Colgate Couture: Black to the Basics

Katie Zarrella

It’s a classic, it’s iconic, and it had better be part of your wardrobe. It’s the little black dress, and no closet is complete without one. Coco Chanel shocked and shaped the fashion industry when she unveiled the black beauty in 1926. Short and sleeveless, the dress tore apart the era’s traditional, conservative styles and has since served as the solution to almost every “What should I wear?” dilemma. How can a dress be so stylish after 80 years in the spotlight? It’s Simple. The little black dress, or LBD as it is commonly known, is basic and brilliant; it is constantly reinvented yet, somehow, always remains the same. From Chanel to Hepburn, Monroe to Moss, the little black dress is the summit of style. There are lots of LBDs to love this season so pull out your pearls and put on your pumps because fall’s little black dresses are better than ever.

Chanel started the trend, so it’s no surprise that the brand has been banging out beautiful black dresses ever since. Fall ’06 is no exception. From casual to cocktail, Chanel’s fall collection included a cluster of LBDs. Each dress maintains Coco’s chic look, but one stands out from the rest. Chanel’s little black dress in lace exemplifies how a traditional piece can morph into a modern marvel. Lagerfeld’s creation consists of a sleeveless black lace overlay that crisscrosses in the front for a plunging V. Tiers of lace drip down the knee length skirt’s slanted bottom, and a thick satin belt ties the dress together. Lagerfeld preserves the original concept of the LBD: short, sleeveless, sexy and simple; however, he makes sure that the dress is up with the times by tailoring it to today’s trends. The tiers of lace are dramatic, Parisian and fit flawlessly into fall’s frill-fad. This LBD is busy and multi-dimensional, but because it sticks to Coco’s original, simple silhouette, the loud layers and fancy frills meld into a fabulous frock. Just as all LBDs should be, Chanel’s dress is cocktail party appropriate when paired with dainty diamonds and pumps and is ready for a wild night out when worn with boots and Chanel’s signature strands of layered pearls.

Stella McCartney captures the sophisticated side of the LBD with her lapel dress. Perfect for a corporate luncheon or a dinner date, McCartney’s silk jersey dress will wow both your boss and your boyfriend. A conservative cut and large lapels give the dress a down-to-business look, but blousy three-quarter length sleeves, a tailored empire bodice, and silk that caresses every curve make it hard to miss the dress’s subtle sexiness. In this dress, you can’t help but be savvy, so slip it on when you’re playing the stock or the meat market.

Every season, designers reinvent the little black dress, but what’s wrong with the original? Nothing, according to Donna Karan. The designer’s fall line includes one of the most timeless little black cocktail dresses you could ask for. Karan’s sculpted crepe dress starts with two thick straps that plunge into a deep V. A black satin sash wraps around the waist, and the full bottom stops exactly at the knee. Donna’s dress is delightful, refreshing, and a textbook example of the LBD. Elegance radiates from this basic black frock and its statement of simplicity drowns out any fall fad.

Black wraps and shirtdresses are essential for everything from a breakfast at Tiffany’s to a posh party. In materials like jersey, cashmere and wool, these dresses are made to be worn from dawn till dusk. Diane von Furstenberg’s jewel wrap dress will look lovely from the time you have your morning coffee until long after cocktails. This knee length, cashmere, wrap dress has long sleeves and a deep v-neck. Plain and simple, von Furstenberg’s dress is the definition of versatile. Wear this dress with boots and chunky jewelry for a fashionable fall day look and transform it into evening attire with a clutch, pumps and delicate jewelry.

Although Teri Jon’s taffeta shirtdress isn’t exactly daytime casual, it’s ideal for practically every evening event imaginable. A winged collar, fitted bodice, and cuffed three quarter length sleeves create clean, crisp lines, while the full skirt, satin bow and slight gathering below the bust add a touch of romance to this rich and refined dress. To heighten the look, wear Jon’s LBD with pumps and bold earrings. Pop the collar and lose the necklace; the collar and a bare chest will frame and highlight your face, while a necklace will detract from the sharp neckline.

Just because designers have been doing the little black dress for decades doesn’t mean that yours should be dull. Under no circumstances should your LBD be a little black bore. Believe it or not, it’s entirely possible to be both classic and avant-garde. Zac Posen must have had this on his mind when he draped his satin loop dress. Classically shaped, Posen’s dress hits just above the knee and is made from formfitting stretch satin. This LBD is held up by a thick strap that swoops over the shoulder to divide a bare back. The dress’s cutout back reveals just the right amount of skin for a look that’s sexy but not vulgar. The shape of this dress is slick and stylish, but it’s the detailing that pushes Posen’s LBD over the top. An accordion of pleated satin is intricately arranged across the top of the bodice and climbs over the shoulder strap. Stacked satin slides down the back of the dress and fans out into the final punch: a short, pleated train. Like a peacock’s tail, the flirty train can’t help but draw attention, and it truly tops off the look. With original accents and a flattering silhouette, Posen’s little black dress will never blend into the background.

Whether you’re dressing for daytime, dinner, or dancing, the little black dress is all you need. Trends will come and go, but the little black dress will forever remain a staple in every woman’s wardrobe. If you’re ready for a timeless look with that has both attitude and elegance, go black to basics and slip into one of this fall’s spins on Coco Chanel’s classic creation.