The Little Black Dress: A timeless classic for every occasion

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There are various myths connected with the little black dress (LBD), which is called la petite robe noir in French and Kleines Schwarzes in German. Coco Chanel is said to be creator of the little black dress and it is alleged to be the perfect garment for every occasion. But are those myths true? In this blogpost, I’m going to tell you the story of the little black dress, and show you two completely different looks with just one dress. One outfit is perfect for everyday life or even the office, the other one is a glamorous dinner look.

But before diving deeper into the story of the little black dress, we are going to examine what this dress actually is. There doesn’t exist a widely agreed upon defintion of the the little black dress. However, when we use the term, we usually mean a simple, slim, black dress, that ends around the knees.

RetroCat trägt ein Kleines Schwarzes von Von 50' und Strümpfe von Secrets in Lace

The Story of the Little Black Dress

For a long time, black dresses have been the dresses of widows and maids. So if a woman was wealthy enough, she usually wouldn’t wear black. Despite she was in the period of mourning. In the 19th century, there existited very strict rules in some parts of the world regarding the grief. So if her husband died, women were supposed to wear simple black clothes without any jewellery for one year and one day of grief. In the following months or even years, black silk and decorations like lace were allowed. After that, it was allowed to team the garments with other black colours like violet for example. It could have taken years until women their normal clothes agian. Some of them even wore their mourning clothes for the rest of their lives.

The Little Black Dress: The Ford of the Garments

At the beginning of the 20th century, during and right after World War I with its many victims, people were used to see a lot of women dressed in black. This was the time, when more and more fashion designers began to create simple black dresses.

The little black dress finally had its breakthrough in 1926, when the US Vogue showed an illustration of the design of a little black dress by Coco Chanel and said it would become “a sort of uniform for all women of taste“. Vogue called the dress “Chanel’s Ford”, as the little black dress was simple, classy, and accessible for women of all social classes, just like the Ford T. Black was also an important colour in Chanel’s following collections.

However, it is not completely sure if Coco Chanel really was the originator of the little black dress. It’s said that Nettie Rosenstein had the idea of a multifunctional little black dress even before Chanel. Nevertheless, Coco Chanel and the US Vogue were the ones, who made the little black dress popular.

RetroCat mit dunkelroter Handtasche von Furla, weißer Lederjacke und einem Kleinen Schwarzen

The Little Black Dress: From frivolous to classy

In the beginning, the black dress had something frivolous, as it was the clothing of widows, so women who live alone, and already have lost their virginity. It became the symbol of the “femme fatale”. For the majority of the people of that time, this might have been similar to a floozy. But especially for the younger generation, the femme fatale enbodied a modern image of women. So it’s no wonder, that the LBD played an improtant role in the flapper fashion.

But then, especially during the Great Depression, World War II, and post-war period, the little black dress gained popularity by a wider group of women, as it was easy to combine and great for many different occasion. And for work in the war industry, where a lot of women were employed during war period, it was ways more practical than light-coloured clothes. Finally, many considerable designers like Cristóbal Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, and Elsa Schiaparelli showed different designs of the little black dress in their collections. Also many famous ladies liked and wore the LBD.

Vintage-Bloggerin RetroCat mit einem Kleinen Schwarzen und funkelnden Vintage-Accessoires

The Famous Wearers of the Little Black Dress

Wallis Simpson for example, who was in a relationship with King Edward VIII, was a huge fan of the little black dress and claimed: “When the little black dress is right, there is nothing else to wear.”

The French chanson singer Édith Piaf only wore little black dresses. In the beginning, she had nothing else to wear, as she grew up in great poverty. Afterwards, she went for the LBD as she wanted the audience to focus more on her sining and less on her appearance.

And also all the famous Hollywood divas of the 20th century wore a little black dress: Marilyn Monroe in “Some Like It Hot” as well as “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, but also Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Rita Hayworth appeared in this classy garment in at least one of their most famous movies.

However, there is probably noone we associate the little black dress with as with Audrey Hepburn. And at the latest when Audrey wore the wonderful black dress designed by Hubert de Givenchy in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, the LBD has lost its frivolity and got the eptitome of excellent style as well as elegance.

By the way: Did you know the original dress from the movie was auctioned for about 690.000 Euros? I styled a much more affordable Audrey inspired look in this blogpost. 😉

Vintage-Bloggerin RetroCat in einem Kleinen Schwarzen inspiriert von Audrey Hepburn

The Little Black Dress nowadays

Until today, not much has changed: The LBD is still seen as a classic that should be in every woman’s closet. Designers still create black dresses in all froms and shapes, and celebrities still wear little black dresses on the red carpet. In the following, I’m going to proof that the LBD really is a must-have that looks good on almost every occasion.


More Little Black Dresses:


The Little Black Dress: Perfect for Day and Night

In combination with a blazer and a big handbag, the LBD is great for everyday life and the office. Teamed with jewellery and elegant accessories, on the other side, it is the perfect piece for a dinner party.

My little black dress is by Von 50′ and looks very classy: Just a simple figure hugging cut and some lovely details. Together with classy black pumps, the LBD is the base for my different outfits.

RetroCat in einem kleinen schwarzen Retro-Kleid von Von 50'

Daytime Look with the LBD

For my daytime and business outfit, I team the dress with nude-coloured stockings by Secrets in Lace. To give the look a modern touch, I wear a white leather jacket on top and went for a gorgeous tote bag by Furla to finish the look.

Bloggerin RetroCat mit weißer Lederjacke und großer Furla-Tasche

Fashion-Bloggerin RetroCat mit einem Kleinen Schwarzen und weißer Jacke


Daytime Outfit – the Details:

Little Black Dress: Von 50′

White leather jacket: Motivi, similar here

Lolita Garter Belt: c/o Secrets in Lace

Stockings: Secrets in Lace

Pumps: Peter Kaiser

Earrings: similar here

Handbag: Furla



Evening Look with the LBD

You only need a few simple steps to transform the little black dress from a daytime into an evening outfit. I skipped the white jacket and replaced the tote bag by a small evening bag. Futhermore, I’m wearing long opera gloves by Secrets in Lace as well as a small hat. A sparkly necklace and seamed stockings by Secrets in Lace are the cherry on the cake of this evening outfit.

By the way: In this blogpost, I show you my favourite garter belt for every occasion.

Vintage-Mode-Bloggerin RetroCat trägt ein Kleines Schwarzes und glamouröse Accessoires

Vintage-Bloggerin RetroCat mit den Dita Glamour Nahtstrümpfen von Secrets in Lace und schwarzen Pumps


Evening Outfit – the Details:

Little black dress: Von 50′

Hat: Collectif Clothing, very similar here

Necklace: similar here

Earrings: similar here

Gloves: Secrets in Lace

Pumps: Peter Kaiser

Handbag: Vintage, similar here

Lolita Garter Belt: c/o Secrets in Lace

Stockings: c/o Secrets in Lace

More Fashion Classics:

Capri Pants
Circle Skirt
Dirndl
Fishnets
Garter Belts
Houndstooth
Little Black Dress
Maxi Dress
Nylon Stockings
Pencil Skirt
Petticoat
Striped Shirt
Tights
Trousers

The story of the little black dress and different outfits


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4 thoughts on “The Little Black Dress: An All-rounder styled in different Ways

  1. This is a great article – I love these potted histories that you have started giving us. And needless to say, the real epitome of elegance in a LBD is none other than you! Kx

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