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?

In this article, you’ll find the best little black dresses for you as well as how to style your LBD, whether you’re treating yourself to a new one or shopping your closet.

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.

Celebrities in perfect little black dresses | 40plusstyle.com

The reason for its enduring appeal is that the little black dress flatters anyone, no matter what shape or size you are.

One of the reasons for its enduring appeal is not only does the LBD flatter all body shapes, but it is perfect year round, whether for a winter party or a summer vacation.

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 2020.

Another way to wear a black dress even if the color is too harsh for you is to use colorful accessories in a shade that flatters your skin tone close to your face.

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?

Below 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

Perfect little black dress - Lizzi wears a black slip dress | 40plusstyle.com

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.

Lizzi (above) wears a LBD that could easily be styled for day or for evening.

Recreate her look with this similar silky dress, sandals, bag and earrings.

2. 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. You may want to look for a dress with some ruching around the tummy area to hide a belly.

The choices are endless.

3. You may need to wear more make-up

Perfect little black dress - Emma pairs her black dress with leopard print | 40plusstyle.com

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.

Emma (above) shows how you can brighten up the look of your black dress by wearing with red lipstick and a striking print.

Check out this similar dress, blazer, booties, handbag and earrings.

4. 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.

Also take a look at our article on the best midi dresses in stores now.

5. Change your look with accessories

Jas wears the perfect little black dress for summer | 40plusstyle.com

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.

Jas (above) styles her LBD for summer with sandals and a rattan bag. But, she could just as easily wear this style for a night out with heels and a clutch bag.

Get her look with this similar puff sleeve dress, sandals, handbag, belt and sunglasses.

Little Black Dresses for Curvy Women

How to find the perfect little black dress  - wrap dress | 40plusstyle.com

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.

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.

Venetia (above) looks stunning in this dress which shows off her cleavage and lovely waistline.

Check out these dress options from Milumia and Kiyonna, and wear with this similar pair of ankle strap sandals.

perfect little black pleat dress | 40plusstyle.com | 40plusstyle.com

Connected Apparel pleat jersey dress

For more tips, read our article on how to dress when you have a large bust

Little Black Dresses for Petite Women

Perfect little black dress for petites - Cassie wears a black blazer dress | 40plusstyle.com

Petite women are known as anyone under 5’4″.

And just because a woman is petite in height, that doesn’t mean all shorter women are one size. 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.

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.

Cassie (above) keeps her blazer dress a few inches above her knees.

Steal her look with this similar blazer dress, sandals and handbag.

Karen Kane studded sheath dress | 40plusstyle.com

Karen Kane studded sheath dress

For all our tips check our article on how to dress when you are petite.

Little Black Dresses for Plus-Size Women

Julia wears a perfect little black dress for the apple shape | 40plusstyle.com

There is no reason that a plus-size woman needs to wear oversized, flowy clothing. Think about which assets are your favorite and emphasize them.

How?

If you love your legs, wear a shorter LBD.

If your legs make you self-conscious, wear a longer 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.

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’.

Julia (above) wears a LBD that skims rather than clings. She also draws attention away from the tummy area by wearing a bright scarf and by choosing statement sleeves.

Check out this similar shift dress, tights, booties, handbag and scarf,

Le Femme faux wrap gown | 40plusstyle.com

Le Femme faux wrap gown

Little Black Dresses for women – for hiding those parts that you want to downplay

Anita wearing a black halterneck dress | 40plusstyle.com

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.

If you are an inverted triangle shape, then a halterneck dress like the one worn by Anita (above) will be a flattering option for you.

Check out this halter neck from Calvin Klein and wear it with this similar pair of mules and tote.

Also see our article on how to look taller and slimmer.

Betsy & Adam drape back scuba crepe cocktail dress | 40plusstyle.com

Betsy & Adam drape back scuba crepe cocktail dress

Black dresses for your individual body shape

Now, let’s take a look in more detail at some little black dresses that may suit your body shape.

