The little black dress embodies sophistication confidence and the sense of having arrived – with the bonus of hardly ever going out of style. We saw them hanging in our mothers’ closets.
Did they exude an exotic hint of cologne when we lifted dust covers for a better look? Did memories of special occasions suddenly pop to mind? We knew that dress was very special and hoped to one day grow up enough to own one like it. Even in today’s mishmash of what passes as fashion, having a workhorse of a dress offers security and makes getting ready effortless.
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, movies showcased fashion and TV shows defined how adults ought to look. Men were clean shaven and spiffily dressed and women wore lovely outfits that accented physical attributes in alluring but modest ways. The aura of mystery served to make the clothes – and the woman – even more appealing.
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Newspapers and magazines ran advertisements sketched in ink of fashion models posing in various situations wearing that most iconic of dresses. Those dresses incorporated such design elements as darts and other almost forgotten tailoring tricks to give a well-fitting, comfortable, long-lasting garment that enhanced all manner of figures.
Necklines changed according to designer’s whims, but for daytime they rarely dipped below the collarbone. Sleeve lengths ran the gamut, up and down the arm. This dress might be a crisp linen creation for summer and could be sleeveless. A small cardigan or wrap helped ward off the chill of evening. Skirts might stand out or flare slightly from the figure but unless it was an evening dress, the silhouette was long, clean and pencil-thin – black was beloved for ensuring a slender appearance.
Fabrics varied according to season, but in winter fine woolen dress material was always lined with black satin or taffeta to keep the garment’s shape. As the dress was pulled over lingerie and sheer stockings, the lining caressed the body making a subtle swishing sound. The long, hidden closure in the back usually required assistance getting buttoned or zipped. We often ran from the dressing area in a cloud of newly applied fragrance to seek help and the reactions we got guaranteed a thrilling boost. That final glance in the mirror gave assurance that great things were in store.
Black dresses were always held in abeyance at runway shows and brought out at the very end. Black creations ensured that sophistication was within every woman’s reach. Young girls had to wait because black was allowed only after a certain age. Donning the black dress was a passage into maturity. We also soon learned that sheer stockings created the need to shave legs – with a scratchy razor. Shoes were delicate, sometimes strappy and heel heights challenging. Welcome to adult womanhood.
I remember all the black dresses I have owned. I’ll never forget them. I remember a black silk shirtwaist for a class reunion and my first skinny, black, wool jumper. Those items empowered me. Stories and memories of the gamut of clothing I’ve enjoyed, loved – or, yes, sometimes hated – throughout life occasionally make for fun conversations. We plow through mountains of clothes in our lives. But, thanks to designer Coco Chanel, my clothing mantra will always be: Long live the LBD!
#ode #black #dress
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