A Brief History of the Little Black Dress—From Coco Chanel to Posh Spice and Taylor Swift

See the evolution of the LBD

By Diana Nguyen Jun 23, 2015 12:27 AMTags
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Don't wear white after Labor Day. Sequins are just for nighttime events. Yes, some fashion "rules" are just bunk.

However, there are a few that speak the truth. This is no more apparent than the style commandant that dictates, "Every woman should own a little black dress." The classic, often-underestimated frock can be as casual or fancy as you want it, depending on the styling. Wear it how—and when—you want to…just don't forget to honor its storied past.

It was said that women used to wear black dresses while mourning...until the age of Coco Chanel, that is. She didn't create the concept, but it wasn't until Vogue published a sketch of the visionary's simple-yet-elegant design that it became popular.

The dress remained popular even through the Great Depression, with women from all economic backgrounds finding its design flattering. Even entertainers—in all their glamour—took to it, including French singer Édith Piaf, whose black dress became her trademark.

The necklace, the gloves, the dress—you know it well. Is there any image more iconic than Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's? When the Givenchy (the designer and actor were reportedly besties) gown was auctioned off in 2006, it reached close to a million dollars.

It seemed Elizabeth Hurley made more headlines in that head-turning, safety-pin-adorned Versace dress than all of Hugh Grant's escapades all together. The dress helped launch Hurley's career and even spawned modern-day replicas.

Late ‘90s
Oh, Posh Spice—even though you basically wore the same thing all the time—you made the little Gucci dress look good! Victoria Beckham may not be wearing the LBD on stage anymore, but at least we can now shop all of the designer's fashion-forward offerings.

Now attached to design details like sequins, cutouts or leather, the little black dress has definitely evolved. Designers have found ways to modernize the staple with current trends. Could you wear Taylor Swift's glittery mini with an army jacket around your waist to a backyard BBQ? You may be a smidgen overdressed. Could you wear a classic, toned-down version that you can keep forever? Well, isn't that the point?