LITTLE BLACK DRESS
What came next paved the way for two distinctive forms of LBD to emerge. Entwined within a decade of Cold War and civil unrest was the 1960s Generation Gap. While the older generation appreciated a more sophisticated style of dress, the young were keen to follow trendsetters such as Mary Quant with her famous mini-skirt to create their own daring styles, defying the status quo to show off their newfound independence. Others enjoyed following the conventions of popular media, aspiring to simple black sheath dresses glamorized by now iconic figures such as Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Going into the 1970s, conforming to the conventions of the punk rock age, clothes became an reflection of attitude. Keen to accentuate their rebellious streak, women would rip out, cut and safety pin together their LBDs, combining the look with fishnet tights to fuel the overriding theme of social anarchy that was influencing a generation.
Today, couture designers such as Mugler, John Galliano and Prada have developed their own versions of the LBD to consolidate their brand identities, marking a new era of trend diversity.
From world war to government shutdown, the Little Black Dress has seen it all. Considered a rule of fashion that every woman should own a simple, elegant black dress, its value within society is unparalleled. Fashionistas say the perfect LBD should be as simple as possible; not too long, and not too short. It is a timeless classic.
Before the 1900s, black generally symbolised death and decay as it was worn exclusively for periods of mourning, taking light from all beauty. Yet in 1926, when fashion priestess Coco Chanel published a picture of a short, simple black dress in American Vogue, it’s symbolic value shifted entirely to reflect a new age of western commercialism.
Branded the Model T of dresses, the “Little Black Dress” was straight and simple, decorated only by a few diagonal lines. At its core, the dress was versatile, affordable, long-lasting and accessible to the widest possible market. It worked to fulfil Chanel’s lifelong dream for all women to be fashionable.
While the initial design did well on the market, its peak fame came from Hollywood’s influence and the rise of the 1920s flapper. Noted for its association with jazz music and rebellious behaviour, the Little Black Dress, or LBD, during the roaring ‘20s took the fashion industry by storm with its beaded decoration and loose fitting design. Flappers such as Louise Brooks and Clara Bow used their sultry “It Girl” popularity to sell the trend over to the mass market, freeing women from the corset to represent a new age of social liberalism.
During the desolate war years, the LBD became a key aspect of rationing. With its versatile design template, working women found it easy to accessorise and embraced it for its effortlessness, making it a must for any occasion. Later on, when the allure of Hollywood regained its grip on the nation, changes began to appear in the design of the dress once more. The 1950s saw the LBD transform into a New Age embodiment of all things sexy and edgy, perfect for onscreen glamour. Actresses such as Rita Hayworth and Joan Bennett were able to harness their movie star fame to accelerate the public’s consumption of the newly altered trend and mark the start of a whole new chapter in fashion history.