The Little Black Dress; It’s a necessary ingredient to any woman’s wardrobe. A must have essential piece that can be dressed up or dressed down to suit the occasion, and it was Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel who introduced it to the world in 1926.
First showcased in American Vogue Chanel’s little black dress was a simple, cut just above the knee and sleeveless dress. Something which Vogue magazine called ‘Chanel’s Ford’ like the Model T the little black dress was simple and accessible to all women regardless of social class.A controversial garment of its time simply because it was black, a colour only worn for funerals or periods of mourning, many observed the dress to be indecent, but Vogue went on to say that the LBD would become “a sort of uniform for all women of taste.” However Coco Chanel could have never predicted the immediate and long lasting love women would have with her simple, chic, timeless black dress.
Following its launch in 1926, the little black dress continued to rise in popularity. During the Great Depression, women far and wide were taking to the simplicity of the dress, finding it more suitable to the times, with no frills or fuss it was deemed as utilitarian and easier to maintain. Its hemline however, was lengthened somewhat and appeared much more subdued.
Hollywood also played its part in boosting the popularity of the little black dress, but it was purely for technical reasons. As Technicolor became more widely used it was apparent that dresses of colour appeared distorted on screen during the colouring process. Filmmakers then became dependant on the little black dress as a fundamental wardrobe piece for actresses of the time. During the 1950’s the LBD became synonymous as the clothing of choice for the femme fatales within the world of theatre and film. A symbol of the fallen women characters were often portrayed in black halter-style dresses in contrast to the more conservative dresses of housewives or the more wholesome Hollywood stars. While the silhouette of the little black dress has changed and moved with the times, it was in the 1960s when designers tried to push the envelope with its original style and elegance. Trying to cater to the modern 60s woman designers such as Givenchy were making the little black dress ever shorter, creating cut outs or slits in the fabric and using alternative sheer materials such as netting or tulle to give a slightly rebellious more up to the minute feel. The popularity of casual fabrics and knits in the 1980s gave the original little black dress a second life. Predominantly worn as business wear, the little black dress had evolved once more into smart daywear and by the 1990’s new designs emerged that saw this wardrobe ‘must have’ made to fit and suit every occasion and every budget. The modern day little black dress certainly has survived the test of time. Regarded by women and dedicated fashionistas all over the world as the one outfit that suits all, the often called LBD is now as popular as ever.