“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.” Cleopatra might have succumbed to the uncertainty of love and the bite of an asp, but the Little Black Dress is going nowhere.
Designed of course by Coco Chanel, the first LBD was photographed for Vogue in 1926, a symbol of women’s liberation from time-consuming corsetry (ironic to anyone who has struggled in and out of a 21st-century so-called “body-con” dress.
Since then, the LBD has adapted to the trends down the decades, breezing with ease through flapper styles, 1950s full-skirt glamour, 1960s shifts, 1980s peplums and ra-ras, 1990s columns (see our front cover for a tribute to Princess Diana’s 1994 LBD triumph) and Noughties bandeaus.
Now, as we head to 2015, pretty much anything goes, and the LBD is still bringing elegance and sanity to both everyday and statement dressing – it really does deserve its “classic” status.
Anything goes means there are shapes to suit everyone. These dresses have all been checked for availability and are in store and online now (if you’re quick) – and check out the fantastic price reductions for some of them.
So, here’s a quick guide to what’s available and what to look out for to suit you best:
The long-sleeve tunic dress has become a party saviour in recent seasons, skimming over curves and placing the focus on shapely lower legs, but there are a couple of points to keep in mind to look elegant rather than apologetic. Leave the A-line, halter, floaty shapes to the young and willowy and keep the shape slightly flared if pear-shaped, or straight and with scoop or V-neck if you have a large bust. This is a shape that positively suits sleeves. Knee-length is flattering for most, but go a little shorter if you have the legs for it.
The wrap LBD is perfect for curvy and hippy shapes (a black slip stops gapes), while both slender and apple shapes should consider dresses made of fringing or vertical ruching – astonishingly, they work for both.
The classic shift is another shape that works for both – see the Berkertex dress, far left, which comes in sizes up to 24. Don’t ever try to drown yourself in black. Less is more.
Finally, if you have the legs and figure for a black sequin mini, go for it, whatever your age. Black is always classy.