What could be more marvellously timeless, alluringly feminine, and quietly sensuous than a little black dress? The little black dress is an aesthetic shapeshifter; provocative yet understated, mesmerizing yet simple. It is the perfect outfit for a night to remember and it encapsulates all of the drama, intrigue and dazzling euphoria of the holidays. With that being said, may we kindly suggest you consider the little black dress as the sartorial contender of choice for your party looks?
Today, we will examine the storied past of this style staple and give you insider advice on how to wear a little black dress best whether at the office, the classroom or the nightclub. We will round out our story by singing the praises of our favorite little black dresses. The best part? After the champagne settles, you will have a wardrobe staple to take you into the New Year and beyond.
Little Black Dress Style Guide: Contents
- 13 Best Little Black Dresses for 2021
- The History of the Little Black Dress
- How to Choose the Right Little Black Dress for You
- How to Wear a Little Black Dress
It’s never to late to add an LBD to your wardrobe, and to guide you through the best little black dresses for 2021, here we present our picks!
1. Luxe Suit Little Black Dress
Show off your mercurial side with this luxe black suit wonder. This dress is the best marriage of provocatively tight and playfully loose. The unusually cut swaths of fabric strike a dramatic silhouette. This little black dress is sexy but doesn’t have to try hard to prove it. The front manages to pull off the lofty task of being daring and conservative in one stride. Get yourself this little black wonder on Forward!
2. Star-Studded Little Black Dress
Embrace the galaxies and take your style across the universe with one of the best little black dresses for 2021. This celestial look has all the energy of an exploding star or a space bound asteroid. The subtle ruffles are a delightfully whimsical touch and add a girlish charm to the lush Georgette fabric. We love how the high neck contrasts with the sassy and short length; creating a silhouette that is quietly sexy. The dramatic and gothic back adds to the delicate and ethereal appeal of the look. Pick it up at Shopbop!
3. The Perfect ‘60s Little Black Dress
The It-dress for the sartorially motivated, the clean lines and minimalist aesthetic of this LBD call to the winter fashionistas like a siren song. The dress is stark in the best sense of the word; with a dramatic neckline and a daring fluted hem. Pair it with a chunky heel and chandelier earrings for a crisp and fearless evening look. Added bonus? When paired with a suit jacket and sleek boots, this look is office and power lunch appropriate. Pick it up at style giant Net-a-Porter!
4. The Party LBD
A swinging good time of a dress, the cinched waist and ballerina skirt are super flattering and allow you to show off a bit of leg for a wild end to the year. Subtle spaghetti straps are on-trend and add a dose of irreverent fun to the energetic shape of the dress. Pair it with loose waves and a colorful heel for a carefree entrance into any invite only soiree. For a day-to-day look, pair it with a cute jacket and ballet flats. It’s available at Revolve.
5. The Ultimate Wrap Little Black Dress
This is a luscious, supple and enigmatic silhouette for the glamorous vixens among us. This dress is subtly sexy and mysteriously evocative of glamorous nights in mid-century Paris. The flowy shape and sequins wrap you like a living doll and twirl mesmerizingly as you move. This dress is brought down to earth with thick chunky heels. This is our top pick for a romantic date or evening stroll, as well. It’s available at Forward.
6. Crocheted Little Black Dress
This seductive little black dress takes a page out of the breezy aesthetic of Ibiza. Channel Kate Moss in this simple, delicately feminine take on the little black dress. The slightly relaxed A-line shapes give you a fragile look that will contrast alluringly with a dramatic neck piece and thick tennis bracelets. Pair it with sky-high stilettos for an effortless, jet-setting style. You can pick it up at Net-a-Porter.
7. Botton-Front Leather Little Black Dress
As sleek and iconic as a vinyl record, this party-ready favorite is perfect for edgy women who love daring fabrics. The luxe sheen of the black leather will take on an appealing dimensionality under the lights of the evening. This Gianni little black dress has a brazenly urban feel. Pair it with minimalist accessories – this dress stands out enough on its own. It will look unexpectedly delicate with a silver strappy purse and understated black stilettos. It’s available at My Theresa.
8. Essential Little Black Dress
Sophisticated and classy, this plush little black dress evokes the sweet and feminine aesthetic of the ‘1960s. Go full Audrey Hepburn with a delicate pearl necklace and a dainty diamond bracelet. The silhouette of this dress is more polished than provocative, making it a sound choice for a classy dinner or cocktail party. Soiree in style, pick up this lovely number on retailer Net-a-Porter.
