Every woman looks great wearing it, and every woman has her own. It is the default date ensemble when it is one of those “I have nothing to wear” days. In fact, it is so popular, so necessary, and so much an institution in women’s fashion that we had to ask: “Where did the “little black dress” come from? ” To properly understand the fashion environment necessary to produce such a simplistically fabulous necessity for any wardrobe, we must visit the 1920’s.
As women shed their long, layered dresses, cut their hair and enjoyed the fast-paced party life, society slowly became more accepting of women baring slightly more of her shoulders, back, and legs. The coveted silhouette of the era was generally very slender and youthful. It was during the 20’s that the legendary fashion designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel first stitched her name into the history of women’s clothing design. In fact, Chanel’s designs are often considered to be the epitome of the 20’s style because her work was so fresh, modern, and updated.
Chanel encouraged and inspired the style we typically envision when we think of flappers. She was fond of working with neutral colors and soft easy-to-wear jersey fabrics that were simple in shape and cut. Chanel was able to infuse comfort and sophistication into fashion, and this combination was considered revolutionary. It was during her early work, that Chanel designed and introduced the first little black dress to the world. First introduced in 1926, black was previously considered to be a color reserved for funerals and periods of mourning.
Truly simple and sexy, Chanel’s design was a sleeveless sheath cut just above the knee. She could have never predicted the immediate and lasting love women would have with her simple, chic black dress. As Chanel was quoted, “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury. ” Whether a woman’s little black dress cost $50 or $2,000 her intention is the same: to look effortlessly classic and appropriately sexy in just seconds. While most of us cannot afford to buy Chanel’s breathtakingly beautiful pieces, we can certainly wear our trusty black dresses with the modern, sophisticated attitude she possessed.
This summer it is “boho” chic. Last summer, it was preppy sailor simplicity. In the late 90’s it was the grunge look. Yellow is the new black. Jeans are the new business casual. And on. And on. Yes, I am writing of fashion trends. The latest look, style, and color floods the covers of magazines, the shelves of retailers from Saks to H & M, the bodies of celebrities and television characters and, undoubtedly, is able to get enough of us to buy into it (literally and figuratively) to validate the whole cycle.
So, while most of us are easily able to grasp this continuously perpetuating cycle of saturating the public with the latest, greatest duds, questions remain: how does a trend start? Who makes this decision? Why does it work? Well, to be perfectly honest, there is no definitive answer to the myth that is a fashion trend. But, while the exact formula is beyond the consumer, we can be sure that it takes the work of several different interdependent fashion industry professions to convince us that espadrilles, suspenders, and terry-cloth suits are worthy of our dollars and donning.