
2. Quality. A LBD is something you will likely wear hundreds of times so take a moment and examine the stitching, the seams and the hem. Make sure everything is straight were it should be: an uneven hem is attractive on no one.
3. Details. The details are what will make your LBD special so look for something that really speaks to you. A few years ago I found my perfect LBD at Banana Republic: it had an illusion wrap effect thanks to some well sewn pleats around the waist. Pleats, wrap effects, belts and ruffles can make a LBD really wow: just be sure the details aren’t going to date the dress in five years. Simple and small details are the best if you are looking for something timeless.
4. Strapless vs. Straps. I tend to only buy dresses with straps simply because they are more work-appropriate but a strapless LBD can be the perfect party outfit:
5. Fabric. I think there are two fabrics which make the best LBDs: a wool-blend (for winter, but make sure it isn’t itchy) and a jersey. Jersey dresses are absolutely fabulous because they are figure flattering (unless the jersey is super-thin which is unattractive on every body type) and they don’t wrinkle making them perfect to travel with. A wool-blend has some structure but is still comfortable and warm. But LBDs are made in every fabric so just remember to examine how the fabric fits you and whether it is comfortable and easy to care for.
6. Length. If you are looking for something timeless look for a knee-length LBD: almost all other lengths, from maxi to mini, are easily dated after a year or two. That said, I have an Elie Tahari black maxi which I practically lived in all summer so just be sure the length you choose compliments your lifestyle.
How to wear a LBD
The best way to wear a LBD is with color – every color looks fabulous with black. The LBD is like a blank canvas so have fun with your accessories and enjoy the confidence boost from looking chic. A great look for a holiday party is a LBD with a sequin jacket or belt and some fabulous heels.
What’s your favorite way to wear a LBD?
P.s. I found this fabulous paperdoll set of LBDs – wouldn’t this be a fabulous holiday gift for the budding fashionista on your list?