The Little Black Dress, Three Ways

December 15, 2011
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By Julie Davis

In 1926, Coco Chanel introduced a little black dress—a simple, long sleeved knee-length sheath. She praised it for its versatility, accessibility and how it would never reveal a stain. Vogue praised it for its potential to have enormous appeal and longevity. Eighty-five years later, the little black dress is a ubiquitous fashion essential and the cornerstone to every great wardrobe.

Throughout its extensive history as a fashion icon, the little black dress has been dubbed “the epitome of chic” for its effortless elegance and “the ultimate uniform” for its incomparable adaptability. Yet if Coco Chanel were alive today, she would be desperately troubled by the lack of versatility displayed by so many women who own one. Most are not wearing their little black dress to its full potential, as the late designer envisioned. Instead, it rests on a hanger until the next party or black tie affair.

When accessorized properly, regardless of shape, material or embellishment, the little black dress can take a woman anywhere—from work and cocktails to the theatre and lunch with friends. It’s simply a matter of knowing how to style it.

To get the most out of your little black dress (especially during such a significant wardrobe season), here are three ways you can wear it—from elegant to every day casual.

Coco would be proud.

The Look: High Style

The Occasion:  Cocktail party, dinner date, girls night out  

A burst of color, whether with shoes, a belt or a handbag, instantly takes a black dress from basic to brilliant. For Fair Haven’s Elizabeth Foy, we cinched the waist of her Halston sheath with a gold buckled, black leather belt, and then popped the look with dazzling kelly green heels. An unexpected leopard print clutch and chunky gold bangle completed the simple, yet stylish transformation.  (All accessories courtesy of Coco Pari, Red Bank)


Instantly and easily change the shape and structure of any black dress with a belt. YSL Black logo leather belt


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To look effortlessly stylish, add an element of the unexpected. YSL Leopard print pony hair clutch


The Look: Classic Elegance

The Occasion: Holiday party, wedding, theater, formal dinner 

Turn yourself—and your little black dress—into a modern-day Holly Golightly.  Keep the silhouette untouched (no belts or jackets) and simply accessorize with jewelry. A set of statement-making pearls paired with diamond bangles keeps the look from feeling dated. The result is a modern, refined elegance that will take you from a wedding to a formal dinner party in style.

All jewelry courtesy of Hamilton Jewelers, Red Bank.


These are not your mother’s pearls, which is precisely why they feel and look so modern. Hamilton pearls with Tahitian black and golden and white South Sea pearls


Mixing metals with pearls is a fresh approach to accessorizing. Hamilton Classics Collection bangles with diamonds in white, yellow and rose gold.







Black patent pumps with a little sparkle complete the look. Christian Louboutin filter pump, Coco Pari, Red Bank






The Look: Everyday Chic

The OccasionWork, luncheon, day in the city 

No matter how simple or formal your little black dress, you can easily style it for everyday living. Layering is key—it completely changes the look and feel. Try a turtleneck, jacket, and belt. The look is casual yet chic, and perfect for the day to day. Knee-high black boots, with or without a heel, keep it from feeling formal.

All additional clothing and accessories courtesy of Glow, Shrewsbury.



Layer your little black dress. Start with a turtleneck to give it a more casual feel. Barbara Bui sleeveless turtleneck


A fitted jacket or blazer hides ruffled sleeves and any other formal accent. Smythe black plaid riding jacket



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A belt highlights your waist and makes an outfit look more pulled together. Barbara Bui black leather buckle belt.

When paired with a little black dress, a black boot takes it from night to day. Loeffler Randall Myrna stiletto boot






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