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Little Black Dress: the Dress that Changed the World

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Little Black DressThe Second World War swept off not only millions of lives and national boundaries but the length of the skirt as well. And if the former was a tragedy, the latter became a true blessing. One should think - famine and wasteland, deprivation, people could hardly survive... But when did women relinquish their love for the fashion? And could any war totally eradicate fashion trends? Throughout the human history, it never happened. And Coco Chanel, anticipating the wind of change and sensitive to the slightest variation of style and fashion, in 1926 designed a true masterpiece - a little black dress, a token of mourning upon the passed long skirts and intricate attire cuts, and at the same time - a salute to the new lifestyle.

A little black dress satisfied all possible requirements to clothes which could be predicted in the far 1926; it was made of the minimum amount of fabric (war and revolutionary shock waves took their tall on textile industry); it served as an evening attire and as a dress for office; it  was tempered virtually to every possible hairdo of any hair length (and most importantly with short sleek hair popularized by Rudolpho Valentino); it involved low expenses and could be made of any fabric, either cheap or expensive, and worn with or without accessories.

A little black dress went off with a bang - sure, it had lots of advantages with minimum limitations. American fashion magazine Vogue, which predicted forthcoming of a sort of uniform for all women of taste, simple and elegant, modern and versatile, called it La Ford - comparing it with the most popular car model. The comparison was more than reasonable: both Ford and little black dress impersonated one and the same - up-to-dateness, smartness and friendliness.

The first little black dress designed by Coco Chanel preserved some conservatism of the early XX century and its tendency for decoration. It was calf-length, made of black crepe-de-chine and decorated by diagonal lines of embroidery. Long fitted sleeves were essential for the dress. Length was also classical - mid-knee high, a Chanel's favorite. According to Coco Canel, knees always messed up the impression of woman's figure, so that was the reason to hide them. This length became canonic - a minimum of the possible. A little higher - and knees are seen, a little lower - and this is not a «little» dress.

A little black dress has immediately won a place in the wardrobes around the world. It was worn by princesses and housemaids. A grand lady and Judy O'Grady unanimously endued in similar dresses which differed only in the quality of fabric and accessories (a lady combined the dress with a string of natural pearls (a recommendation of Coco Chanel), Judy O'Grady settled for cheap beads (or got along without jewelry).

LBD became not only a popular fit for a particular time; it managed to remain almost unchanged for decades. This dress is a unique universal outfit which remains relevant for nearly a century. Chanel's advice is still on the front burner: a little black dress is a staple of every woman's wardrobe. If you own one, no need to worry - in every moment of your life you would look stylish and according to the latest fashion craze.

Of course, a modern little black dress somewhat differs from a classical model offered by Coco Chanel. Today it may not have sleeves or pouch over the hips. Decorative embroidery also passed into oblivion. The skirts became versatile - from puffball to tight and sheath. Little black dresses acquired decolettes, shoulder straps, and waistbands. But no matter what happens to them, little black dresses retain their main idea - they express modernity, elegance and handiness.

A little black dress is not as simple as it seems to be. Its allure is mainly in that the dress itself is consigned to the sidelines. When a woman wears a little black dress, someone hardly admires the designer's skill, but it is that woman who becomes a picture, and a dress is only a frame. And as the «frame» does not draw attention of the connoisseur, this attention is drawn to the «picture» itself. And this is where the secret lies - all the disadvantages of a little black dress are hidden here.

The principal «disadvantage» of LBD is the necessity for wearer to be in good shape.  Unsightly legs -and this dress becomes a taboo. Figure problems (extra weight) - and forget about this garment. Unhealthy skin - and the black color would only emphasize its defects.

It is no exaggeration to say that a little black dress stimulated the development of different spheres of knowledge and industry one would never have thought about before. To wear LBD, women are ready to diet (there even exists Little Black Dress Diet - a special diet for those who are eager to wear this kind of dress) which stimulates the development of the food processing. The need for healthy skin for the little black wearers gave rise to an unparalleled upturn in cosmetology and perfume industry. The length of the dress and demand for shapely legs immediately promoted hair removal (try to imagine hairy legs under a little black dress and you would see who has run into money after Coco Chanel introduced her creation into the fashion). The list may become too long.

A little black dress affects every sphere of our lives - from our refrigerator contents up to car industry. This dress is a powerful illustration of the statement that fashion can change the life of civilizations. A little black dress has not finished its triumphant parade yet. It keeps on changing and transforming our lives.

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