The History of the Little Black Dress

Photo by Lina Kivaka from Pexels

Nothing says iconic quite like the little black dress. This classic fashion staple has been popular for decades, perhaps for the unlimited ways you can style it. From drinks with the girls to a formal dinner, this dress is perfect for any occasion. Of course, a dress as legendary as this is bound to have a history that’s just as legendary! From the original dress by none other than Coco Chanel herself to Princess Diana, take a journey through this history of the little black dress (LBD).

Coco Chanel: Vogue 1926

Vogue debuted the famous Chanel dress in1926. The drop-waisted gown graced the pages of the well-known fashion magazine and was described as “The Chanel ‘Ford’—the frock that all the world will wear.”   This shot the LBD to fame and was considered a revolutionary style, as the color black was previously associated with death and was reserved for funerals. Chanel breathed new life into black and the world took notice. 

Christian Dior’s new silhouette

After WWII, the world experienced one of the biggest shifts in style; designers pushed the boundaries in women’s wear and gifted the world with new styles and unique silhouettes. Christian Dior shocked the world of fashion with his take of the little black dress in his 1947 collection. His version saw the dress end just below the knees, a huge difference from the more conservative Chanel dress that was ankle-length. In addition to this, Dior experimented with different silhouettes and his version of the LBD became known for its wide shoulders, fitted body, and full skirt.  Dior was the first to bestow the name “cocktail dress” upon the LBD.

Audrey Hepburn: Breakfast at Tiffany’s 

In 1961, decades after the LBD became popular, Audrey Hepburn wore one of the most well recognized dresses in history as she starred in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. The dress, designed by Hubert de Givenchy, was slim fitting and ended at the ankles. Styled with an abundance of pearls around Hepburn’s neck, the world instantly fell in love with this seemingly simple, yet elegant gown.  

Madonna: Saturday Night Live 

In the 1980s, the LBD was still going strong, despite other styles of the day being much more extravagant and brightly colored. Madonna wore a stunning little black dress in 1985 when she hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time. The dress was fitted with a square neckline paired with large statement earrings. 

Princess Diana’s “revenge dress”

In 1994, on the same day that Prince Charles publicly admitted to having an affair, the People’s Princess turned heads in a LBD by Christina Stambolian. The form-fitting off the shoulder dress quickly earned the title of the “revenge dress”. Despite breaking royal protocol to wear the silk dress, Princess Diana looked breathtaking, and everyone wanted to replicate her look. Thus further cementing the iconic and elegant LBD further in the fashion hall of fame for generations.

Jenna Legge

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