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Little Black Dress, a creation of Coco Chanel

Sun, Mar 6th, 2016 @ 8:30:19 AM - 

A Little Black Dress is an evening or cocktail dress of simple cut and often short. Fashion historians seek its origins in 1920s designs by Coco Chanel and Jean Patou. It was intended to last and to be worn in many ways. Also, it was affordable, accessible to the general public and in a neutral color. The Little Black Dress was ubiquitous and everyone knew what you were talking about when referring to it.

Before that was the color “black” reserved for mourning. In Victorian and Edwardian times existed the grief of a widow in seven stages spread over at least two years. Due to a large number of widows by the war with in addition the grieving relatives of the victims of the Spanish flu epidemy, black had become a commonly worn color. In 1926, Coco Chanel also published a sketch of a little black cocktail dress in the American Vogue. It fell to just below the knee and was decorated with only a few diagonal lines. Vogue called it the T-model of fashion and predicted that it would become as popular as the eponymous model of the car Ford. The Little Black Dress was simple and accessible to women of all social classes.

The Little Black Dress was soon considered as essential in the wardrobe of every woman with taste. Fashion specialists called it a “rule of fashion” that every woman should possess a little black dress that she could wear on different occasions, depending on the accessories. Worn with a jacket and high heels it would be adequate for business by daytime. Just with some more jewelry and with other accessories, the same dress would be an ideal outfit to go out at night. Meant to last for many years, the Little Black Dress was also made of the simplest possible cut. A short dress modeled clearly following a particular trend wouldn’t be convenient as it would quickly become “out of fashion”.

The little black dress through decades

The little black dress remained popular during the Great Depression. It was surviving thanks to its simple cut and economic fabric. In Hollywood, it was popular for a more practical, technical reason. At the onset of the color film colors looked somewhat distorted from the beginning, so women who wore black were more than welcome to appear on the canvas. In World War II it served as a little black dress uniform for women who did civilian service.

The rise of Dior’s “New Look” in the postwar years and the sexual conservatism of the fifties brought the little black dress back to his roots as a uniform and a symbol of the dangerous woman. Hollywoods ‘femmes fatales’ and fallen women were often portrayed in black dresses with a halter. This was offset by more conservative dresses of housewives or classic Hollywood stars. Synthetic fibers become popular in the 40s and 50s broadened the availability and affordability of many designs.

The generation gap of the 60’s created a dichotomy in the design of the Little Black Dress. The young ‘mod’ generation usually chose a miniskirt on their versions of the garment. The designers always have shortened the skirts and made cuts in the skirt or bodice of the garment. In addition, they used transparent fabrics like tulle or netting. Many other women in the late 60s loved a black dress as designed by Hubert de Givenchy and worn by actress Audrey Hepburn in the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Out of fashion during colorful seventies, it came back into fashion in the ’80s. Popular fabrics for casual wear (cotton, denim) and primordially woven fabrics for dressed up and business attire were in. Coupled with the fitness craze, the new designs had the then popular features such as broad shoulders or peplums. Later in the decade and into the 90s simpler designs of different lengths and degrees of fullness became popular. The grunge culture of the 90s saw the Little Black Dress in combination with sandals or combat boots. The Little Black Dress itself remained simple in cut and fabric.

The new glamor of the late nineties led to new variations of the garment. But as the in the 50s and the 70s fashion became more colorful once more and showed an aversion to black at times. The revival of body-conscious dress in muted colors was a step towards a comeback. The emergence of dominant black, with retrospective trends from the 1980s, prepared the way for the return of the little black dress in the late 2000s.

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