The perfect little black dress (LBD) is a fashion staple. It’s versatile, working hard from day to night. But how to find the perfect little black dress to flatter your body shape?
The perfect little black dress – a history
Of course black dresses were around before this, but Coco Chanel is credited with creating the perfect little black dress as we know it when one of her designs featured in Vogue in 1926.
Coco Chanel said:
“The little black dress is a uniform for all women of taste.”
Effortless and polished, the LBD reached a style pinnacle when it was worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Since then, the little black dress has continued to cement its iconic status, in all sorts of guises.
Remember Liz Hurley in her safety pin Versace number, Angelina Jolie in her split-to-the-thigh dress at the Oscars or Jennifer Aniston in just about every type of little black dress you can think of.
The reason for its enduring appeal is that the little black dress flatters anyone, no matter what shape or size you are.
Now that the holidays are almost here, it’s the perfect dress for Thanksgiving or the many Christmas and holiday parties coming up.
How to choose the perfect little black dress for you
I’ve put together some tips on how to wear a little black dress and choosing the best LBD for your shape so you can feel comfortable and look fabulous all year.
If black is too harsh for you, feel free to replace black with navy blue which is softer for most women.
Another fabulous color to consider this year is burgundy or dark green.
You will find more inspiration here in the best colors for fall 2019.
Another way to wear a black dress even if the color is too harsh for you is to use colorful accessories close to your face.
Anita (above) chooses to add some softness around the neckline with faux fur collar.
You may also like or article on how to find the best dresses to hide your tummy
Some tips for choosing the perfect little black dress
The little black dress knows no bounds when it comes to shapes, styling and versatility.
That can be a blessing because there are so many black dresses to choose from, so there is bound to be one out there which is perfect for you.
But it can also be a curse because – how do you know where to start when there are so many options?
Here are some initial tips to get you thinking about how to wear a little black dress that will work for you.
1. Consider when you will wear it
Are you looking for the perfect little black dress for daywear or for evening (you can of course use it for both).
If it’s mainly for eveningwear, you can think about luxe fabrics like lace or velvet.
But if you mainly want it for daytime, you could look at a more casual fabric such as jersey.
Cassie (above) chooses a lovely tulle style.
2. You may need to wear more make-up
While black can be universally flattering to your figure, it is not always so flattering for your skin tone as it can wash you out.
Bear in mind that you might want to add more make-up or wear a brighter scarf or jewelry near your face.
3. You probably want more than one little black dress
Although there are definitely plenty of black dresses that will take you to any occasion, you probably want to invest in more than one.
I would choose one that is more suited to daywear and one that is your go-to LBD when you have an unexpected evening event.
You may find another dress to cop in our article on the best midi dresses in stores now.
4. What do you want to show off?
More on this later! But, as with any item in your closet, think about how it will flatter your body type, disguise your “flaws” and show off the parts of your body you like.
You might want a dress with sleeves to cover your upper arms, or you could opt for a one-shoulder number because you love your shoulders.
The choices are endless.
Gala (above) shows off her lovely shoulders in this Bardot style.
Here is a similar off-the-shoulder dress from Reformation.
5. Change your look with accessories
The beauty of a black dress is it is often a blank canvas.
No one will remember whether you’ve worn it to countless events because you can make it look different each time with the accessories you choose.
Tanasha (above) shows off two different looks with her little black dress.
Little Black Dresses for Curvy Women
If you’re curvy, a little black dress is one of your best friends.
Black is naturally slimming and the right dress can create a sexy look that shows off your best assets.
Venetia (below) looks stunning in this dress which shows off her cleavage.
Here are some more tips for selecting the right LBD:
- Pick one that brings attention to your chest with a sexier cut or v-neck.
- Wear a good, supportive bra to lift.
- Add a belt to your LBD.
- Or pick an LBD with a belt or waist-cinching detail.
- Choose a length either right below the knee or slightly above the knee.
- A sheath or wrap dress is the perfect LBD choice for curvy women.
Here is some inspiration on what to wear with your LBD.
For more tips, read our article on how to dress when you have a large bust
Little Black Dresses for Petite Women
Petite women are known as anyone under 5’4″.
And just because a woman is petite in height doesn’t mean she is skinny.
For all our tips check our article on how to dress when you are petite.
Many petite women are busty or curvy or plus size.
But there are some rules all petite ladies can use when choosing a LBD:
- Choose an LBD with vertical details that will make you look longer.
