It has been said through the decades that every woman needs a little black dress. It’s said to be able to go anywhere and has many variations. There is not one specific style, but you know one when you see one. What exactly is the meaning of “a little black dress”?
The little black dress’s meaning has changed throughout its history. It has been affiliated with affordability, accessibility, affluence, power, evil, elegance, luxury, and rebellion. Today, it symbolizes versatility, understated grace, and timeless style—that is attainable to anyone and can be individualized to the wearer.
The little black dress, as we know it, was introduced1926 by Coco Chanel. Almost a hundred years later, with transitions in style and associations with the color black, the little black dress is still a fashion staple for its versatility, simplicity, timelessness – and so much more.
The Little Black Dress Emerges as a Symbol
Before the 1920s, women often wore long, elaborately layered dresses that accentuated curves. History was changing around the globe with the end of World War I. Women started to work outside the home and were fighting for the right to vote. Beginning in the 1920s, more and more women sought equality and independence. Fashion began to reflect this.
With the boom of the Roaring Twenties, many women were starting to rebel by wearing styles that departed sharply from previous decades. Clothing started to get simpler, slimmer, and straighter. Hair was cut shorter, creating the “bob” style, and hemlines on dresses were cut shorter, too. The combination of short hair and short dress created the signature “flapper” look.
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel made the little black dress famous in 1926 on the cover of Vogue. It had been popularized throughout Europe and the United States by designers Jean Patou and Edward Molyneux.
The original design of the little black dress was meant to be fashionable, but also affordable and neutral. And of course there is a difference between a fashion and a trend, but the idea was to sell a dress that a woman of any age, size, or financial means would want to buy. A kind of democratization of fashion. And it worked. It became extremely popular. Fashion was attainable to any woman.
The little black dress, also known as LBD, began to transform and adapt to the styles of the decade, keeping two signature traits: little black dresses are black, and they are slim.
Celebrity Popularization of the Little Black Dress
After her performance in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn helped transform the meaning of the color black to wealth, elegance, and luxury. Later on, Princess Diana wore a little black dress after she found out Prince Charles had cheated on her, coining the term “revenge dress.”
Even today, film stars can be spotted on the red carpet, looking stunning in their little black dresses. This striking staple can hold its own among the designer gowns and sequins that sparkle at the poshest events. For this generation it is so easy to find a style because we can take a look at the different fashion trends in online shopping and choose what little black dress is best for us. And there are good reasons why this simple dress lives such a full – and sometimes glamorous – life.
The Meaning of The Color Black in Fashion
Every color has a meaning. Scientifically, black is the absorption of all colors, while white is the reflection. Bringing this idea of color absorption into fashion, the little black dress can be said to attract attention to you, but not to the dress itself.
The meaning of the color black has changed over the years and is has held different meanings in different cultures. Before the 20th century, wearing black meant that you were mourning. Over the years and throughout the world, the color black in apparel has symbolized a wide range of feelings or messages:
In the world of fashion, the color black is formal, elegant, edgy, sleek, and stylish. It can show conformity and non-conformity. It has been the chosen color by musical performers not to distract the audience from the music. Black is a strong and powerful color – and it can just as easily be silent and understated.
For its versatility and timelessness, when it comes to contemporary style, black remains a staple in many wardrobes.
Black Is the Most Important Element of the LBD
The little black dress has to be black. It cannot be any other color. The reason the little black dress has surged in popularity over the years is that its color works well with everyone and every skin tone.
The simplicity and versatility of the dress are important, of course. Also significant is its “littleness,” or short length. But the color is one element that can never change. The little black dress is black. Always black.
It is meant to be what initially draws the eye to the wearer, but not maintain focus on the dress itself as a bright color or pattern would.
The little black dress draws attention to the woman who is wearing it. It allows the individuality of the wearer to shine. And that is why the choice of the little black dress is so personal, and why the exact style of the dress may change from woman to woman.
Different Styles of The Little Black Dress?