9. Dramatic Ruffled Little Black Dress
An wrapped style is one of our top little black dresses for a universally flattering silhouette. The exposed neckline gives you room to play with daring costume jewelry, sensual chokers and statement chandelier earrings. The crossover neckline takes a page out of Christian Dior’s famed New Look and creates a dazzlingly feminine look perfect for a date night out. Pick it up at designer one-stop shop Forward!
10. Square-Neck Little Black Dress
This little black dress is a polished and elegant way to incorporate your sophisticated aesthetic into your party look. This Self-Portrait little dress looks appealingly self-assured with a square neck. Subtle sequin embellishments add a dose of ornamental loveliness to the simple silhouette. Pick it up at Farfetch and strut your way into the party.
11. Open-Back Little Black Dress
Channel the avant-garde styles of the mid-century with this daring and de rigueur look that will have stranger’s heads turning. This sculptural mini dress is made of 100% poly. An overlay of structured ruffles is an inviting and unexpected take on the little black dress. The exposed back looks alluringly retro and resoundingly dainty. Pair it with a pill box purse and skinny patent shoes to capitalize on the old school appeal. Grab one at Revolve!
12. Ruffled-Hem LBD
This coquette little black dress is perfect for flirtatious and fun loving beauties. Breakfast at Tiffany’s details are evidenced in the playful silhouette. The luxurious silhouette takes the look through the night and dials up the drama for a look that is boldly confident and unafraid. A cute ruffled hem adds a wink of girlish innocence to this tantalizing aesthetic. Pick it up at fashion giant Farfetch!
13. The Goddess Little Black Dress
Little black dress meets ancient Grecian goddess! The V-plunge décolletage and spaghetti straps are wildly appealing and will flatter women across the spectrum of bra sizes. The sparkling sequined fabric adds a dose of luxury. The wrap skirt allows for comfortable movement throughout the intoxicatingly elegant night. Pair this with a stiletto and subtle gold jewels to create a flawlessly coordinated aesthetic. Pick it up at Revolve!
Little black dresses have traipsed and twirled through history, and they retain their classic, elusive, and timeless appeal in all of their modern iterations.
Black dresses have been a darkly alluring part of women’s wardrobes since the medieval ages, and well into the Georgian and Victorian eras when women wore black up to two years after mourning a death. Shades of black were a gothic and macabre fixture of the French Revolution years, and continue to have a robust gothic and counterculture appeal.
Coco Chanel, the godmother of the twentieth century style, was the originator of the modern manifestation of the little black dress. What could be more quintessentially and delicately feminine than Chanel’s pearl-laden variant of this effortless and eternal staple?
In 1926, Vogue published one of Chanel’s designs, a simple black dress that was both effortless and polished. Though the look was tasteful, it was also boundary pushing and represented the emancipation of women in the roaring twenties. Chanel herself defined it as the look of the future!
The Great Depression couldn’t slow down the rising star of the little black dress. In this age of austerity, the simplicity and elegance of the little black dress won over a new generation of style acolytes.
The turn of the century saw the little black dress accumulate further notoriety and fame. Christian Dior took elegance to new heights with his take on the little black dress. He dubbed this aesthetic the New Look.
The little black dress reached its iconic pinnacle in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. One of the most acclaimed silhouettes of the twentieth century, Audrey Hepburn’s appropriation of the little black dress has inspired legions of women and captivated the social imagination. Hubert de Givenchy, one of the most lauded modern designers, was responsible for this enduring piece of fashion history. The full skirt and cinched waist were a sensual redux for the new guard.
As we approached the millennium, simplistic minimalist slip dresses gained credence. This look was proof that the little black dress could be both seductive and subtle. This party ready sheath style was a favorite of sartorial icons like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Victoria Beckham. Calvin Klein was the designer at the vanguard of this late century style movement.
Flexibility is the blessing and curse of the little black dress. There are so many beautiful options that it can be challenging deciding which dress will become a part of your sartorial world. But don’t let analysis paralysis get in the way of you and your little black dress!
Consider Your Physique
Little black dresses come in a plethora of shapes, silhouettes, and styles. While a clingier style may suit some women, it is certainly not universally flattering. For women who want to achieve a more expansive look, a loose slip dress is a perfect choice. Black dresses should be treated like any wardrobe addition and should flatter your assets and minimize your insecurities.
