The little black dress is an icon more than a trend, but nothing feels as now as this standby staple. How did the color of mourning become the paragon of chic? What makes it suddenly so de rigueur? We did a little investigating with the help of Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, on display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. (The exhibition closes February 1 if you’d still like to see it.)
Amongst the expected taffetas and crepe de chine, we were struck by the social implications of wearing black. In the early stages of grief, a widow’s dress protected her from the advances of suitors, but in time she would be seen as unattached and experienced, giving her an allure she might never have conjured as a girl.
In 1926 American Vogue published a sketch by Coco Chanel of a simple black dress, calling it “Chanel’s Ford” because it was accessible to all classes. From there the dress was transformed in a single generation from the color reserved for mourning to a “uniform for all women of taste.”
With two thirds of our team in Paris, where the city has been turned upside down by terror, these are disheartening days with much to mourn. What better to wear than a symbol of experience and equality? What else in your closet is likely to lend you confidence in a presentation and land you a hot Valentine’s date?
From silk to velvet, jacquards to brocades, wool to calendered cotton, you always have room for one more LBD for whatever 2015 has in store.
Photo credits: Lower left runway from Lanvin Fall 2014; Vintage dresses from Dear Golden; background Dutch Love; backless dress via ASOS; top left b/w photos.