There's a reason why the Little Black Dress is a byword for style. For decades, women have been relying on them – and for many of us, they're the hardest working pieces in our wardrobe. Putting on a little black dress might feel like a safe wardrobe decision, but they're not just one-stop occasionwear. The right LBD makes us feel like our best selves – crisp, polished, elegant, pulled together, but always ready to let our hair down and order another cocktail. Over the years, M&S has strived to create clothes that work perfectly with our customers' moods and lifestyles - just like the perfect Little Black Dress.
Many people claim that the LBD as we know it was invented by Coco Chanel. In 1926, a picture of a black dress by Chanel appeared in American Vogue, and was dubbed “Chanel's Ford” after demand for Ford motorcars, which were only available in black owing to paint supply problems, had soared at the start of the century.
Until Chanel popularised black, it was a shade avoided by anyone with stylish aspirations. In fact, it was considered indecent to wear it if you weren't in mourning.
In the Black
This black Givenchy dress worn by Audrey Hepburn was auctioned at Sotheby's
However, Chanel's black dresses weren't designed to display flesh, but to be practical. As women became more liberated, gaining greater freedoms socially and politically, the black dress signalled that for the first time, fashion didn't exist purely to make women look decorative – it could respond to their needs and lifestyles too.
The Little Black Dress cannot be discussed without mention of Audrey Hepburn. During the credits of the iconic film Breakfast At Tiffany's, she wore a black Givenchy cocktail dress that had such a powerful pull on fans, it was eventually sold at auction for £467,200 in 2006.
In the eighties, the Little Black Dress experienced a renaissance at the hands of designer Azzedine Alaïa, "the king of cling". Towards the end of the decade, M&S started to work with designers including Paul Smith, Bruce Oldfield and Betty Jackson - a tradition that continued well into the millennium, with acclaimed Sex and the City stylist Patricia Fields designing a collection including black dresses.
The evolution of the Little Black Dress tells a story about the evolution of women. The last century has been packed with opportunities and challenges for us. We may not yet know how to have it all, but it helps to have a reliable wardrobe staple that can do it all and always makes us feel modern, capable, feminine and fun.
Style and the City
Legendary stylist Patricia Fields embraced the Little Black Dress when she worked at M&S