The Best LBD to Flatter Your Arms
• For women with athletic arms, an off-the-shoulder or V-neck shape will be flattering and will look organic and well-fitted.
• For women with rounder shoulders, an LBD with princess sleeves or a ruched design will be most suitable. Ornamental sleeves are a glamorous choice that creates the illusion of having raised shoulders.
• For women who are insecure about their upper arms, a billowing sleeve or flattering kimono style cut will hide your problem areas while creating an appealing and effortless silhouette. Midi-length sleeves that cut right below the elbow are also effective in creating a streamlined and toned appearance.
An LBD to Flatter Your Legs
• For women who want to show off long or toned legs, a mini dress or slip dress will be the ultimate choice.
• Slip dresses are conventionally loose fitting and come to your mid-thigh and look flattering on women with both long and short legs.
• A tight black dress that hits at the mid-thigh is appealing for women with curvy thighs and showcases a lean and tone calf.
The Perfect LBD to Flatter Your Mid-Section
• A looser baby doll dress is a flattering choice for women who feel less confident with their mid-sections. Choose a shape that gathers below the bust line and flows out organically. A kimono style dress with billowing arms and a flexible shape allows you to conceal your mid-section subtly.
• Curvy women shine in well-designed wrap dresses.
• Hourglass figures look beautiful in tube dresses and bodycon styles that show off a desirable hip to waist ratio.
• Women with straight torsos should go for delicate slip dresses, which allow them to highlight their assets like raised shoulders and athletic legs.
• Large hips can be sculpted with a trapeze or swing style dress.
Best Little Black Dresses for Your Height
The little black dress belongs in your closet whether you’re 5’1 or 6’1. By choosing a flattering style you can complement your height and put your best foot forward.
• For taller women a mini dress is the perfect choice for showing off beautiful, long legs. Mini little black dresses come in many iterations and need not be revealing or daring.
A high neck or long sleeved mini dress looks seamless and classy while allowing you to show of your assets tastefully. A drop waist, and a boxy dress that offers minimal waist definition are good choices for women who want to appear slightly shorter.
• For petite women, a high-waisted little black dress will create the illusion of longer legs and will play up your tiny frame. Baby doll and Grecian style cuts that gather above your natural waistline create a longer frame. To achieve maximum heightening effect, pair it with sheer pantyhose and thick black heels.
Sheath and slip dresses are perfect for showing off your petite physique. Because they are looser they create the impression of having delicate calves and ankles and are therefore a perfect choice for women with shorter legs.
An LBD to Flatter Your Bust
Because of the plethora of shapes and cuts available, the little black dress is flattering for women of all cup sizes.
• For a smaller bust, a slip dress can create a delicate and waif-like appearance that will flatter in a subtle way. To enhance a smaller bust choose an off-the-shoulder or tube dress style. A busy neckline with ornamental touches or a Grecian style ruching will create the illusion of a larger bust.
• For women with a larger cup size, a V-neck can be extremely flattering while offering support. For women who are insecure about their cup size, an understated wrap dress will be the best choice because it offers coverage while being just fitted enough to flatter your entire physique.
Important Questions to Ask When Choosing a Little Black Dress
When choosing the right little black dress ask yourself some guiding questions: Does this flatter my features? Is the length suitable (a dress that is too long or too short will lose its flattering appeal)? Is it breathable? Can you walk, dance, and move around comfortably?
• For tight fitting dresses: Does it hug your natural waist? Is it just tight enough?
• For loose dresses: Is it billowing but beautiful? Or is it too large?
The little black dress is not exclusively beholden to any single fabric.
• For a luxe, alluring aesthetic, silk is a supple and romantic choice.
• Velvet is the It fabric for enigmatic and mysterious women who want the drama and the mystery to wax and wane throughout a star-studded evening.
• Cotton is an elegant and approachable fabric for women who love the polished quality of the little black dress in a more minimalist context.
• Jersey is the stretchable and flattering cousin of cotton and is a truly dynamic backdrop for luminous jewelry.
• Chiffon is a gorgeous fabric for a lush maxi dress or an intricately luxurious mini dress.
Consider Your Audience
The little black dress can be a fixture of your days and your nights; your happy hours and your office hours. The key is finding a dress that is appropriate for your needs. We recommend having a collection of little black dresses on rotation for different occasions.
