The little black dress, the essential wardrobe staple that every woman, we are told, must own. As much as we’d like to defy this well-known fashion law, we have to admit that an LBD in our lives is often precisely what we need. The 1920’s is the decade where the height of hemlines first meant that any dress could be described as ‘little’. Within this decade, Jean Patou and Coco Chanel were both producing little simple dresses to dress up or down the style of which, every woman could aspire to achieve. The little black dress was therefore something of a classic the moment it was born and when Chanel’s dress featured in Vogue, they quipped: ‘Here is a Ford signed by Chanel’ referring to the wildly popular mass produced Ford motor car of the time. Since then, the LBD has reappeared in many guises as the decades have progressed and yet its role in a woman’s wardrobe has barely altered. Black had been a colour always universally used as flattering and practical but also carried associations with mourning. Now, in the 20th century, it broke free as the highest form of elegance and style which could be accessorised to express the wearer’s personality or mood. We therefore have a lot to choose from when looking for your perfect vintage black dress.
Some of the most imitated and admired fashion moments of the 20th century feature a little black dress. Most famous among them is the black dress designed by Hubert Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn in her early 1960's role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Ironically, there was not much little about the length of this black maxi dress! The hemline was altered by costume designer Edith Head for the film. However, it remains the best known vintage little black dress of all time. More recently, the empowering effect of the LBD was proved by Princess Diana, who famously turned heads in a classic 1990’s ruched number with a sweetheart neckline on the night Prince Charles admitted his infidelity to the world. These are two very different dresses and an LBD has no fixed shape or form. You can have a midi little black dress, a little black dress with pockets, a little black dress with sleeves, a little backless black dress, a mini little black dress. Even when their style ascribes them to a certain time, the understated glamour of black makes vintage little black dresses utterly wearable and a great investment in vintage fashion.