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 an updated Little Black Dress. I have several, including a great sleeveless sheath, 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. According to The Atlantic article The Underclass Origins of the Little Black Dress, “In October 1926, Vogue featured a sketch of a long-sleeved, calf-length, black sheath dress by a plucky young designer named Coco Chanel. Dubbed “Chanel’s Ford,” the dress was promoted as equivalent in egalitarianism to the Model T.”
“At the time, Vogue’s editors wrote that Chanel’s little black dress would “become sort of a uniform for all women of taste.” That seems like an astute prediction, in hindsight. But in 1926, the proclamation was tone-deaf at best, as the little black dress was already the actual uniform of many working-class women. The little black dress (or LBD, as it is commonly abbreviated) was a uniform designed to keep certain women in their place. Only later was it co-opted as haute couture for women of taste.”
Today, the LBD is essential to the “modern” woman’s wardrobe. 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 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
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DISCLAIMER: No financial compensation was received in exchange for this Updated Little Black Dress post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that I believe will be good for my readers.