Home Sewing 101History of Sewing20th Century Era Sewing History The Evolution of the Little Black Dress

The Evolution of the Little Black Dress

by Beth Cooper

The little black dress, also known as the LBD, is a timeless and iconic piece of fashion that has stood the test of time. Originally introduced in the 1920s, the little black dress has undergone a significant transformation over the decades, becoming a symbol of sophistication, elegance, and versatility.

This print by Simplicity is gorgeous in person. It looks amazing hanging in a sewing room, or anywhere, really! It was last printed in 2022 and is currently out of print but some small quilt shops may still have it in stock.

The origin of the little black dress dates back to the 1920s, when fashion designer Coco Chanel introduced a simple, yet elegant black dress. At the time, black was not considered a suitable color for evening wear, as it was associated with mourning. However, Chanel saw the potential of black as a color that could be used to create a chic and versatile garment that could be worn on a variety of occasions.

An image of Coco Chanel herself. She wore this black dress in Vogue in 1926. The rest is history.

The first little black dress designed by Chanel was a knee-length, long-sleeved dress made of crepe de chine, a lightweight and soft fabric. The dress featured a simple, straight silhouette, with no embellishments or decorations, and was paired with a string of pearls, which became a signature Chanel accessory.

Joan Bennett, 1928. (Getty Images)

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the little black dress continued to evolve, with designers incorporating new fabrics, styles, and details. In the 1940s, the little black dress became a staple of Hollywood glamour, worn by actresses such as Audrey Hepburn, who famously wore a black Givenchy dress in the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” 1961
Looking for a pattern to make your own little black dress? This one from Etsy seller The Sewing Box Club is so classy. Find the pattern here.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the little black dress became even more popular, with designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior creating their own versions of the classic garment. Saint Laurent introduced the iconic “Le Smoking” tuxedo jacket and trousers, which became a symbol of androgynous style and empowered women to wear pantsuits as formalwear. So classy!

Any version of this Hinterland Dress can be made in black and would make the perfect little black dress! Find the pattern here and make your own LBD!

In the 1970s and 1980s, the little black dress underwent another transformation, with designers experimenting with new silhouettes, fabrics, and embellishments. In the 1990s and 2000s, the little black dress became a staple of modern fashion, with designers such as Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen, and Victoria Beckham creating their own versions of the classic garment. Many of these versions were quite skimpier than the originals.

This little black swing dress is adorable and so versatile. Find the pattern here from Etsy seller Muna Patterns

Today, the little black dress continues to be a timeless and versatile piece of fashion, worn by women of all ages and backgrounds. Whether worn to a cocktail party, a formal event, or even to the office, the little black dress remains a symbol of sophistication, elegance, and style. The bottom line is that the LBD just works – all of the time.

While the little black dress may have changed in style and design over the years, its timeless appeal and versatility remain as strong as ever.

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Beth Cutburth
Beth Cutburth
8 months ago

I like the pattern suggestion for a LBD! Thank you for these and previous articles!

Marilyn Adams
Marilyn Adams
5 months ago

Thanks for the history of the LBD.

Sharon Hess
Sharon Hess
2 months ago
Reply to  Marilyn Adams

For over a year, I have had the LBD coffee mug and it’s used every morning. I sewed in high school but my mother in law made my dress for our March of 62 wedding. Then 63 brought our son, part time work and I began sewing. So for over 60 yr sewing was a way of life. Thank you for these stories and show and tell of others. I hope it keeps going, fun way of life. My mother in law sewed until 1996 when we lost her at almost 94. Nancy was part of out life on the PBS stations and through her catalogs. Wonderful ideas and fabric.

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