In 1961 the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” opens with Audrey Hepburn, as Holly Golightly, wearing a black party dress. This scene may have solidified the little black dress (LBD) as a symbol of true fashion elegance. Truthfully, the original LBD is attributed to Coco Chanel, who’s drawing of a knee-length black dress was published in American Vogue in 1926. At the time, Vogue titled the dress “Chanel’s Ford,” making a direct a reference to Henry Ford’s black Model T (in production from 1907-1927). Vogue went on to make further parallels to the Model T, which had opened car travel to all classes as the little black dress would become the go-to garment for all social classes. Chanel’s design was simple, elegant, economical, and modestly feminine with its non-form fitting bodice, long sleeves and knee length. In the late 1940s, Christian Dior reintroduced the LBD with a cinched waist and flared skirt, as seen in Hollywood films of the time. Twenty years later, Hubert de Givenchy (House of Givenchy with costume designer Edith Head) remastered the LBD with Holly Golightly’s full length black satin gown. Givenchy and Head’s design preserved the simple elegance of the LBD and subtly changed its structure, but most notably, the designers added glamour, sophistication and a sense of confidence. These intangible modifications have permanently placed the LBD as the perfect dress for any occasion, in any length. The LBD has been simplified to its purest form and is a perfect example of design excellence. The little black dress is the Helvetica of party wear.
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