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
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.”
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