There is no “new black”

I know it’s still July, but fall is fast approaching (at least according to the department store displays) and I need to seriously update my closet. One of the things I need most is a new Little Black Dress. I have several, including a great sleeveless sheath (sorry Mrs. Obama, I had it first!) but I really want a new, fresher silhouette.

The very fact that I feel I must have a new dress begs the question: Just where did the LBD come from and why has it remained such a staple in women’s wardrobes since the 1920’s?

The fail-safe look was popularized in 1926 by Chanel in American Vogue. The LBD immediately resonated with women worldwide. Essential to the “modern” woman’s wardrobe, the LBD became a symbol simultaneously of a woman’s liberation and her femininity.

For many (myself included) the basic LBD is a talisman against a major style faux-pas. It’s the “armor” many women adopt when going into social battle – secure in the knowledge that they are safe from the knowing stares and whispered comments when a more daring choice (Rhinestones? Red? Seriously?) is made.

Throughout the decades, the LBD has changed in length, silhouette, fabric and ornamentation. but the quintessential idea – a piece that be dressed up or down, partnered with accessories or left starkly plain — works just as well today as it did in 1926. After all…

“Fashion fades, but style remains the same.” –Coco Chanel

Susan McNeill is a wife, mother, author, entrepreneur and social activist. In addition to Susan Said What?! Susan also writes for Style on a WHIM, It’s how you play the game!, and Success Won’t Wait!

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