The Evolution Of The Little Black Dress


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If you want to trace the evolution of the little black dress, tap ahead. TZR compiled several important social and pop cultural moments of the LBD for you, though by no means is this an exhaustive list.

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The black dress was associated with mourning in the 1800s, with the latter half of the century seeing the garment as a uniform for working class women. Many of the maids, for example, in the 1882 period drama The Gilded Age wear black.Alison Cohen Rosa/HBO


During World War I (1914 to 1918), due to wartime rations, the fabric used in dresses decreased from 19 1/4 yards to seven yards. The LBD became shorter. Corsets fell out of fashion, too, partly because the steel used to make them was needed to create weapons.


Coco Chanel didn’t invent the LBD, but she did popularize it, with the help of Vogue, which featured one of her dress designs in 1926 (seen here). The glossy called it “Chanel’s Ford” as it predicted the black dress would become the uniform for all women.Bocher/Condé Nast/Shutterstock


During this time, the LBD served as a sign of liberation from the more restrictive clothing in the century before. Enter the ‘30s black flapper dress, which featured a straight and loose fit, often decorated with tassels. Ruth Harriet Louise/Getty Images


During World War II (1939 to 1945), wool and silk were needed for wartime uniforms so the black dress was typically constructed from rayon, cotton, and jersey — with sequins for some sparkle. P. Feldscharek/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


In 1947, Christian Dior famously introduced his “New Look” collection, which was characterized by rounded shoulders, a cinched waist, a very full skirt, and celebrated ultra femininity/opulence. Dior made the LBD feel sexier.Chicago History Museum/Getty Images


During the conservative movement of the ‘50s, Hollywood often portrayed its femmes fatales (like Ava Gardner here) in sexy black dresses, which stood in contrast to the more conservative dresses of pop culture housewives. The LBD became a symbol “of a dangerous woman.”John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images


A generational gap created a dichotomy in preferences for the length of an LBD in the ‘60s. Younger “mod” dressers loved a mini length while the older crowd preferred a longer sheath dress. Rising hemlines were influenced by a cultural shift towards informality in dress codes.Express/Getty Images


One of the most influential LBDs in film: Audrey Hepburn’s Givenchy number in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The look has since become part of the pop culture zeitgeist, especially as a popular Halloween costume come Oct. 31.Bettmann / Contributor


The LBD varied greatly in the ‘70s, from ruffled creations like the one Jackie Kennedy wore here to lace and sheer creations. The punk rock-era also influenced the style, with some made from PVC and styled with fishnet tights.Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images


The LBD adopted popular fashion trends in the ‘80s such as a broad shoulder look and the peplum silhouette. Elaborate elements included sequins and other embellishments.Bill Peters/The Denver Post via Getty Images


The grunge culture of the ‘90s birthed styling combos like an LBD worn with combat boots or sandals. The dress itself was simple in cut and fabric (compared to the ‘80s) and was typically short/form-fitting. Kevin Mazur/WireImage


One of the most infamous LBDs in history: Princess Diana’s Christina Stambolian number. It was dubbed the “revenge dress” as Princess Di wore it the same night Prince Charles confirmed his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles.Jayne Fincher/Getty Images


Bandeau LBDs and babydoll styles were popular during the 2000s, as evidenced here by Jennifer Aniston’s number at the Marley & Me LA premiere. Celebs like Naomi Campbell and Gwyneth Paltrow also favored the strapless look.Lester Cohen/WireImage


The LBD continues to be a timeless wardrobe staple for everyone, with the sultry LBD reigning supreme in 2022 as seen here at Nensi Dojaka’s Fall/Winter 2022 runway show.Courtesy of Nensi Dojaka

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