Evolution of the Little Black Dress

The classic, classy, and ever-so-subtly-sexy LBD is a staple in every woman’s wardrobe. The silhouette has changed over the years, but the main idea has remained. People love the LBD, and there’s no doubt that it will stay in our fashionable heart for years to come.

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There have always been black dresses, but the LBD, as we know it, can be traced back to Chanel. In 1926, American Vogue published a drawing of Chanel’s design, which was an elegant sheath silhouette with long, narrow sleeves. The magazine predicted that this dress would become the uniform of any woman around town- and they were right!

chanels_ford_calf_length_straight_diagonal_lines_little_black_dress

The LBD look was popularized by famous starlets, like Joan Bennet, therefore drawing more favor and attention to it. The thinned silhouette, extra flounces and other such decorations were added as the roaring 20s passed on, but the essence of the look remained.

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By the time the 30s rolled around, dresses became more modest and plain, but that’s not to say that they weren’t beautiful. Hemlines dropped below the calf and cuts were more form-fitting and feminine.


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LBD’s became even simpler throughout the 1940s, when strong, square shoulders and practical fabrics reigned supreme, even in the fanciest settings.

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After World War II, the fashion world was revolutionized by Christian Dior’s New Look, which featured a thin waist and a full, calf-length skirt.


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Dior rocked the fashion world again, when he designed the chic sheath dress, which was the classiest look of the 50s.

Original caption: New York, New York- Sleek, drapable crepe of Du Pont rayon for this figure-flattering

In the mid-50s, skirts fan out again as a sort of reminder of the look of a decade ago. These skirts are a little wider than the late 40s’ skirts, though, and offer an even different silhouette.

LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 19: PERSON TO PERSON. Guest Sophia Loren. Image dated February 19, 1958. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

But that doesn’t mean that people forgot about the chic sheath, such as in 1956, when Marilyn Monroe showed off a wool-crepe Galanos cocktail dress with a bare chiffon midriff.


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Even though Coco Chanel was not a fan of the “new look,” she eventually gave in and released designs using its revolutionary silhouette.

French fashion designer Coco Chanel (1883 - 1971) puts the finishing touches to a new creation in her Paris fashion house, 1959. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

The popularity of the LBD skyrocketed after Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which featured Audrey Hepburn in perhaps the most important and famous LBD of all time.


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By the time the mid-60s rolled around, the miniskirt has waltzed its way onto the fashion stage, and LBDs followed suit by becoming shorter and shorter.


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In the 70s, short was still the style, and Blondie rocker, Deborah Harry, was a big fan of these extra tiny styles.


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The LBD got longer and more elaborate, in the 80s, to match the wild atmosphere of the time. Chanel’s brand also saw itself become bolder and stronger under the direction of Karl Lagerfeld, who reinvigorated the brand.

The 90s saw a return to simpler designs, with Karl Lagerfeld again leading the charge. His look included shorter hemlines and fewer embellishments.

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Princess Diana’s famous “revenge dress” was an important moment for the LBD, and it brought a daring and sexy take on the classic design.

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Another (less) important moment came, when Michelle Obama wore an LBD in 2009. She, one of the most stylish first ladies of recent memory, wore a dress reminiscent of the straight silhouettes and flounces worn by ladies way back in the 20s. This just goes to show that what is old becomes new again in a matter of decades.


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The LBD is the life of the fashion party, so we can be sure that it’s here to stay!

Written by: Rachel Manning

Photo Sources: 

http://www.hercampus.com/school/usfsp/evolution-little-black-dress

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