Best Little Black Dresses for Office
For your office little black dress, pay keen attention to fabric. Cotton and jersey will be the most flattering and understated choices.
A black wrap or shift dress with a high neckline will be appropriate and polished for a professional setting. Pair it with muted makeup and a timeless pair of pearl earrings for a beautiful look that will own the boardroom.
The most fundamental thing to remember when choosing a work-ready little black dress is that it must not fall beneath your lower thigh. Any higher than this and the dress will take on a more provocative tone that will minimize your goal of looking assertive and confident at work.
Pair your office LBD with a suit jacket for a corporate setting or a shawl or brocade bolero jacket for more creative office environments.
Best Everyday Little Black Dresses
Bring your little black dress into the everyday with touchable fabrics and feminine silhouettes. A baby doll, turtleneck or long-sleeved black dress can be played up or down for your everyday.
Take your dress for brunch with a cozy wool scarf and knee-high boots. For sunny spring days coordinate your dress with ballerina flats and a denim jacket.
We recommend a shorter style for an everyday look – a floor-sweeping stunner might not be appropriate for commuting to school and work. A shorter style is also a youthful and effortless way to create an outfit that is quietly stylish. Not every woman wants to turn heads or stand out during her everyday activities, after all.
While you certainly have room to be versatile, the best day-to-day fabrics will be soft cottons, and jerseys or a delicate silk.
Best Evening Little Black Dresses
The dynamism of the little black dress is most evident in the evening where you have expansive room to experiment with styles and fabrics. We love a plush velvet, supple silk or patent vinyl for an evening out. These fabrics are daring and sartorially multidimensional.
The evening also invites us to play with provocative shapes and lengths. An off-the-shoulder bodycon dress, slip mini dress and a tight tube dress are party-ready and flirty for evenings out.
For a glamorous bombshell look most suited to galas and conference dinners, a ball gown style black dress is a timeless and flawless choice. Pair your black dress with a statement coat or fur vest for a cocktail hour look that will have you channeling the Hollywood It crowd.
Consider Your Aesthetic
Little black dresses have the rare quality of being well-loved by woman across the aesthetic spectrum.
• A black dress can be punk rock or Goth when styled with dramatic accessories and macabre makeup.
• It can also be infused with retro glamour when paired with turn of the century jewels and a screen siren shape.
• The little black dress can be casual and playful for sporty and preppy women when paired with simple jewelry and ballet flats.
• Bohemian beauties can find a maxi dress or a loose tunic style black dress to suit their free-spirited soul.
Consider your personal style when choosing your little black dress and remember that accessories and styling choices will make the dress your own.
Play up Your Features
While black is a universally flattering shade, we should inform you of a caveat that should be considered when choosing a little black dress.
Black may wash out pale skin, and this is something fair-skinned women must be cognizant of. The two easiest solutions are to counter this effect with makeup and hair and to choose a flattering neckline.
Applying bronzer and blush creates a livelier complexion that will play appealingly against the dramatic black shade. The second alternative is to choose a plunging V-neck or an off-the-shoulder style to create some distance between the dress and your face.
Bring the magic of the little black dress to life with a wealth of glittering accessories during the holiday season and at any party. Think shimmering earrings, chokers, and clutches.
Pantyhose or tights are a classic and polished option for women who want a less revealing approach. Tights have the added appeal of adding a level of sophistication to the look. They can also cover up winter legs that haven’t seen sunshine in months! Tights add a coherence to the look and can have the effect of making you look more slender and taller when paired with black shoes.
Choose Your Poison: Shoes to Wear with Little Black Dresses
The little black dress is such a versatile style in such a timeless color that it pairs well with practically any shoes, whether it’s a casual everyday look or a chic evening one. These are the best shoes you can wear with your little black dress:
The little black dress is a show stealer in its own right but it is also satisfied to play a supporting role to statement shoes! Feel free to eschew tradition and pair your LBD with an eye-catching rainbow heel.
Black dresses look vibrant and playful when paired with a bright shoe. We love shades of royal blue, fuchsia and coral. It is a safe but compellingly energetic way of adding a pop of color to your outfit while maintaining the simplicity and integrity of your black dress.
If color doesn’t have your heart, have no fear. One of the most popular and enduring styles of the winter? Sparkle! Encompass the glamorous mood of the season with glitter heels.
