The Little Black Dress
This is one of my absolute favourites, one I cannot help going back to, season after season. The little black dress was interestingly born on the streets of Europe. In the 1920's, Europe had been so ravaged and decimated by the wars and influenza that many wives had lost their husbands and were haunting cities with their dark grieving silhouettes. The colour of the time was therefore black. A colour normally missing from wardrobes in those days. But fashion soon made an irrevocable grab for it, creating simple, slightly quaint black dresses for women in mourning.
La petite robe noire
The year 1926 was the real turning point, when Gabrielle Chanel revealed her 'petite robe noire', in stark contrast with the style codes of the times with a sheath, ample, crew neck dress, up to knee level. It's hard to believe today this creation provoked a massive scandal. But its popular success was even greater than the politically correct outrage it generated. And so 'Chanel's Ford, the dress that everyone is going to be wearing' (Vogue) was born.
Reinvented every season the LBD, as it is now widely known, has endured all fashion fleeting trends and still stands today as the unchallenged superstar of the Parisian wardrobe (and that of many other wardrobes for that matter). Cinema, in particular, has dressed countless actresses with the little black dress, from the vamps of the 1930's, to the lady and the bourgeoise of the 1960s and many more. Looking back at how the big screen has made use of the black dress to create strong female characters is an amazing source of inspiration, particularly in the early days of December, a couple of weeks away from the party season.
In the 1930's, vamps (derived from vampires) mesmerised a whole generation, seducing men to their breaking point. An era which was captured on screen a decade later with Rita Hayworth in Gilda or Ava Gardner in The Killers for example. The vamps would usually wear a long fitted satin gown that would reveal incendiary parts of the flesh in those prudish times.
1. Versace Crystal Embellished Stretch Gown, £1,940 (60% off on The Outnet) - for the eyes only...
2. Wolford Fatal Dress, £115 - affordable and so versatile, perfect if the vamp style is one you will only give a go once as this dress is meant to be changeable into all sorts of shapes
Blake Edwards' Breakfast at Tiffany's consecrated the black sheath dress with the iconic Audrey Hepburn, fashion designer Givenchy's muse. Riccardo Tisci, creative director at Givenchy, said of the famous dress worn in front of Tiffany's on a deserted morning in Manhattan: 'It was 1961 and this dress is in a way very sixties. The front is severe, elegant, very clean, but at the back there is the very interesting neckline, somewhere between ethnic and Parisian'. Such an incredibly chic look, one that we would be mad not to continue to try and imitate.
1. Saint Laurent Studded Mini Dress, £1,352 (60% off on The Outnet) - if only I could afford this beauty!
2. Paule Ka Dress in Wool Gabardine, £430 - a really nice alternative which you have to imagine with lots of pearls around the neck of course
3. Reiss Sabbia Bodycon Dress, £195 - this one actually resembles more the other black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in this movie. Again this would call for striking accessories
The Belle de Jour
Another unique designer/actress collaboration was that of Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent. The way the French designer styled Ms Deneuve for Luis Buñuel's Belle de Jour was going to make her into the epitome of the bourgeoisie, classic and timelessly chic. Interestingly Deneuve plays an upper middle class housewife who is also a deluxe prostitute by day. But as secretive as is the double life she leads, so is her style. Nothing is ever explicitly revealed. Her sophistication is often one that I thrive to achieve...
1. The Kooples Shirt Dress with Lace Panel, £168 (30% off in the private sales) - one of my favourite lbds of the moment
2. Sandro Christal Knitted Dress, £239 - the most worn style in Paris possibly
2. & Other Stories Twiggy Velvet Dress, £69 - love a touch of velvet on a black dress
From the 1970's, the little black dress started shrinking in size and/or revealing much more of the female body. One cult dress of the time was Guy Laroche's open back (a bit more than that actually) dress that French actress Mireille Darc wore in the comedy Le Grand Blond Avec Une Chaussure Noire. This rather indecent trend carried on with time and has been more recently the apanage of modern emancipated actresses such as Monica Belucci. If you are looking to make an impression this is the one for you, although nowadays designers and high street don't tend to be as bold.
1. Tara Jarmon Black Velvet Mini Dress, £325 - velvet and open back with lovely detail, this one has definitely made my wish list
2. Asos Majorelle Caspian Dress, £140 - the closest you can get to Mireille Drac's scandalous dress
The Romantic Goth
Another evolution of the LBD that we have witnessed on screen is the romantic goth style. With the adaptaion of cult gothic novels (Dracula, Frankenstein...) and a growing morbid interest for all things dark, there has been an increasing appeal for tormented, yet old fashioned, female characters. One current example is Eva Green in TV series Penny Dreadful where her style excels at mastering the art of Victorian black.
1. Claudie Pierlot Rocky Dress, £140 (currently 50% off in the private sales) - incredible back lace details
2. Diane Von Furstenberg Zarita Lace Dress, £305 - now an absolute cult dress, wardrobe must have if anything
3. Zadig & Voltaire Caroline Camisole Dress, £175 - love this camisole dress, to be worn solo or just to let the lace show at the bottom of a simple black dress