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Women's Clothing - The Little Black Dress

Updated on August 5, 2009

Considered an essential by most women, the little black dress was made popular in the 1920s by Coco Chanel and has remained a staple ever since. The understated simplicity of the little black dress can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion, making it a versatile addition to every woman's wardrobe.

Coco Chanel first introduced the little black dress in Vogue Magazine in 1926. It gained in popularity and was popular throughout the Depression and World War II.  During the 1950's the little black dress took on more sexual connotation as Hollywood began dressing their femme fatales in them. The black dress signified danger and a stark contrast to the conservative dresses worn by the housewives on screen.

Coco Chanel

little black dress
little black dress

The character of Betty Boop was loosely based on Clara Bow and she is the most famous animated sex symbol of all time. Her short dress, high heels and garter belt, made her an overtly sexual character, unlike rival animated female character Minnie Mouse. Her little black dress became red with the advent of technicolor.

Betty Boop

little black dress
little black dress

In Breakfast at Tiffany's, Audrey Hepburn's character, Holly Golightly accessorized her little black dress, designed by Hubert de Givenchy, with a wide brimmed hat and long black gloves.  The over sized cigarette holder Holly Golightly used is considered one of the iconic images of the 20th century.  One of the three dresses Givenchy designed for the movie sold at auction for $947,000.00 in 2006.

Audrey Hepburn

little black dress
little black dress

During the 1960s the little black dress evolved into a sheath dress, inspired by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. The hemlines grew shorter as the designs changed to cater to the younger generation.

The popularity of the little black dress dropped a bit over the next 40 years with the introduction of new fabrics. Color began replacing black for formal wear. The Grunge look of the 1990s reintroduced the little black dress, pairing it with anything from flip flops to combat boots. The more recent trend is back toward basic simple black. As the new little black dress represents understated elegance for most any occasion.

Marlene Dietrich

femme fatale in a little black dress
femme fatale in a little black dress

Marilyn Monroe

little black dress
little black dress

Nichole Kidman

little black dress
little black dress

Kate Winslet

little black dress
little black dress

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