|Spring is here, Ladies,
and the dress is back. Sexy, sassy little numbers pranced down
Paris runways and right onto the racks of your local clothing
stores. Their colors are bright, their patterns are geometric
and they are short, short, short to show lots of long, lean
leg. If you’re young and have the legs for them –
go for it! If not, there is still one dress that every woman,
no matter her size, no matter her age, can wear to perfection
– the Little Black Dress. I know, I know, I can hear you
all groaning out there, but bear with me and I will reveal some
of the secrets of the LBD that might just make you re-think
this classic essential of the well-dressed woman’s wardrobe.
No discussion of the Little Black Dress can begin without at
least a quick genuflection in the direction of the tiny Frenchwoman
who invented it, Gabrielle Chanel (1883-1971). Known to the
world as Coco, those who worked for her during her lifetime
and who work for the house of Chanel to this day refer to her
in hushed tones as “Mademoiselle,” in case she is
listening. She started by designing hats, but soon launched
her own clothing line inspired by the clothes worn by her wealthy
lovers, her first financial backers. She adored the simple,
clean lines and expert tailoring of men’s garments, and
had begun to adapt them to suit her slight frame. As a result,
she virtually invented the concept of casual chic, for which
every woman owes her a debt of gratitude. And the Little Black
Dress would be the final metamorphosis of the black school dress
uniform and white collar that she had worn as a student in a
“So, what makes the LBD so special?” you ask, and
I am so glad you did. The LBD is so special because, quite simply,
it goes everywhere and does everything.
On Friday morning, It goes off to the office in a tweed jacket,
cranberry scarf and black d’Orsay pumps; on Saturday afternoon
it goes to check out the latest Dada retrospective at the Musée
Beaubourg in a denim jacket and red kitten heels; on Saturday
evening it meets that very special someone for a romantic dinner
at Le Train Bleu in a creamy lace bolero and python pumps; and
on Sunday afternoon it takes the train from Paris to the country
for lunch with tante Germaine in a cashmere cardigan with antique
buttons and grey suede T-straps.
convinced me. So, how do I choose the perfect LBD for me?”
you ask, and I am so glad you did. Beyond the fact that the
classic LBD is sleeveless, unembellished and beautifully tailored,
the secrets to choosing your perfect LBD can be broken down
into the following three categories.
v. the Shift
The sheath dress is designed to show off the curves of a well-proportioned
(bust to hip ratio) small-waisted woman by lightly skimming
over those curves. It’s your body proportion that counts
here, Ladies, not your size. It should never be too tight. As
my Mother always says, a dress should be tight enough to show
you are a woman but loose enough to show you are a lady.
If you are larger on top (bust) or on the bottom (hip and/or
thigh area), choose a sheath with an A-line skirt which floats
out over the hip and thigh area, thereby balancing a larger
top or camouflaging a larger bottom. In general, the A-line
is the most flattering and forgiving skirt shape a woman can
wear, and it looks good on everyone.
The shift dress hangs perfectly straight from the shoulders
and works well for women who do not have a well-defined waist
or who want to conceal a tummy. The shift dress can also have
a slight A-line flair to the skirt.
A small, rounded neckline is the classic LBD neckline.
If you have narrow shoulders, a Bateau, or boat, neck is more
flattering and the shoulder seam should fall at or slightly
beyond your natural shoulder line, thereby creating the illusion
of wider shoulders. A small, capped sleeve can also widen shoulders.
If you have wider shoulders and well-toned arms (Lucky You!)
show them off with a shoulder seam that stops at the edge of
your collar bone, inside your natural shoulder line, or go for
a halter neck.
If your face and/or body are round, a square neckline adds a
touch of angled geometry to your silhouette and is very elegant.
By the same token, a rounded neckline softens an angular face
If you are large busted, a V-neck will help to break up the
bust line by showing more skin and opening up the décolletage
area. The amount of cleavage you show is up to you!
Mademoiselle lived to see the miniskirt of the 60’s era
and never missed an opportunity to voice her displeasure at
the display of what she considered the least attractive part
of a woman’s body – her knees. Mercifully, she did
not live to see the return of the miniskirt this season. While
I do not share Mademoiselle’s particular phobia, I do
think that the perfect hem length for the LBD is mid-knee or
one inch below the knee.
As to the perfect way to accessorize the LBD? I prefer the classic,
clean lines of a crystal flute filled with Veuve Clicquot champagne.
And now you know everything you need to know about choosing
the perfect Little Black Dress. Well, not quite. There is still
one last secret to be revealed.
Since it is as much a concept as it is a dress, the Little Black
Dress need not, in fact, be black at all. “Quelle
horreur! What is she saying??” you are thinking.
When is a Little Black Dress not a Little Black Dress? When
it fits like a Little Black Dress but is in a neutral color
that might just be more flattering to your skin tone. While
black is definitely slimming, it is not a color which looks
good on everyone and can be harsh, particularly as we age. So,
why not choose a deep-hued neutral tone that might better complement
your coloring – chocolate brown, warm navy or slate grey!!
I own four LBDs – two are black, one is navy blue and
the other is a deep hunter green, which does wonders for my
red hair and ivory skin.
And now you do know everything you need to know about choosing
the perfect Little Black Dress, although let’s just keep
that last secret between us in case Mademoiselle is listening.
No doubt she is having enough trouble this season coping with
the return of ladies’ knees.