THE LEGACY OF THE LBD
Monday, October 30, 2023
The streets of New York are eerily bare as Holly Golightly emerges from a cab and gracefully approaches the window displays of Tiffany & Co. She dawns sunglasses, is draped in pearls, and cannot be ignored in her oh-so-chic little black dress.
When the film was released in 1961, Audrey Hepburn's ankle-length dress with demi-lune cuts and a thigh-high slit was the modern interpretation of the LBD, a style first published as an illustration by Coco Chanel in a 1926 edition of Vogue. The elements of boxy, straight lines and a shortened skirt emphasized the simplicity of Chanel's design. They symbolized liberation from previously constricting and rigid corset styles that were the hallmark designs of the early 1900s.
During the Great Depression, fabric availability plummeted, causing prices to soar. This established the uncomplicated Little Black Dress as the economically feasible and thus popular option for women unable to splurge on more intricate and expensive styles. When the 1950s reinstated the conservative period of small corsets and large skirts, the Little Black Dress took a backseat in mainstream fashion. The style was instead reserved for the femme fatales of Hollywood, affirming the all-black dress as an image of seduction and danger. In confining women to these temptress roles through the symbolism of the LBD, these feature films directly contrasted the design's previous badge of fashionable liberation. This was short-lived, as Audrey Hepburn's custom-made Givenchy gown quickly revived the public's admiration for such a dress.
Not only did the LBDs featured in Breakfast at Tiffany's place Hepburn at the forefront of Hollywood fashion history, but it was also a turning point in the collaboration of renowned fashion houses. The relationship between Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn was notable and a first. The concept of a business collaboration between a brand and ambassador based on friendship rather than strictly monetary gains had never been done before. Their collaboration for Breakfast at Tiffany's and the ultimate creation of Hepburn's infamous dress established Givenchy as a symbol of elegance. They prompted other fashion houses to find their own muses.
Since the style's resurgence, endless variations of the LBD have been spotted on red carpets, feature films, and even in our own wardrobes. The Little Black Dress may be the most reputable and, simultaneously, fundamental design that never fails to maintain its relevance. Its simplicity and concurrent boldness have delivered some of the most enduring images of our visual age. Remember Lady Diana's revenge dress? The image of grace and defiance in an LBD. Each variation symbolizes a new modernity while retaining a seamless evolution of simplicity and glamour.
There exists no better example of a closet staple than the Little Black Dress. Whether letting loose for a date party, dinner with friends, or night out, the LBD remains solid in its effortless execution of reliability and perfection. Consistent in its undeniable elegance and ability to be accessorized to the nines, the LBD has and will always be a girl's best friend.