- Add sheer black stockings to lengthen your legs, or wear nude shoes.
- Avoid large details like ruffles which may overpower you.
- A three-quarter length sleeve elongates your arms.
- Go with a shorter dress or one two to three inches below the knees.
- If you’re a big-busted petite, a higher, empire waist dress will lengthen your body.
- Have your LBD fitted perfectly by a local tailor.
- Keep your accessories small and simple.
Here is more inspiration on good LBD choices and accessories:
The little black dress remains a wardrobe staple. You could also dress it up a bit with some statement tights? For more inspiration on how to wear tights you can refer to this article.
Julia (above) opts for classic opaque tights, but adds interest with animal print.
Little Black Dresses for Plus-Size Women
There is no reason that a plus-size woman needs to wear oversized, flowy clothing. Find which assets are your favorite and emphasize them.
If you love your legs, wear a shorter LBD.
If your legs make you self-conscious, wear a longer, flowy black dress.
Love your butt? Find a little black dress with a sexy, pencil-skirt cut.
Use boldly colored and patterned accessories, bags and shoes to avoid looking too somber.
Sandra (above) adds fun to her style with leopard print.
The most important tip for plus size women in search of the perfect little black dress is that you find the best quality material that flatters and supports.
Avoid thinner, tight and shiny materials that will accentuate ‘flaws’.
Little Black Dresses for Women For Hiding those parts that you want to downplay
I like to use this as its own category because we all, regardless of body shape, have something we want to downplay while accentuating something else.
Most of us will want to to conceal is our tummy, while accentuating a smaller waist.
To flatten the tummy and accentuate your waist more, you’ll need an LBD with some good, built-in support.
“Bandage dresses” are nice and tight in the tummy area. Kimono dresses are forgiving.
Another ideas is to go with a panel waistband and flared skirt.
Good shapewear underneath your LBD will make all the difference in the world in smoothing and tucking the waist and tummy area.
Also see our article on how to look taller and slimmer.
More perfect little black dresses for flattering your figure
black lace dress
Lace is great for adding texture and interest to your LBD.
Kim (above) cinches in her lace dress with a red belt.
black pencil dress
A pencil dress will never go out of style and can be a good option for so many occasions.
black long sleeve dress
A little black dress doesn’t have to be sleeveless. You can opt for a LBD with sleeves if you aren’t so keen on your upper arms.
Also take a look at the best dresses with sleeves.
Michelle (above) teams a classic shift style with nude sandals.
black sequin dress
To really make an impact, you could choose a dress with sequins. You can keep your jewelry to a minimum and add a slick of red lipstick.
black cocktail dress
A black cocktail dress is a hard working wardrobe staple that you can fall back on whenever you are heading to dinner or a party.
Nikki (above) wears an elegant long-sleeved black dress.
Here is a similar dress with chiffon sleeves from Mango.
black wrap dress
The wrap dress is an icon of style that is flattering for most women, no matter what your body shape.
black velvet dress
Luxurious and decadent, velvet is always a good option for winter.
Regan (above) wears a perfect little black dress v-neck velvet dress.
Here is a similar velvet pencil dress you can buy.
black satin dress
Satin can be a tricky fabric to wear because it can show every lump and bump if it is too thin.
Look out for dresses with thicker fabric. Also, for a vintage style, you could choose a fit and flare dress.
perfect little black dress with sleeves
If you do prefer to cover your upper arms, you don’t have to have sleeves which go all the way down to your wrist.
You could opt for sleeves which end above the elbow, or for three-quarter length sleeves.
black knit dress
For winter, you may wish to look for a sweater dress to keep you warm.
These look lovely worn with knee-high boots.
Lizzi (above) wears a belted sweater dress which she styles with booties and a statement necklace.
She got her perfect little black dress dress from Mango but unfortunately it is sold out. But, the brand released a new style of belted ribbed dresses. Check them out here.
How about you? Have you found the perfect little black dress for your body shape?
- The Best Dresses With Sleeves For Women Over 40
- The Best Dresses To Hide Your Tummy
- The Best Dresses For Your Body Shape
Like this article on how to find the perfect little black dress for your body shape? Share it on Pinterest
Feature image by Lizzi
Want to get more articles from 40+style in your inbox, subscribe here.
Support 40+style by using the links in our articles to shop. We receive a small commission (at no cost to you) which enables us to keep creating amazing free content for you. Thanks!