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5 Different Types of Little Black Dresses (Plus How to Wear Them)

A little black dress with matching high-heeled sandals.

It’s one of the most famous fashion standards that every girl needs a little black dress. Audrey Hepburn made this a fashion must-have and she wasn’t wrong. You can pretty much wear a little black dress to any occasion, any time, and still be totally in style.

It’s an easy style option to grab for a dinner date, a night out with the girls, an important meeting with clients, or almost anything else you might be doing…though you might get some looks if you wear it on a fishing trip. But there are so many different styles that qualify as a little black dress, it’s not easy to know which one to choose. Which types of little black dresses should you have in your closet to be well-dressed and ready for every occasion?

Defining the Little Black Dress

What exactly is a little black dress? When there are so many different styles of dresses, it’s hard to know what might qualify for this famous fashion title. But basically, a little black dress has a hem that ends somewhere above the ankle. And of course, it’s got to be all black.

Within these very loose confines, there’s a whole world of style to explore. Which types of little black dresses are considered to be the most essential when it comes to style?

A sheath dress is somewhat form-fitting and has a straight skirt. It can be sleeveless or sleeved, low-cut, or high-cut. As long as you aren’t showing too much skin, a little black sheath dress is a great option for businesswear or daywear of any type.

You can top it with a blazer for an even more professional look, add a string of pearls for a touch of elegance, and still be ready to kick some butt in your high heels. But if you do end up wearing a sheath dress in the evening, easy! Throw on some statement earrings, grab a sequined clutch, and slip into some eye-catching heels for an amazing nighttime look.

The flared little black dress has been popular since the 1950s. This silhouette has a classic retro look that’s always fun to wear and perfect for daytime events and formal events like weddings or funerals. The flared skirt is comfortable to wear and very forgiving if you skipped a few exercise classes last month. It also has a way of slimming your waist to make you look smaller.

A close look at an outfit set with red accessories, red shoes and a little black dress.

When you want a little black dress for a sexy nighttime look, reach for a slip dress. Simple and elegant, slip dresses are usually made with spaghetti straps in a somewhat loose, straight design. It’s a comfortable dress to wear and highly sensual because slip dresses are typically made with thin fabric in simple, straight lines that let your natural curves do all the talking.

Wrap dresses are a good choice for women who are curvy. This style emphasizes your curves while minimizing your waist. The wrap style can be worn to the office or to a dinner party, making an easy transition from day to night. There’s almost nowhere a wrap dress can’t go, so this is a great item to have in your closet. Wrap dresses can be tricky to wear for women who are more slender, as this style can swamp your frame.

The shift dress is a great option for less curvy women. The simple design and straight, clean lines are flattering to a slim shape. Shift dresses are made with little to no embellishments to fall in an A-line sweep with a hem that ends above the knee. This style can go from a business lunch to a cocktail night very easily, especially if you trade your classic pumps for some gorgeous stiletto heels while you go from one to the other.

History

Audrey Hepburn is famous for making the little black dress famous, but Coco Chanel took credit for designing this fashion staple. She designed a dress she referred to as “the Ford” in the 1920s. According to style legend, she was inspired by the black habits of the nuns she saw while growing up in a rural French convent. As for the nickname “the Ford,” that was inspired by the Model T. This new car was all the rage at the time and it was available only in black.

It was a bold choice. It was the Roaring Twenties, and the popular fashion of the day was all about color. Pastels, jewel tones, bright white — it was everywhere. Black, on the other hand, was really just made for mourning.

But after Cocoa Chanel created that first couture little black dress, it completely changed fashion forever. The little black dress has never been out of style since and now, it’s a fashion must.

Tips for Wearing a Little Black Dress

A group of women wearing black outfits.

Black is considered to be a universal color because everyone can wear it. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone should. Black can be very unflattering to certain skin types and hair colors. It’s not always an easy color to wear. Black has a way of washing you out, so you’ll want to wear vibrant makeup with a little black dress.

Choose bright lipstick or eyeshadow, or your features could blend together. You’ll also want to break up the look with jewelry. Try lustrous jewels, like pearls, something sparkly like diamonds, or something vivid like jewel tones.

The secret to wearing any little black dress (or anything else) is the accessories. You can add pops of color to the look by choosing shoes and a purse in a bright jewel tone or even a neon color. A belt is another great way to add a pop of color, but this will only work with some dress types. A belt can be particularly stylish with a flared skirt.

Audrey Hepburn paired her little black dresses with fabulous hats, at times. This look still works for day events. It’s particularly great if you’re going to the racetrack, to a wedding, to an Easter event, to a picnic or to be a spectator at an outdoor sporting event like tennis or golf. Pair it with a pair of black sunglasses just like Audrey and tap into your inner glamor goddess.

The reason the little black dress is so fun to wear is that you can play with the style and pair just about anything with it. It’s a blank canvas for you to experiment with your style and have fun playing around with different looks. Change your hair, your accessories, and your jewelry, and you can give a single little black dress a whole lot of different looks. Stock up on a couple of these dresses, or even more, and you’ll be ready to meet any style challenge that comes your way. Because if it worked for Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn, why can’t it work for you, too?

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