Every woman has seen or heard the acronym LBD at least once in her life. The acronym stands for "little black dress" and it’s a must-have in every wardrobe.
To get the scoop on how to purchase the right one and how to keep a classic look up-to-date with the season’s trends, Shop TODAY consulted three stylists for their expertise.
What is a classic little black dress?
The acronym "LBD" is purposely vague because there isn’t just one style that constitutes a proper little black dress. They don’t even have to be necessarily little! (But it shouldn’t be too long, either — that’s where we start wading into gown territory.) As long as it’s black and a dress, it usually fits the bill.
Even the stylists we spoke to had different styles that came to mind when asked what they pictured when thinking of a little black dress.
For New York City-based personal stylist Nesta Simone, a chic sheath-style dress that’s more fitted to the body is what comes to mind. “I see it for the working mom or just the working woman. She has this timeless piece that she can pull out of the closet and go to her meetings,” she said.
Similarly, style coach Lisa Emelo said she thinks of a sheath cut or wrap dress and all of the ways you can make those styles work for your body type with different layers and accessories.
However, Beverly Osemwenkhae, owner of Project Bee Consulting, immediately thinks of a fit and flare style when it comes to a little black dress. She says the reason is because it’s a classic shape that’s been around for a while and works on many body types. Beyond a fit and flare dress, she also thinks of a bodycon style for a LBD.
Why should you have a little black dress in your wardrobe?
Simone, Emelo and Osemwenkhae all agree that a good LBD is an essential wardrobe staple for every kind of woman.
“It is versatile, timeless [and] seasonless,” Emelo said.
The goal of a proper little black dress is to always have something to fall back on, a piece that you know you look and feel good in if you get a last-minute invite, she advised. “Being stylish is all about feeling confident, so if you have this piece that you know works, you can just put a smile on your face and have a good time,” she laughed.
Osemwenkhae compared a little black dress to having a pair of black pants. “It just works,” she said. She likes that it can be used as a transitional piece to wear across seasons.
Simone called it a “timeless piece” that can take you from work meetings to dinner with friends. “It’s one of those pieces where if you invest in a really good one, you’ll be able to wear it numerous times.”
How to find the right little black dress for your body type
A little black dress can be everything the stylists described if you purchase the right one for your body type.
“We all fall underneath different body shapes so once you figure out what that is, finding the right dress will be a bit simpler,” Osemwenkhae said.
“Something that looks good on your mom may not look good on me or you. You have to always think about a dress that will balance your body type,” Emelo added.
Here are the dress styles the experts recommended for different body types:
- For bigger busts: Emelo recommends a fit and flare dress that has volume on the bottom to balance out your top half. Meanwhile, Simone recommends an A-line dress for fuller-chested people that want to accentuate their bodice and cinch the waist. “It’s more flattering and keeps the curves really looking great but it’s also easy to wear,” she added.
- If you're bigger on the bottom: Emelo recommends a dress with a ruffle at the bottom or “interesting detail” on the neckline to bring attention up. She says a slight A-line could also be beneficial.
- If you have a fuller shape: For curvier bodies, Simone recommends a shift or A-line dress. A shift dress hangs a little looser and doesn’t cling to the body as much as other styles.
- If you have a hourglass shape: For this shape, Emelo says you might want to look for a wrap dress highlighting your waist and curves since your body is already balanced.
- If you have a pear shape: Osemwenkhae suggests a dress with full sleeves to balance out your hips.
- If you have a petite/straight shape: Emelo suggests choosing a dress that hits at the knee or above. Osemwenkhae suggests a fit and flare style.
- If you're tall: In this case, Emelo suggests opting for something below the knee, potentially to your mid-calf.
Tips for keeping a little black dress looking trendy
The point of investing in a LBD is that it’s a piece that never goes out of style and can be worn again and again. So how do you keep such a classic piece up to date on all the latest trends? Each stylist had the same answer: layer and accessorize.
“Using a great piece of jewelry or a belt keeps things always fresh, always new,” Osemwenkhae offered. The ability to use accessories and layers to create fresh looks for any time of year points to the ability of the LBD to be seasonless and versatile.
“To stay on trend, all you have to do is incorporate the “of-the-moment” accessories, shoes or third pieces…to layer it,” Emelo added.
Emelo recommends wearing it to work with a blazer, brunch with a denim jacket and sneakers and dinner with a moto jacket or cardigan. It can even be worn to occasions that require more formal attire like weddings or funerals, she added.
“I think accessorizing throughout the seasons can keep you [on the] edge, keep it more trendy and make your LBD a little more timeless,” said Simone.
Where to shop for little black dresses
Osemwenkhae and Simone both recommend Reformation for either upgrading or getting your first little black dress. Simone calls the brand's dresses "timeless" with "really beautiful details" and Osemwenkhae says they have "classic styles and easy cuts."
"It’s also a bit sexier...if you’re looking to replace your LBD with a bit more of an elevated piece," said the latter.
Simone recommends Mango if you're looking for a "classic dress with a twist."
If you're curvier, Simone says this brand is a great option.
For an affordable option, Simone suggests looking at Zara's selection of little black dresses to find something that suits your style and shape.
A fashionable but pricey brand, Osemwenkhae likes A.L.C for a more everyday LBD. This, along with the other two brands she recommended for similar everyday picks, is a place where she says you're likely to find a LBD that you can wear to work but also wear out for the night.
"A little more fashion forward" is how Simone describes Los Angeles-based brand Staud. "I just love the concept of taking this simple silhouette but making it a little more chic."
Simone likes Anthropologie for dresses that are "more girly-femme" and have fun details like ruffles. The brand makes your search easy with a Little Black Dresses section on their site and there are offerings in standard, petite and plus sizes.
For a fancier LBD, Osemwenkhae likes Ronny Kobo for the cut-out styles and puff sleeves.
"I actually have one of her dresses and I actually adore it. It looks really fun with a strappy heel," she said.
While these pieces are a little pricier, following the stylist tips above will help you get the most bang for your buck.
Another Osemwenkhae brand recommendation for everyday dresses, Theory has options in styles that are complementary for several different body types.
Osemwenkhae's third and final recommendation for everyday LBD's is Vince. She calls all three brands she recommended for this type of dress "a great way to start with your LBD dress journey."
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