If there’s a single article of clothing that epitomizes stylishness, it’s the little black dress, or LBD. But believe it or not, everyone’s favorite night-out-on-the-town gear isn’t a modern contrivance. The first instance of a sleek, body-skimming black dress in popular fashion was based on a drawing by Coco Chanel and appeared in Vogue in 1926.
So what’s changed in date wear in the last eight decades or so? Not that much.
On New Year’s Eve and at events around the city over the past weeks, I noticed everyone and their mother (and younger sister and coworker and boss) wearing a variation on the exact same basic black sheath. Clearly, we all consider it a must-have. But why?
Tracy DiNunzio, Founder and CEO of Tradesy, an online fashion marketplace with more than 2 million users, says, “If dressing is an art, then the little black dress is the ultimate blank canvas. It’s a can’t-miss, versatile base layer that lets you express yourself through shoes and accessories, without coloring too far outside the lines of what’s generally considered stylish.”
Okay, so we’re all in agreement. But how can you update that black blank canvas?
The Black Jumpsuit: Jumpsuits are versatile and adorable and can flatter nearly any shape and form — and they come in black. Problem solved.
I’m a little partial to this kimono-style jumpsuit on ASOS – wear it with a bright bandeau underneath for a slightly more casual look, or with a skinny belt for evening. And channel your inner Bianca Jagger in a halter neck version. Black suddenly doesn’t look quite that basic.
The Not So Little, Still a Black Dress: One of the better innovations in dressing over the past few years is fatshion and larger-size women embracing body-skimming trends in clothing.
If you’re worried about anything being too body-skimming, consider highlighting less expected body parts: a deep V-back instead of a typical neckline. Or look for color blocks to highlight your best parts. Check out Eloquii’s selection of black but far from basic dresses for every occasion.
Accessories, Accessories, Accessories: DiNunzio says that this winter, she’s loving the look of a leather moto jacket thrown over an LBD, paired with thick, textured tights, an adventurous bootie, and a day-to-night cross-body bag.
“All of those other pieces are worth investing in because they’ll update the rest of your wardrobe, too.” If you’re on the fence about investment pieces, try to stretch them out for a few seasons. Pick a shoetie that has a comfortable heel and can be paired with jeans for every day, or a pencil skirt and last season’s LBD for an updated look.
Check out these Spring Step shoes in a nude tone for a cool laser-cut look with enough heel height to flatter legs but still let you walk. If you’re into the slouchy sock look, consider pairing them with silky over-the-knee socks for an unexpected pairing.
The Color-of-the-Moment Dress: This time around it’s marsala, Pantone’s color of the year. And while wearing a wine-tinted dress last year had no meaning, right now, it means that you’re on the cutting edge.
But even as you mix things up every now and again, chances are good that you’ll always go back to your favorite LBD.
Cheryl Benedict, Senior Design Director at Lands’ End, says that when looking for a new go-to dress, “You can always play with different textures and fabrics such as lace or jacquard.” And if you’re looking for a little variety in style, “Wear things that show off your collarbone, neck, or wrists. A strategic belt placed in the just the right spot can look amazing on a woman’s waist.”
What's your favorite alternative to a little black dress? When you wear one, how do you accessorize?