“One is never overdressed or underdressed with a Little Black Dress” —Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld couldn’t have said it better. Gabrielle Chanel herself, the founder of the fashion house for whom Lagerfeld is creative director today, would undoubtedly agree if she could. After all, the LBD is the “democratic dress:” infallible, unassuming yet makes a statement, does not put its wearer in a box and is as versatile as they come.
But a quick history lesson reminds us that this wasn’t always the case. For most of the ‘20s, black clothing was strictly reserved for mourning, if not, servants. Worn at any other point in time or by anyone exempt from a life of servitude and it was considered distasteful or amiss.
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, like the true game changer she was, pressed ahead to do away with the archaic rule. With that, the little black dress was born: a dress for women from all social classes, a dress to suit just about any occasion. To boot, this was a move Vogue responded to favorably. In 1926, the magazine commended Chanel’s first little black dress by putting it on the cover of its October issue. “Chanel's Ford,” hailed Vogue. “A sort of uniform for all women of taste.” And the rest is history.
Flash-forward to Audrey Hepburn’s iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s dress by Givenchy, Princess Diana in Christina Stambolian (the original freakum dress, in our honest opinion), the spaghetti-strap Jacquemus mini on Selena Gomez: the countless LBD spin-offs churned out time and again by fashion designers prove that you can never go wrong with some variation of the little black dress.
Industry veteran Tadashi Shoji, for one, has embraced the LBD as the centerpiece of a quintessential eveningwear wardrobe. After thirty years of dressing real women, it’s the one piece he realized never falters.
Photos Tadashi Shoji
“If you want to build a sensible wardrobe but don’t know where to start, go for a little black dress and you’ll be on the right track,” Shoji tells Wonder. “For eveningwear, it’s the black cocktail dress, the easiest one to work with. This is your foundation—your canvas—that you can build on: either with a classic brooch, a statement earring, a shoe with a lot of personality.”
Abiding by the playbook of Shoji among other experts with sage style advice (and just in time for the whirlwind, back-to-back events this holiday season), here are key accessories you can style your little black dress with:
Art Alexandra Lara