The TIME­LESS LIT­TLE Black DRESS

Fash­ion’s iconic mas­ter­piece has man­aged to with­stand the test of time, but what makes it so unique? Fash­ion­istas tell it like it is

WKND - - In Vogue Bold & Beautiful - By Jan­ice ro­drigues

Last month, ac­tress Katie Holmes ap­peared on The Late Show with Jimmy Fal­lon in a clas­sic lit­tle black dress, and the In­ter­net erupted. ‘ Katie Holmes Per­fects the Lit­tle Black Dress on Jimmy Fal­lon,’ screamed Hello! mag­a­zine, while many took to so­cial me­dia to voice their ap­proval. The no- frills, fig­ure- hug­ging dress was a Zac Posen num­ber that fea­tured a bar­dot- style neck­line and an ex­tra panel across the shoul­der. It was sim­ple, with barely- there ac­ces­sories, and it was per­fect.

It isn’t the first time that the lit­tle black dress man­aged to make head­lines, and it won’t be the last. It is, in essence, a sim­ple black gar­ment, and its pop­u­lar acro­nym, LBD, even found a place in the Ox­ford Dic­tio­nary in 2010. In fact, over the years, the lit­tle black dress has achieved a bit of a cult sta- tus in the world of fash­ion; ev­ery celebrit ty worth her grain of salt has her own take on the dress, from fa fash­ion icons such as Sarah Jessica Parker, to out­ra­geous dressers sers like Lady Gaga Gaga. And while there are a lot of fac­tors that con­trib­ute to its im­mense pop­u­lar­ity, it can re­ally be cred­ited to its long and il­lus­tri­ous his­tory.

Be­fore Au­drey Hep­burn donned the per­fect black sheath and pearls in Break­fast at Tif­fany’s, black was not a colour seen very of­ten at happy oc­ca­sions. In fact, be­fore the 1920s, black was specif­i­cally seen as the colour of mourn­ing, and any at­tempt to wear it out­side such cir­cum­stances was con­sid­ered lewd and scan­dalous. Take for ex­am­ple, Amer­i­can artist John Singer Sar­gent whose por­trait of Madame X, fea­tur­ing a black dress with a plung­ing neck­line and skimpy straps, hor­ri­fied Parisians. This was taken to a whole new level dur­ing the

Vic­to­rian ages, when a widow was re­quired to wear dif­fer­ent black coloured cloth­ing for a pe­riod of at least two years. With the ris­ing num­ber of ca­su­al­ties from World War I, it be­came all too com­mon to see women dressed from head to toe in the hue. It was dur­ing this time that Gabrielle ‘ Coco’ Chanel rev­o­lu­tionised the way we see this dress for­ever, when a pic­ture of a sim­ple calf- length ( which was con­sid­ered ‘ lit­tle’ back then) black dress was pub­lished in Amer­i­can Vogue.

Over the years, many other fac­tors have el­e­vated its sta­tus. It be­came seen as com­mon uni­form dur­ing World War II due to the ra­tioning of tex­tiles. Later, Hol­ly­wood fell in love with it as, due to the ad­vent of tech­ni­colour films, other colours looked dis­torted on screen. Femme fa­tales in risqué hal­ter necks soon be­came all the rage. And, of course, Au­drey Hep­burn then ap­peared in Break­fast at Tif­fany’s, look­ing ef­fort­lessly chic in a Givenchy gown, sun­glasses and el­bow- length gloves, in­spir­ing hun­dreds of copy­cats.

To­day, the lit­tle black dress is seen as some­thing of an anom­aly. It is the only ex­cep­tion to fash­ion’s long- held be­lief that ‘ change is the only con­stant’. Not that the LBD hasn’t had its own evo­lu­tion — over the years, we’ve all seen hem­lines shorten and more risky pair­ings used in terms of ac­ces­sories. But by and large, it is com­mon un­der­stand­ing that the lit­tle black dress is here to stay. The rea­son for that is sim­ple — it is per­fect for women of all ages and all body types. The ever- sover­sa­tile hue is able to smooth over all bumps, high­light one’s best fea­tures and lends a slim­ming ef­fect as well.

