13 Nov A Love Letter to the LBD
There is no garment quite as ubiquitous as the little black dress. No matter how uninterested one may be in the fashion world, the term LBD is inescapable. The sole fact that it is a recognized word in the Oxford English Dictionary is a testament to its cultural significance. One of the most perplexing things about the LBD is how something so deceptively simple has managed to stay relevant in an industry as ever changing as fashion.
So just what is it exactly about these inky swathes of fabric that make them so inimitable? Often touted as the be-all and end-all of fashion, a simple glance at all the options available online and in store is enough to overwhelm even the most ambitious shopper. But it wasn’t always this way.
It all began in 1926, when Vogue published a photo of a simple black dress worn with a string of pearls, made by none other than Coco Chanel. Up until the 1920s, the color black was worn exclusively during times of mourning, making such a design incredibly risky. The magazine dubbed the dress “Chanel’s Ford,” signifying the accessibility of the design for women of all social classes.
Since then, the little black dress has remained omnipresent. Tracing its presence throughout history reveals a rich tapestry of women through the decades. The ‘60s queens of mod wore their LBDs as daring mini dresses, representing the brave woman. The ‘80s variations ushered in shoulder-padded excess, becoming the uniform of the powerful woman. Little black dresses of the ‘90s showcased a more grunge aesthetic, carving the identity of women who were unafraid of being unique or alternative. It is truly a marvel how each decade reimagined a single item of clothing into revealing some different aspect of womanhood.
Many people identify the little black dress as a symbol of timeless elegance. Strings of pearls are elegant. A well-tailored suit is elegant. The magic of the little black dress, however, does not lie solely in its elegance. Taken at face value, the little black dress is often the most simple and banal item in a woman’s wardrobe. And yet, they are the perfect blank canvas. They can go from day to night with a shuffle of accessories, and can project any sort of image depending on how one styles it.
Clichéd as the little black dress may be, there is no other garment quite like it. Conceptually, the little black dress is a nuanced representation of the great complexity of women. Within that one simple item lays a million variations and intricacies, limited only by the imagination of its wearer.
In an industry defined by its constant search for the next big trend, it is rare to find a garment that will so assuredly stand the test of time. The LBD has stubbornly maintained its allure and iconic status throughout the ages. Much like the women who wear it, it is an enigma.
Sanam Yar, Fashion Editor
Photography: American Apparel