Not everybody is the same, and not everyone has the same style. The little black dress comes in so many different styles. The length is usually short and, at its longest, knee-length, with many adaptations.
According to Land’s End, you should find one that is most versatile for you and the season. There are thin summer dresses and thick sweater dresses for the fall and winter. It has been developed into long evening dresses and gowns. You can also get it as a bandage-style or like Posh Spice’s “little black Gucci dress.”
Little Black Dress: The Choice Is Personal
Finding the perfect little black dress can be difficult. Some cuts may be unflattering to your figure. Different shades of black can have undertones that don’t blend well with your skin, hair color, or style. For as neutral as the LBD is, it’s also individualized. How do you find yours?
The best thing to do is to go to different stores or try on samples from an online subscription service like Rent The Runway and New York & Company. Once you find that perfect, little black dress, you may as well buy two.
J.C. Flugel studied the psychology of how you dress and concluded that how you dress affects your attitude and performance outside; therefore, you ultimately want to feel comfortable in the dress. You also want to feel like yourself while wearing it, no matter what accessories you use.
Making the Little Black Dress Your Own
The little black dress is so versatile. It can be used for almost any occasion. Nights out, dates, funerals, vacations, the red carpet, and even work presentations – the LBD truly does go anywhere. That’s why every girl needs a little black dress!
How you accessorize your little black dress is up to you and the occasion. This is another way the very simple dress can be a personal fashion statement and reflect the meaning you choose. The little black dress is all about what you do with it.
Shoes for the Little Black Dress
The shoes you wear can greatly affect the statement you are making with the little black dress you are wearing. If it is a casual night out, go for something comfortable like flats, kitten heels, ankle-cut booties, or a wedge sandal. If you are going for something more formal, a sleek stiletto will do.
(You can check out the shoes that go perfectly with a little black dress, in that article!)
You can also play around with the different styles of other shoes. Designers and fashionistas have been challenging the formality of different shoe styles, such as Doc Martens while wearing the little black dress.
Jewelry and Sparkle for the LBD
The jewelry you wear can also change the statement you make while wearing a little black dress. When Coco Chanel first showed the little black dress to the world on the cover of Vogue magazine, the model drawn was wearing it with a pearl necklace.
Nowadays, the little black dress is accessorized with so many different types and styles of jewelry. Some blend well, such as pearl and chain necklaces and chokers. Others tend to be bolder and draw attention away from the little black dress, like colored hoop earrings and chunky statement necklaces and rings.
Jackets and Outerwear – Layer It Up
Sometimes it may be too cold out for your little black dress. Other times, it might just be nice to have that extra layer.
You can make your little black dress more casual for a night out by wearing it with a denim jacket or a cardigan. You can also make your little black dress more business appropriate by wearing it with a blazer, especially if you’re going out for drinks after work.
You can also wear it with a shawl to give your little black dress more elegance for formal events. Choosing the right color and pattern can make the dress feel more formal or casual
Makeup, Hairstyle, and The Little Black Dress
You have the perfect dress and accessories for your night out, and now it is time for your makeup. Wearing the perfect little black dress can boost your confidence, but the goal of the dress isn’t for it to be the main focus. The main focus is on you!
The little black dress has been seen paired with so many different makeup styles, from subtle to drastic. The style of the dress and the occasion will affect your makeup choice. The same goes for hair.
Audrey Hepburn immortalized the little black dress and updo. Today, you’ll see everything from long, wavy locks to short, modern bobs. The little black dress can work with any hairstyle and any hair color.
From shoes to jewelry and from nails to hair, the little black dress is as versatile and complementary as apparel gets. It’s more like a backdrop for whatever expression you choose to put in front of it. You can also take a look at the different fashion trends and build your outfit based on the latest fashion styles!
Almost one hundred years after the little black dress was created and popularized, it is still the go-to outfit for any woman’s night out. The meaning of the dress and color has changed throughout history, especially depending on who wears it.
Even though there are different little black dress styles, your little black dress is unique to you. And how you wear it with accessories, makeup, and your personality, can give it a whole new meaning.