The Little Black Dress: A Timeless Classic by Chanel

There are timeless items in fashion that never go out of style. One of the most iconic wardrobe pieces is the little black dress. The editors of Fashion Illiteracy magazine decided to explore its history and its significance in contemporary fashion.

A Universal Creation by Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel and the Little Black Dress
Photo by Vogue UA

The little black dress was conceived by the legendary French designer Coco Chanel in 1926. Its main attributes included universality, practicality, multifunctionality, and suitability for year-round wear.

According to one account, Gabrielle Chanel chose the color black to mourn the memory of her deceased lover, Arthur. However, this version is disputed.

The choice of black color was primarily associated with its versatility. It could be worn in any situation and at any time of the year. Interestingly, prior to Chanel, black dresses were predominantly considered as mourning attire and were not commonly worn.

Coco Chanel’s vision was to introduce a garment into women’s wardrobes suitable for all occasions. Even financially modest women could afford such a dress, and it was versatile enough to be worn to work, for a stroll, or at an evening event.

Depending on the occasion, various accessories could be added to the dress, such as a pearl necklace, brooches, bracelets, and hats, significantly altering its motif and perception.

Original Chanel Dress Appearance

Photo by Hungertv

The little black dress from Chanel had a somewhat different look than modern interpretations. Firstly, it was below the knee, as Coco Chanel considered knees the least attractive part of a woman’s body to be revealed.

The dress also had long sleeves and a classic semi-circular neckline. The main feature of the dress was the absence of excess details like buttons or fringe that could affect the garment’s long-term relevance. Despite this, the dress was not voluminous, originally emphasizing the female figure.

Popularity of the Little Black Dress and New Trends

The little black dress became an immediate hit. It was even featured in American Vogue, likened to the Ford Model T car, which was very popular at that time.

Photo by Vogue

Some models had a layered skirt for convenience during dances, as the Charleston dance was prevalent during that era.

Sabrina (1954), by Toronto Film Society

In the 1930s, Nettie Rosenstein and Elsa Schiaparelli created their versions of black dresses adorned with feathers, embroidery, and deeper necklines than the original.

Sabrina (1954), by Active Spectator

However, such outfits gained particular popularity in the mid-20th century, first thanks to the 1954 film “Sabrina” and later, the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Audrey Hepburn played the lead role in both films.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), by Gambero rosso international

In “Sabrina,” there was a square neckline that became a fashion staple, referred to as the “Sabrina neckline.” In “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” viewers saw a fitted dress with a partially open back and arms, designed by Hubert de Givenchy.

The Little Black Dress in Modern Fashion

Throughout different eras, such dresses were worn by Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, and many other famous women.

Princess Diana, by Oprah Daily

In the 1970s and 1980s, it did not enjoy much popularity, giving way to more vibrant outfits. However, it made a comeback in the 1990s, first in 1991 with a dress by Armani and then in 1994 with a model by Gianni Versace.

Today, the little black dress has undergone significant evolution and no longer has a singular design. Such dresses can be found in the collections of almost all renowned fashion houses.

There are options ranging from more modest to quite revealing, with different necklines, lengths, with or without additional accessories.

But more importantly, it continues to be popular. The little black dress is rightly considered an ageless classic, an embodiment of elegance and style immune to changes in fashion.

Recall that we previously delved into the history of Victoria’s Secret and the Tragedy of Roy Raymond. And follow Fashion illiteracy on Instagram.

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