Posted: Oct 26 2017
In 1926 Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel published a picture of a short, simple black dress in American Vogue. It was calf-length, straight and decorated only by a few diagonal lines. Vogue called it "Chanel's Ford". Like the Model T, the little black dress was simple and accessible for women of all social classes. Vogue also said that the LBD would become "a sort of uniform for all women of taste". This, as well as other designs by the house of Chanel helped disassociate black with the uniform of mourning, and reinvent it as the uniform of the high-class, wealthy, and chic. As Coco herself proclaimed, "I imposed black; it's still going strong today, for black wipes out everything else around." Chanel is accredited with the creation and popularization of the Little Black Dress, and rightfully so. This was in part due to the timing of her release of the dress, as it was affordable yet stylish in the Great Depression era.
The little black dress continued to be popular through the Great Depression, predominantly through its economy and elegance, albeit with the line lengthened somewhat. Hollywood's influence on fashion in North America helped the little black dress' popularity, but for more practical reasons: as Technicolor films became more common, filmmakers relied on little black dresses because other colors looked distorted on screen and botched the coloring process. During World War II, the style continued in part due to widespread rationing of textiles and in part as a common uniform (accessorized for businesswear) for civilian women entering the workforce.
The rise of Dior's "New Look" in the post-war era and the sexual conservatism of the 1950s returned the little black dress to its roots as a uniform and a symbol of the dangerous woman. Hollywood femme fatales and fallen women characters were portrayed often in black halter-style dresses in contrast to the more conservative dresses of housewives or more wholesome Hollywood stars. Synthetic fibres made popular in the 1940s and 1950s broadened the availability and affordability of many designs.
The generation gap of the 1960s created a dichotomy in the design of the little black dress. The younger "mod" generation preferred, in general, a miniskirt on their versions of the dress and designers catering to the youth culture continued to push the envelope - shortening the skirt even more, creating cutouts or slits in the skirt or bodice of the dress, using sheer fabrics such as netting or tulle. Many other women in the 1960s aspired to simple black sheath dresses similar to the black Givenchy dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's.A little black dress (LBD) is a black evening or cocktail dress, cut simply and often quite short. Fashion historiansascribe the origins of the little black dress to the 1920s designs of Coco Chanel and Jean Patou intended to be long-lasting, versatile, affordable, accessible to the widest market possible and in a neutral colour. Its ubiquity is such that it is often simply referred to as the "LBD". The "little black dress" is considered essential to a complete wardrobe by many women and fashion observers, who believe it a "rule of fashion" that every woman should own a simple, elegant black dress that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion: for example, worn with a jacket and pumps for daytime business wear or with more ornate jewelry and accessories for evening or a formal event such as a wedding or a ball. Because it is meant to be a staple of the wardrobe for a number of years, the style of the...