THE LITTLE BLACK DRESS: FRENCH ICON, ABSOLUTE MUST-HAVE!
Talk to anyone about French elegance and you’re bound to hear the almost magical word ‘the little black dress’ in conversation!
A symbol of simplicity and elegance par excellence, this piece of our wardrobe was anything but a fashion accessory at its origins.
However, the great versatility of the little black dress has allowed it to cross from the past century quite naturally, resisting the gusts of fashion changes. Unshakeable, it is always present in fashion, it is practical, and above all, useful!
Think Manners pays tribute to it and looks back at what makes it a ‘must have’ in our wardrobes.
A little bit of history
Beginnings marked by the trajedies of the Great War
A symbol of mourning in our European cultures, and particularly in France, the black dress made its debut following the First World War. When too many women, mourning the one and a half million victims of the conflict, put on this garment, it was most often in the form of a very long black dress. Some would never again allow themselves to wear colors, and dedicate themselves to the black of mourning.
The tragic phenomenon, linked to the colossal losses, was worsened with the outbreak of the Spanish flu, and this piece of clothing saw itself enter all wardrobes. The habit of regularly wearing black, whether it be for mourning or not, stuck with women.
At that time, women already recognised the great merit of this dress: its color went with everything, for all occasions.
Gabrielle Chanel's entrance on the scene
In 1926 Coco Chanel gave the little black dress its special place in the history of women’s fashion.
Redesigned for more modernity and femininity and offered in more luxurious fabrics such as crepe, the designer also dared to shorten it significantly, at knee level.
She provoked an outcry, but the movement was launched. Her idea, very disruptive at the time, of a woman refusing to be constrained by a strict dress code that was both austere and imposed by a relatively rigid society, marked the beginnings of the feminist re-conquest.
This small revolution in mentalities was echoed in the United States. Vogue magazine devoted its front page to Coco’s famous little dress. Then all the great couturiers, over the decades and through the course of the haute-couture shows, reinvented ad infinitum the concept of a timeless outfit, so simple yet so rich in possibilities.
Let’s also pay homage to Audrey Hepburn and her magnificent role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – the zenith is reached for the little black dress.
A little black dress, a thousand and one ways to wear it
Let’s now turn to the more practical aspects this dress presents for our everyday lives. What is the point of having at least one black dress in your wardrobe?
The little black dress is both formal and informal
One of the greatest merits of this outfit is that it can be adapted to almost any situation.
Karl Lagerfeld’s famous phrase exemplifies this: “You can never be overdressed or underdressed in a little black dress”.
Indeed, the simplicity of the black dress makes it an ideal base to climb all the degrees of formality of the feminine dress code, at your convenience.
The key is in the word 'accessories’
A different outfit for every occasion, but the same little black dress.
Whether it’s for the office, a casual dinner with friends or a more festive event, the same black dress can do the trick:
– Combined with a jacket, black or coloured, it becomes suitable for any business meeting. It is impossible to make a mistake, chic is guaranteed.
– Your work day is coming to an end, and you have to go to dinner without having had time to go home? No problem: put a pretty brooch on the dress, put on some jewelry, a nice belt, heels… and your outfit has just been transformed! You won’t think you’ve just left the office, and no one else will either !
The possibilities are endless from this base: add a scarf, replace the jacket with a shawl, vary the accessories, belts, jewels, brooches, watches, original shoes, evening clutch or large tote bag for the day ….
The number of combinations is sufficiently high for the little black dress to earn its status of icon within our wardrobe.
Whatever the dress code, if you lack inspiration or are not quite sure what to wear, the little black dress is always a safe bet.
Thank you to the women who came before us at the beginning of the last century for daring.
Despite dramatic circumstances and restrictive – to put it mildly- societal models, they showed resilience and unfailing faith in a more modern and promising future.
All this, without EVER losing their sense of elegance – a fine example, a fine lesson.