“One is never overdressed or underdressed with a little black dress,” said Karl Lagerfeld once upon a time, and of course, he was and is absolutely right. Wherever it is that you are going, whatever the time of year, whenever the time of day, an LBD will get you out of a whole heap of trouble (and if it’s the right dress, it might well get you into a whole heap of trouble too, but that’s another story).
Immortalised by Coco Chanel (although it was a Givenchy number that Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s), the key to the success of the little black dress is its simplicity.
Every woman’s wardrobe should have a classic LBD, which to me is V-neck, sleeveless, waisted and with a slightly A-line skirt shape to on or just below the knee. But to someone else, particularly someone with a straighter and more athletic frame, that classic LBD would be more of a shift shape, gently tailored with straight style skirt and a scoop neckline.
Whatever, by the time a woman reaches 40, she really ought to know what her best LBD shape is (and some women look fabulous in pretty much any shape and style, which just doesn’t seem fair at all).
An LBD with sleeves, preferably half or three-quarter sleeves, looks beautifully chic all by itself with no adornment, save a pair of black heels or ankle boots.
A sleeveless dress might seem to be a no-no for women of a certain age, but fear of bingo wings shouldn’t put anyone off buying the dress of their dreams, especially not when it’s an otherwise perfect and essential LBD. Look out for arm tights, which you can buy at department stores – Mary Portas has a line with Charnos called Armery, with lovely colours including a grey called Subtle Silver, costing £19.95 from online hosiery store MyTights.
This season, invest in a black chiffon blouse to wear open in place of a cardi or jacket, especially one with sleeves that billow gently to the cuff, a look that works especially well with tunic style LBDs, with a high neckline, for a Sixties’ feel.
In fact, wearing statement pieces over an LBD is a trend for the season, so try faux fur gilets, leather jackets and oversize fringy cardis speckled with large sequins (see East and Marks and Spencer).
Lace little black dresses are perfect for this Christmas, but try something different, perhaps a button-through shirt-style of dress, as there are perhaps a few too many standard bodycon and shift styles about for this season, and there’s something offputting about skin-tight stretch long lace sleeves. If you do want to go lacy, go for a sleeveless lace dress that really suits you, and then add sleeves in a filmy, transparent fabric, either over or under.
If you’re going for sequins, make it all-over sequins (surprisingly wearable and flattering) and add a touch of class to the overall look by teaming with a black tuxedo.
Be careful with tights and keep them as sheer as you can to give your black dress maximum impact.
Images: Kendall and Kylie Jenner wearing their new collection for Topshop. Don’t go for predictable bodycon or shift lace dresses - Instead choose a shirt style - Black lace shirt dress, £149, from The White Company. Cara Delevingne in a little black fringed and sequin number, Ian West/PA Wire. Esmerelda beaded dress, £295, at Phase Eight.