I am thinking about writing a few posts on wardrobe basics covering pretty much every item from head to toe, but instead of sticking with the usual list of wardrobe essentials, I am planning to divide everything into groups, i.e. dresses, tops, bottoms (still marinating this one), footwear etc. etc. etc. I’ve already written about the bags and lingerie in the past, so those two categories may not be included this time unless I change my mind or you tell me that you would want to read about those in addition to everything else.
Dresses we should all have. Why start with those? Because we are women and, as Diane von Furstenberg said, if you want to “feel like a woman – wear a dress”. I’ll get back to Diane later, but right now we are focusing on the holy grail of all dresses – the little black dress.
The LBD was introduced to us by the only and only Coco Chanel in the 1920s when, after tragically losing Boy Capel, she vowed to put the entire world in mourning for him and make every woman wear a black dress whatever the occasion. As always, she succeeded – in 1926 Vogue published a picture of a simple black dress designed by Chanel naming it “Chanel’s Ford”.
Although the story may not be totally familiar to everyone, we seem to be born with an idée fixe that we must, simply must, have an LBD.
Why? Because we secretly want to look like a Parisienne or channel our inner Audrey in one of her Givenchy designs. And because the LBD works on so many levels. The dress can be worn day to night, particularly when you have nothing to wear. The right cut gives comfort. It makes you look chic and gives people the right impression. Unlike many other styles, men find it easy to understand the LBD and subsequently dream about a woman who wears it.
The little black dress is a keeper, thus the only rule that applies for getting one is that you are in love with it – otherwise, just like an unhappy marriage, the story will be tragic.
Ideally, look for classic shapes and natural fibers – the fabric adds a touch of luxury and must caress the skin, not prick, scratch or irritate. And remember that black comes in several shades (it can have warm or cool undertones and grey, brown or blue’ish shades), so if one doesn’t suit you, move on and try another one until the puzzle comes together.
I found my LBD (the only black dress I own) back in 2003 and still wear it – admittedly, I am not a huge fan of black colour, but I do adore the dress because its classic hourglass shape and boat neckline that shows off the collarbones makes me feel beautiful and, after all, who am I to argue with Coco?
Where to buy: 1. Yarra dress by Diane von Furstenberg (£535), 2. Sleeveless Inverted Pleat dress by T by Alexander Wang (£263), 3. Black mesh insert skater dress by Dorothy Perkins (£36), 4. Organsa Prom dress by Miss Selfridge (£55), 5. Satin trimmed dress by Givenchy (£1368), 6. Wool and mesh dress by Azzedine Alaia (£2760), 7. Leather detail dress by Proenza Schouler (£1152), Fluted hem ribbed dress by Yves Saint Laurent (£1525)
Where to buy: 9. Draped satin dress by Carven (£244), 10. Shift dress by Cacharel (£329), 11. Pixel leather detail dress by Helmut Lang (£415), 12. Christa Embellished dress by Bastyan (£175 Was £295), 13. Structured pencil dress by Warehouse (£75) STYLE STEAL, 14. Ruffled dress by Lanvin (£584), 15. Kent stretch silk dress by Azzaro (£414 Was £920), 16. Belted stretch crepe dress by Marni (£482 Was £965)
Where to buy: 17. Mae Black Shift dress by Great Plains (£85), 18. Jesse dress by Roland Mouret (£1229), 19. Wool & silk dress by Alberta Ferretti (£325.50 Was £1085), 20. Bow dress by Vivienne Westwood Red Label (£700), 21. Origami dress by TopShop (£150), 22. Applique dress by Moschino Cheap & Chic (£325), 23. Origami dress by Plein Sud (£849), 24. Parigi dress by MaxMara ‘S Max (£260)
Photo source: Vogue China April 2006, Vogue UK September 2010