The Legacy of the Little Black Dress


With the year complete and New Year’s Eve just around the corner, what better time to celebrate the Little Black Dress, which we have the most iconic and famous of French woman of all to thank for—Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Of course, her influence and contributions to style have spread to every corner of the world but in this corner, legendary French designers—only Givenchy survives at age 90—have done the must-have wardrobe staple the most justice. In this manner, CR examines what every French woman has in her placard—a black dress from these famous names.


Before 1926—when Coco Chanel designed her unconstructed drop-waist jersey dress, which was perfect for an active lifestyle—black was reserved solely for the occasion of mourning (despite Queen Victoria’s efforts to change all that 30-plus year earlier). Chanel fancied it for its practical and graphic effect—most beautifully demonstrated in the 2009 film Coco Avant Chanel, which starred Audrey Tautou as the determined and unconventional couturier. As the camera panned out to the sea of women wearing color at a ball, Tautou’s black gown stood out amongst the crowd. The color and the popular cocktail-length dress became hallmarks of the brand, starting with the first model T style (named for the practical car that Ford made, insinuating this was the dress version). King Karl Lagerfeld has eloquently reinvented the style each season since taking the reins in 1983. For his Pre-Fall 2018 collection, he riffed on the concept in cable-knit sweater dresses, while his most recent Couture collection showed styles with ruching, pleating, oversized bows as hemlines, and even a men’s waistcoat detail.


While Chanel may have been responsible for the concept of LBD dressing, it was Hubert de Givenchy who sealed the deal with our present-day interpretation of the cocktail-style frock. His most famous version was worn by Holly Golightly, Audrey Hepburn’s immortal character in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The original dress, which was actually shorter and never worn in the film, has a life of its own and was eventually sold at auction for over 0,000 to raise funds for the poor of Calcutta, India. Those who since helmed the storied French brand such as John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, and Riccardo Tisci all continued the style in their own ways. Most recently, Clare Waight Keller, who debuted her first collection for the house in October, presented a slew of them that ran the gamut from sophisticated floral to a graphic fitted, punkish version.

Christian Dior

The Bar Jacket and the New Look are the two most popular takeaways for the vision of Christian Dior. The latter proved to be one of the strongest LBDs that was sandwiched between Chanel’s introduction and Givenchy’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s fame. Monsieur Dior’s LBD often came with his signature shawl collar. In fact, any fabric detail or lack thereof—such as a bare shoulder—also defines the couturier’s work.

Glamorous images of Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner, and model Suzy Parker forever etch the style into our fashion consciousness—and rightly so. John Galliano may have been known for over-the-top extravagance—his Dior look was defined by color, embroidery, draping, and accoutrement all done to the nth degree—yet even he still favored the practical frock from time to time. Designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, who helms the brand today, gave it a modern boho-spin in her latest Fall/Winter 2017 collection, which saw belted peasant-styles in taffeta and velvet.

Yves Saint Laurent

The Algerian-born French couturier may have been most famously known for his Le Smoking tuxedo for women, his riffs on a safari jacket, and the many themed collections such as the Russian peasant, Chinese, and Spanish collections but he also adored the LBD. His ruffled, ruched, often strapless taffeta versions in the 1980s were in line with the decade-of-excess trends (likewise Lacroix) and are still sought out by collectors. Tom Ford took the theme and ran with it in his uber-sexy styles of the dress in the early aughts. Hedi Slimane put his take on them in youth-centric, baby-doll, rocker-chick styles à la Courtney Love during his tenure that re-branded the label as just “Saint Laurent” while current creative director Anthony Vaccarello charges into the future while honoring the past. His super sexy, yet completely elegant designs seem to be the love child of YSL’s style and Tom Ford’s vision of them.

Azzedine Alaïa

From the 1980s onward, Alaïa owned the LBD concept with customers attesting that “An Alaïa dress is like no other.” The King of Cling—dubbed due to his body-con dressing—mixed his love of leather and exotic skins, animal prints knits, and fashion at the same time. One signature style, a nipped waist and flared skirt, transcended other trends that came in went primarily because it made most women feel divine in it. The Tunisian designer, who passed away suddenly in November, was known for his engineering feats of clothing construction that made woman long and lean, as well as accentuate all the right places. As Alber Elbaz put it, his clothes were empowering: “You noticed the woman then you notice the dress,” he said. Exactly the effect a great LBD should have.


prev link:
createdAt:Thu, 21 Dec 2017 18:40:36 +0000
displayType:Long Form Article