“When in doubt, just wear a lit­tle black dress,” says Dubaibased fash­ion blog­ger Ra­mona Naseri. “It is af­ter all an age­less piece that sim­ply must be found in ev­ery woman’s wardrobe. The se­cret to its ap­peal is its sim­plic­ity; if care­fully con­structed and fit­ting, it can make a woman of any age and shape look chic.”

ROYAL RE­VENGE

One of the most iconic LBDS of all time was worn by Princess

Diana in 1994. The dar­ing off- the- shoul

der num­ber was dubbed the ‘ re­venge dress’ as she chose to wear it the same evening news of Prince Charles’ af­fair

was made pub­lic you can dress it up or dress it down to suit al­most any event

— bet­tina micu as a mum, i have all these dif­fer­ent things i have to do... but when you have an lbd, you don’t have to worry about the oc­ca­sion

— Deepti chan­dak

Dubai- based life­style blog­ger Bet­tina Micu agrees. “The most time­less piece of cloth­ing in a woman’s wardrobe is the LBD. You can dress it up or dress it down to suit al­most any event. The out­come, how­ever, is al­ways classy and so­phis­ti­cated.”

Lit­tle black dresses have made quite the im­pact in the UAE mar­ket. Not only are they a go- to choice for busy women in the re­gion who bal­ance their work and per­sonal lives, ma­jor brands make it a point to give con­sumers a choice in the LBD de­part­ment. Just last year, Splash Fash­ions re­leased ‘ seven stylish LBDS from seven decades’. Their rea­son­ing was ir­refutable — ev­ery woman needs a lit­tle black dress.

“The LBDS dis­played con­firmed that the fash­ion trends from the 40s and 50s made a huge come­back in the re­cent years,” ex­plains Shahd Al Ju­maily, a fash­ion in­flu­encer who has worked with the brand in the past. “Fem­i­nine dresses with big skirts can be found in ev­ery woman’s closet these days. These dresses are widely pop­u­lar in the Mid­dle East and they look good on ev­ery­one. Black is a clas­sic colour, and you sim­ply can­not go wrong in it.”

Be­liev­ing that one can­not go wrong in a lit­tle black dress prompts another ques­tion though — is the LBD worn as a way to play it safe? This was cer­tainly be­lieved by many in the 1990s, when colour reemerged as the new- glam fac­tor, sidelin­ing sim­ple black gar­ments.

“At a cer­tain point, the LBD is per­fect if you want to play it safe,” ad­mits Dubaibased fash­ion blog­ger Mariyah Gas­pa­cho. “But that’s tech­ni­cally be­cause of its sim­plic­ity. That doesn’t stop you from play­ing around with it. Many women choose to give it an edgy look with a pair of heels ( although I pre­fer a pair of sneak­ers). How you carry your­self and howyoustyle your av­er­age LBD makes all the dif­fer­ence.”

Mariyah also notes that the de­mand for LBDS is huge in the UAE and that “roughly 60 per cent of all women at­tend­ing events are usu­ally seen don­ning them”. This can be cred­ited to the fast­paced life­style in the UAE, where most women do not get the chance to change for mul­ti­ple events, mak­ing the dress their ul­ti­mate ‘ quick fix’.

“As a mum, I have all these dif­fer­ent things I have to do,” ex­plains Dubaibased Deepti Chan­dak. “When you are out with your fam­ily, it is usu­ally such a last minute rush, but when you have an LBD, you don’t have to worry about the oc­ca­sion. Whether it is an event for your kids or a brunch, you’re cov­ered!”

Back in 1926, when Coco Chanel first pub­lished a pic­ture of their sim­ple LBD, it was Amer­i­can Vogue that ce­mented the dress’s po­si­tion as a fash­ion icon by pre­dict­ing that it would be­come “a uni­form for all women of taste”. Al­most 90 years down the line, these words could not ring more true.

many women give it an edgy look with heels — although i pre­fer a pair of sneak­ers

— mariyah gas­pa­cho fash­ion trends from the 40s and 50s, like big skirts, made a huge come­back in re­cent years

— shahd al ju­maily if care­fully con­structed, it can make a woman of any age look chic

— ra­mona naseri

STEAL­ING THE SHOW: Katie Holmes’ LBD was the cen­tre of at­ten­tion dur­ing a re­cent episode on

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