"Always have a good little black dress and pearls, and stay in the best hotels even if you can have only the worst room."
Fashion historians credit Coco Chanel with popularizing the "little black dress" as haute couture in the 1920s. The Roaring Twenties were in full swing when Vogue magazine featured a sketch of a black, long-sleeved "little black dress" on its cover designed by Coco. Since then, Coco Chanel may have made little black dresses into haute couture, but she was almost certainly inspired by poverty when she created the first one.
The upper classes once imposed the little black dress on their servants, ironically stealing it back. The little black dress was the actual uniform of many working-class women. The LBD (commonly abbreviated) was a uniform designed to keep certain women in their place. Only later was it co-opted as haute couture for women of taste.
The little black dress retained popularity throughout the Great Depression because women desired affordable clothing. It combined elegance with an economy which was much needed at the time. As more fashion designers began to make little black dresses, they became a standard staple for simple evening wear.
The rise of Dior's "New Look" in the post-war era and the sexual conservatism of the 1950s returned the little black dress to its roots as a uniform symbol of the dangerous woman.
We all know the little black dress from the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's". That defining moment walking through NY biting a croissant wasn't all Hepburn's doing. The dress was designed by none other than Hubert de Givenchy, who worked on Hepburn's entire wardrobe for the movie, together with costume designer Edith Head, a couturier whose aesthetics were all about sophistication and understated glamour, Audrey was the perfect idol to make this dress a fashion statement. By the way, this iconic black dress worn by Audrey was sold for 410,000 Pounds ($800,000).
Today, the fashion industry sometimes celebrates the little black dress as an equal-opportunity fashion—versatile, classic, and chic. But this neutral garment was never ideologically neutral—nor was it the democratic creation of a visionary designer. The little black dress marked and mediated social boundaries, a collaboration between cutting-edge technology and age-old class politics. Today women wear little black dresses to feel more like Audrey Hepburn or Princess Diana, but when they do, those women also conjure other predecessors: the women who wore them while they balanced trays, stocked shelves, folded shirts, worked the telephone switchboards and wrung out the laundry.
Have a wonderful day!