The Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, once said, that “When the little black dress is right, then there is nothing else to wear in its place.” And I have to agree wholeheartedly with her, as there is nothing more elegant than a simple, little black dress; a real fashion-savour when you need to shift from daytime to evening and flit from one event to another.
It’s Parisian chic, lauded by Simpson was the trademark look of Edith Piaf and arguably owes its origin to Coco Chanel, whose original, Model T (as in Ford) design, as some have called it, for a little black dress first appeared as a drawing in a 1926 edition of American Vogue. But while Coco may have laid down the design principle and made it accessible to women of all classes and financial backgrounds, it was Christian Dior who gave it drama and Hubert de Givenchy’s creation for Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s that defined the look forever.
We may take it for granted now but at the time, Chanel’s creation was bold and the sole use of black in a dress that wasn’t used for mourning was unheard of. This point couldn’t be stressed more so than by mentioning the scandalous Madame X, whose portrait by the painter John Singer Sargent now resides in one of my favourite museums, the Met in NYC. At the time of it’s creation in 1884, the off-the-shoulder little-black-number which she wore in the image, caused so much outcry that Sargent was forced to flee Paris for the obscurity of London. Yes, the slinky shoulder straps took the brunt of the blame but for her to wear black, when she wasn’t in mourning… Outrageous!
The little black dress is a true classic, it gave noir to the films of Rita Hayworth as Gilda, Joan Crawford, Dana Andrews, Veronica Lake, Marlene Dietrich and Lana Turner, to name but a few and it’s simple elegance, never goes out of style. It can be dressed up or down depending on occasion and with as little effort as adding a small, vintage brooch or swapping flats to high-heels, as if with the touch of a magic wand, it changes the entire look. This is what I would like to demonstrate to you all now in showcasing one little black dress and three different ways of wearing it.
- The office look.
2. Lunch with the girls look.
3. The evening look AKA The cocktail-hour look.