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Everything You Need to Know About the Little Black Dress

The little black dress plays such a starring role in our wardrobes that it has its own special designation: the LBD. In this video, Vogue’s Hamish Bowles takes us through its history, decade by decade, from Coco Chanel to Cushnie.

It’s Mademoiselle Chanel who is credited with popularizing the look and, in doing so, making the color black, previously worn only when in mourning or to express piety (as in ecclesiastical garb), fashionable. In 1926 Vogue dubbed a drawing of one of her snappy, drop-waisted LBDs, “The Chanel ‘Ford’—the frock that all the world will wear.”

They did, and do—men have recently gotten in on the game—though not all carry the Chanel label. In the 1950s, Christian Dior defined the look of the LBD: full-skirted and wasp-waisted. The little black dress Hubert de Givenchy designed for Audrey Hepburn in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s is as representative of the early 1960s as Yves Saint Laurent’s sheer, feather-trimmed number of the latter part of that iconoclastic decade.

Cocktail dresses and LBDs, which are defined by their short(ish) length, are often one and the same. One of the reasons neither will ever go out of style is that there are myriad ways to play “mixologist” with the spare, neat LBD to give it just the kick you want. Cheers!

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