Stylist-Approved Tips to Finding The Best Little Black Dress
Nothing says classic quite like an LBD.
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From Audrey Hepburn's iconic Breakfast at Tiffany's style to Princess Diana's famed "revenge dress," the impact of the little black dress is anything but little. With a history that spans nearly a century, and with countless designer interpretations since, the little black dress (or LBD for short) remains among the most classic—yet understated—looks available.
Whether you're building out a capsule wardrobe or searching for cute cocktail dresses to add to your date night looks, consider refreshing your wardrobe with an LBD. We tapped three style experts—New York-based stylists Liz Teich and Jordanna Sharp, and California-based stylist Kat Eves—for tips on finding the best dress.
What are we wearing?
What is an LBD?
The iconic style first rose to fame in the mid-1920s thanks to an equally iconic name: Coco Chanel. Though she wasn't the only one designing black dresses at the time, the LBD became synonymous with Chanel, with Vogue magazine famously calling the little black dress the "Chanel Ford," speaking to its ubiquity at the time. Nevertheless, Chanel "popularized [the LBD] as the 'uniform' for all women," says Teich, noting that the look has remained in our collective imagination thanks to looks sported by famous women ranging from Hepburn and Princess Di, to Jennifer Aniston's Rachel on Friends. "The magic of an LBD is that even though styles have changed...[it's] stayed pretty classic," Eves agrees.
While LBD means "little black dress," the go-to design doesn't have to be a mini. "I think it can be any type of very smart, elegant [black] dress," says Sharp. The iconic look is a blank canvas of sorts, with styling options ranging from subdued to sexy. While the look once had a more "seductive connotation and was reserved for just cocktail attire," says Teich, it now "represents something more day to night, can be dressed up or down, and is kind of the perfect dress for every occasion."
How to find the right one for you
Despite all the iconic Hollywood style inspiration, finding the right LBD comes down to being the star of your own closet, so to speak. "A lot of times people are trying to shop for things based on trends or they're trying to fit into somebody else's idea of what they should be, but at the end of the day, the best thing for anybody's closet is the confidence to wear what they have," says Eves, who recommends picking an LBD that "feels like [it's] working for you."
In addition to finding the right fit for your personal style and body type, take a look at the fabric content. Because LBD's are a timeless style staple, look for long-lasting "quality of construction," says Teich. For an "elevated" look, she recommends avoiding cheaper fabrics like polyester, rayon, and jersey and seeking out less embellished options for maximum versatility and accessory options.
You might even consider investing in multiple LBDs suited to different occasions. "There are loads of different ways to bring in the same trend, just different styles of it," says Sharp. Keep reading for stylist-backed tips on finding the best ones.
A classic mini dress
Take the "little" in little black dress literally with a basic mini dress. "I think it's important to embrace what [the style] is," Sharp says of wearing the shorter look for nighttime. She recommends "playing it up" with all black accessories, such as a small handbag and strappy heels.
Shop styles from Reformation, a brand both Eves and Teich recommend. "They have so many options to choose from that can work with every body type," says Teich. Consider the Laurena Dress for a cute, classic option with a small slit. It's available in women's sizes XS to XL.
Go from day to night with a knit midi
Looking for something in between casual and elegant? Try a knitted midi dress for a laidback yet figure-hugging look. Good American sells a range of black midi dress styles, including the long-sleeve Ruched Midi Dress, a cinched style that could go from work to date night in a cinch.
To wear a knitted midi during the day, pair it with flat sandals and a large handbag. "You can make it feel more day, but it's still going to be super classic," says Sharp. Plus, while LBDs are known for being timeless, you can accessorize the look to play into current trends. "Metallic and bling are big for this season, so bring on the gold and silver accessories," says Teich., a.k.a "The New York Stylist." If you're hoping to tap into the Y2K trend, which "is still having a moment right now," consider pairing your LBDs with pieces including platform shoes, shrugs, and dainty baguette bags.
A comfy maxi dress
As many learned thanks to the nap dress craze, dresses can be just as comfy as a pair of sweats. Prioritize comfort with LBDs like the Sloane V-Neck Cap-Sleeve Bamboo Maxi Dress, which Eves recommends for something casual but "extraordinarily comfortable." The T-shirt style dress has a V neckline and is made of bamboo viscose jersey.
$108 at Yala Designs
Sport a chic slip dress
For a more comfortable, carefree take on the classic style, wear a slip dress. Inspired by the silk slips worn by women under day dresses in the mid 20th century, "a slip dress looks great on every figure and it's also incredibly versatile," says Eves. The stylist recommends tying a shirt over a slip dress for a contemporary twist, or styling it underneath another sheer dress. "For people who maybe are like me, who are a little bit more pear shaped...I recommend sizing up in a slip dress," she adds. "If you like a bodycon go for it, but if you like things to have a little bit more movement in them, then [choose] something a size up and then just get it tailored at the top just a little bit."
If you're hoping to bring big glamour to your little black dress, style a slinky black slip with a pair of brightly colored heels. "It's another element added," says Sharp. She recommends Vince for slip dress styles like the brand's Satin Slip Dress, which comes in women's sizes XXS to XL.
$295 at Vince
For something on the shorter side, try the UO Mallory Cowl Neck Slip Dress. The silky mini has 4.5 stars out of over 2,900 ratings, with one reviewer calling it "Very flattering and adjustable for a perfect fit." Shop it in women's sizes XS to 3X.
Call it a wrap with a DVF-style wrap dress
Just call it Coco Chanel meets Diane Von Furstenberg. A little black wrap dress combines two classic looks in one, making for a versatile garment you can take almost anywhere. "You can wear it to a wedding, you can wear it to work, and you can wear it to the farmers market," Eves raves of the instantly "put-together" look.
Whatever your destination, consider the Kaila Knit Dress, which Teich recommends to go "from casual to dressy in an instant," Shop the stretchy, scoop neck style in women's sizes XS to XL.
$98 at Reformation
Add an A-line dress to your wardrobe rotation
A-line dresses also get an A+ in stylists' books. By definition, A-line dresses have a skirt that flares out, providing their triangular, or "A" shaped silhouette. "A good A-line dress is always something that everybody looks great in," says Eves of the almost universally flattering style.
Try a modern, sporty take on the look with the Ryder Dress from Athleta, a brand we've tested and loved. It has a 4.5-star rating out of over 400 reviews, with one reviewer raving, "I don't write reviews, but this is the most amazing piece of clothing I've ever owned." It features a cute cutout back, and is available in women's regular, tall, and petite sizes XXS to 3X.
Like most LBDs, a black A-line dress transcends seasons. In addition to gold hoops, stacked bangles and other classic jewelry, "don't be afraid to play with some of the other lesser thought of accessories" depending on the season, says Eves. For colder weather, for instance, she suggests layering it with a silk long sleeve or wearing it with colored tights.
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