The Little Black Dress || A Fashion Icon in Itself
Noir – A Fashion Revolution: Coco Chanel, Ford & the LBD
Chances are that when dressing for this Holiday Party Season, you will reach in your closet at least once or twice to pull out that prized and coveted LBD; your go-to garb that makes you look and feel fabulous. The little black dress is a classic; a ‘must-have’ as a wardrobe staple that never goes out of style and is always en vogue. From sexy to sophisticated and everything in between, the LBD is a universally flattering dress that every woman can wear.
What most LBD-wearing fashionistas do not know, however, is that the little black dress – a fashion icon in its own right – owes some of its worldwide reputation and success to the French couturier Coco Chanel.
“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” – Coco Chanel
Since the Victorian Era, black garb has traditionally been an archetype of mourning or mystery as well as being a sign of piety. But for Chanel, ever disregarding convention, black was the definition of simple elegance. The course of fashion history was changed in 1926 – the LBD was ‘born’ when Coco Chanel used the sober shade once reserved for funerals and state occasions to revolutionize la culture de la mode by bringing the color noir into everyday wear.
Chanel created a garment that was meant to be –
“elegant but wearable, neutral in color, long-lasting and versatile…”
making it available to the widest possible market (BBC). According to André Leon Talley, the term ‘little black dress’ first appeared in 1926, in an American Vogue illustration of Coco Chanel’s first black ‘Ford.’
Vogue magazine gave the LBD the moniker of ‘the Ford’ in reference to Henry Ford’s reputed slogan for his democratic Model T car:
‘Available in Any Color…So Long as it is Black.’
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” – Coco Chanel
“What are you in mourning for, Mademoiselle?” The equally scissor-tongued designer is said to have retorted: “For you, dear Monsieur.”
Despite the critics, Chanel’s ‘Ford’ was swiftly embraced as a staple of French elegance in the 20s. Almost a century later, the shape-shifting LBD is still as popular as ever, with a family of icons still fueling its legacy. Speaking of icons…
Arguably the most iconic and glamorous black dress in cinematic history is Audrey Hepburn‘s full-length sheath of Italian black satin, designed by French couturier Hubert de Givenchy for the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Accessorised with black elbow gloves, a pearl choker, dark glasses and a cigarette holder, on Hepburn the gown transcended the sum of its parts.
Although a far cry from the likes of Audrey or Coco, I chose to don the iconic garb when given the opportunity to model in a photoshoot for Arden Photography – after all, Chanel herself said the little black dress was intended to be worn by “every woman.” The LBD I am wearing was designed by US label Elizabeth and James and my shoes are Louboutin.
The LBD has been reinvented numerous times throughout the years but the dress remains an ever popular fashion favorite. So, as you slip on that head-turning little black number for the next soiree on your holiday social calendar, remember to hold your head high (chin up!), roll your shoulders back and add a little extra saunter to your step as you channel your inner Chanel and honor the LBD’s historical legacy. After all, Coco would most certainly approve of – if not be honored by – the little black dress that you have chosen to wear.
Black LBD Photos: Arden Photography
Chanel Pearl Photo: Sarah Levey/The Southern Atelier
*Tieler James: Southern Designer from Louisiana
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“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” – Coco Chanel