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Little Black Dress – Chanel

August 30, 2014

The ubiquitous little black dress seems to have been with us forever, it’s a fashion staple of every woman’s wardrobe and worn for every occasion, from the office to cocktail parties to dinner for two. Its association with Coco Chanel is a strong one, as it was this famous French designer that brought us the little black dress in the 1920s.


Givency little black dress and hat, worn by audrey hepburn in breakfast at tiffany's , 1961

Givency little black dress and hat, worn by audrey hepburn in breakfast at tiffany’s , 1961.
Sailko, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Chanel’s Little Black Dress through the decades

Where once clothes were worn with heavy corsetry and layers of clothing – Chanel would change all that. She believed in garments made for women that allowed for comfort and movement, although controversial at the time, the little black dress was born with this in mind. Women had worn black for many hundreds of years, but mostly for mourning,with its own rigid dress code.

The Little Black Dress in the 1920s

The 1920s would see far more freedom in clothing with the corset being discarded for more comfortable underwear and less layers being worn by women. The lbd has changed shape and length over the years, but it still remains the most elegant, graceful piece of clothing to adorn a woman’s body.In the early part of the 1920s Coco Chanel would design the little black dress, sadly not many exist today due to the fabrics fragility over time, but it would become an iconic piece of clothing. It would be given a boost during the mid-twenties when Vogue decided to feature a fashion piece on Chanel’s black dress – giving it great exposure.


Later in the early sixties Givenchy would create the iconic black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Chanel’s little black dress had started out with sleeves and worn with long strings of pearls. Givenchy’s version was sleeveless, and although it only appeared for a few minutes in the opening credits of the film, it did feature in stills from the film and in posters advertising its release. It would become an iconic image of the black dress and the beginning of Audrey Hepburn’s time as Givenchy’s muse.

Always popular

The black dress continued to be popular throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s changing its shape to suit the times. The lbd suits any age if it is worn right, but the cut and shape should always be given proper consideration prior to purchase. Because of its universal appeal and its ability to change shape throughout the decades, it has become a closet staple and shows no signs of changing.

How to accessorize

When you’re wearing a black dress, the question is always – how can you make it stand out? Well the classic red lipstick (covered in last week’s blog) is always a good choice of accessory for making a dramatic statement. You can also wear strings of pearls or any other striking pieces of jewellery, making sure you do not over accessorize too much. Zips are now more visible than they once were, worn at the front or back of a little dress; peplums are also an interesting addition. Make sure you think carefully about fabrics, especially if you’re thinking of wearing a LBD throughout the seasons, heavy fabrics can be a nightmare on hot days.


In terms of vintage – the beauty of the LBD is that it is a dress for each decade. Whatever the age, full skirts for the fifties, a slim silhouetted mini from the sixties or shoulder pads and frills from the eighties – whichever decade you love there is bound to be an LBD you fall in love with that suits your favourite era.


Sadly it’s unlikely you’ll find any original Chanel black dresses from the twenties, unless you visit a museum, but if you fancy a retro copy then why not? Chanel has LBDs throughout the decades and you may be able to find one either online, or in a high street vintage store. As long as you accessorize well, you should have plenty of wear out of your vintage little black dress, just make sure, as you must with all vintage garments that you check the quality, zips, any buttons and seams, to make sure that your lBD is in good condition and wearable.