Glittering shoes in tones of celestial silver and molten gold add a heady dose of pizazz to an evening look. Silvers and golds are effective because they catch the light and create a multi-dimensional, vivacious effect. Pair them with a light black hose for a structured and cohesive winter look.
A classic black pump gets a modern facelift with a chunky heel. A platform base and thick heel are a sartorially sound and coolly confident upgrade on the traditional stiletto.
The thickness of the shoes creates the illusion of smaller ankles and calves which creates a pretty silhouette. They have the added bonus of being comfortable for long nights of dancing.
Beautiful Ballerina Flats
The little black dress is ushered into the everyday with simple and timeless ballerina flats. When paired with black tights, this combination is office and coffee date appropriate. Ballerina flats are dainty and feminine and can transform a slip dress or mini wrap dress into an everyday staple.
Riding boots are another stylish and polished way of bringing your little black dress into the afternoon. A knee-high riding boot with a long sleeved or high-waisted shift dress is a professionally pretty way of wearing your black dress to work. For something a bit edgier for a lunch date or an afternoon stroll, throw a leather jacket on top.
A chic and urbane way of styling your little black dress for the daytime is through ankle boots or combat boots. A wide-heeled ankle boot looks city-ready when paired with a bohemian maxi dress or short cotton number. Pair it with a cozy scarf and a leather jacket for a look that is low-maintenance and coolly confident.
Accessorize to the Nines
The little black dress is the perfect canvas for accessories that run the gamut from subtle to striking.
Dripping in Jewels… or Pearls
For the holiday season or for any party look, we love a glamorous silver earring and bejewelled tennis bracelets, and chokers. Silver pops against the black backdrop and creates an immaculate screen siren aesthetic.
Molten rose gold is another timeless and luscious approach to accessories. A thick gold choker or subtle chains will glint under the strobe lights and will lend you the aura of a bronzed goddess. Pair the look with a light tan and a makeup wardrobe of nudes and taupes for a glowing and flawless look.
Costume jewelry in complex shapes and a jewel-toned array of colors is a deliciously vintage way to incorporate luster into your evening look. Bold clip-on earrings and ornate brooches are the most compelling way to add the drama of costume jewelry to your look.
The Romeo and Juliet of the fashion world? Think the little black dress with a string of delicate pearls. This combination may sound dated or tired but it’s so oft-repeated because it works so effectively.
Pair your black dress with a stunning freshwater pearl set and a lightly waved hair for an alluringly feminine retro effect. A timeless watch will add to the luxury.
For confident women who love to mesmerize and shock with the deliciously unexpected, gloves are our pick of the season! Long gloves harken back to the golden age of the silver screen. Bring a dose of Hollywood Boulevard to your parties with silky black stunners. The best gloves to wear with little black dresses will be tight-fitting and will sit above your elbows.
Pair Your LBD with a Purse
Party fashion is all about a practical, but dazzling, purse. We love boxy clutches, skinny off-the-shoulder bags, and sparkling wristlets.
For an everyday look, a spacious hobo bag can make your little black dress more casual and carefree. A black dress with a well-appropriated designer purse looks chic and business ready for a day at the office or for a stylish dinner date.
Adorn Your Hair
For the truly glamorous among us, headwear is an exciting arena through which to explore a vast array of stunning trends.
• For a feminine and delicate look, a thin black or silver headband is a sound choice.
• For more celebratory drama, we love tiaras. You don’t need to go full diva, however! Tiara clips and glittering clips are a gorgeous way to add some shimmering bejewelled vitality to your little black dress.
• For a more playful look, a dramatic floral headpiece can infuse your look with a hint of unexpected tropical vibrancy.
• For an everyday look, throw on some round shades for a model-off-duty effortlessness. Take it a step further and pair your dress and shades with a billowing hat for maximum Blair Waldorf uptown girl vibes!
Top Your LBD off
The little black dress suits jackets, coats and vests of all kinds.
• For a sassy look, a denim jacket will bring the glamour factor of your dress down a few notches.
• For something a little rock ‘n’ roll, consider a leather jacket or studded vest.
• A fur jacket or vest will infuse your style with a hit of downtown glamour.
• A blanket scarf and a cozy knit are perfect for an everyday look. For an innovative approach, try layering with a turtleneck or styling with a baggy knit sweater or plaid.
Photos via @collagevintage, @janicejoostemaa, @fashion_jackson, @vivaluxuryblog, @bartabacmode