Black dresses have existed throughout history, but they were predominantly associated with mourning prior to 1926, when Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel published a picture of a short, simple black dress in the American Vogue Magazine. This dress was straight, calf-length, and decorated only by a few diagonal lines. Referred to as “Chanel’s Ford” by Vogue, it was simple and wearable by women of all walks of life, like Henry Ford’s Model T was accessible to men of all social classes.
At the time, Vogue predicted that the Little Black Dress or LBD would become “a sort of uniform for all women of taste”. And this prediction actually did come true, as we all know today. Chanel’s designs helped disassociate black from mourning and impose the color as that of the uniform of all women with good taste. Like Coco said, “I imposed black; it’s still going strong today, for black wipes out everything else around.” It’s hard to argue!
The 1920s designs of Jean Patou also contributed to the LBD’s rise in popularity. The dress was versatile, long-lasting, affordable, and accessible to people of all social classes.
Today, the neutral color has helped it retain its popularity and iconic status. Milestones in the history of the LBD include the scene, in which Audrey Hepburn’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) sips coffee and eats a croissant while admiring Tiffany’s jewelry. In this scene, she is wearing her little black Givenchy dress from the previous night.
Did you know the original dress from Breakfast at Tiffany’s was auctioned for £467,000 in 2006? A suitable price tag for such a renowned piece of costume.
In the 90s, the LBD was popularized by Princess Diana and Liz Hurley, among other famous women. It remains a mandatory part of our wardrobes in more modern history.