LBD for the apple shape

If you are an apple shape, you’re likely to want to skim over your tummy area. Opt for a dress which drapes over your figure rather than clings. A v-neck will be a good option as this helps to create long, lean lines.

Perfect little black dress for the apple shape | 40plusstyle.com

Sam Edelman pleated V-neck shift dress

Pear shape

If you have a pear shape figure, you are likely to want to downplay your hips and thighs. Look for a dress which draws attention to your upper half.

SEVENTY VENEZIA chiffon cocktail dress | 40plusstyle.com

SEVENTY VENEZIA chiffon cocktail dress

Hourglass

Creating a great outfit is often about creating balance. If you’re an hourglass, you’re lucky, your figure is already balanced. You can make the most of that by choosing a dress which nips in at the waist to show off your lovely curves.

Perfect little black dress for the hourglass figure | 40plusstyle.com

Eliza J mesh fit & flare dress

Rectangle

As a rectangle shape, you may want to make the most of your athletic figure or you might want to create some curves through the dress that you choose.

Many models are rectangle shaped, so you may want to experiment and choose a LBD which is a bit different to the norm.

Kay Unger one-shoulder maxi romper | 40plusstyle.com

Kay Unger one-shoulder maxi romper

Inverted triangle

As an inverted triangle, you will want to create balance in the opposite way to the pear shape. Therefore, you’ll want to downplay your shoulders. A halterneck can do that because the eye is drawn to the lines of the dress.

Vince Camuto halter neck satin dress | 40plusstyle.com

Vince Camuto halter neck satin dress

More perfect little black dresses to flatter your figure

Black cocktail dress

Nikki wearing a black polka dot cocktail dress | 40plusstyle.com

Nikki (above) looks very stylish, and on-trend, in her black polka dot dress.

Get her look with this similar dress, strappy pumps and bag.

Black cocktail dress | 40plusstyle.com

Dress the Population one-shoulder midi dress

Black dress with sleeves

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.

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 if you prefer.

Vince drape long sleeve midi dress | 40plusstyle.com

Vince drape long sleeve midi dress

Also take a look at the best dresses with sleeves.

Black formal dresses

For formal occasions, a long black dress can be the perfect option. Choose a classic style and you’ll be able to wear it year-after-year.

Black formal dress | 40plusstyle.com

Tahari crepe gown

Black midi dress

Suzie wears a black shirtdress | 40plusstyle.com

Suzie (above) opts for a black shirt dress that if perfect for everyday wear.

Steal her look with this similar dress, lace-up peep toe bootie and layered necklace.

EN SAISON satin midi dress | 40plusstyle.com

EN SAISON satin midi dress

Black mini dress

If you’ve pushed your mini dresses to the back of your closet, it could be time to think again. A black mini dress can look fantastic worn over leggings, skinny jeans or slim pants.

Fraiche by J tie waist dress | 40plusstyle.com

Fraiche by J tie waist dress

Black long dress

A maxi dress will always create drama, in the best way possible. You could choose from a formal option for an evening event or a summer maxi dress for a vacation.

Xscape embroidered mermaid gown | 40plusstyle.com

Xscape embroidered mermaid gown

Black maxi dress

Beth wears her black dress with a denim jacket | 40plusstyle.com

Beth (above) shows how you can style your black maxi dress casually.

Recreate her outfit with this similar dress, denim jacket and sandals.

AUSELILY long sleeve maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

AUSELILY long sleeve maxi dress

Black off the shoulder dress

If you feel self conscious about other parts of your body but you love your shoulders, then you could opt for a stylish off-the-shoulder dress.

Lavish off the shoulder cocktail dress | 40plusstyle.com

Lavish off the shoulder cocktail dress

Black slip dress

Slip dresses were on trend in the 90s, and they’re back in style now. However, given that most slip dresses have spaghetti straps, they can be unforgiving. You could stay on-trend by wearing a sweater over the top.

ALLSAINTS two piece sweater & slipdress | 40plusstyle.com

ALLSAINTS two piece sweater & slipdress

Black sweater dress

Gala wears a black sweater dress | 40plusstyle.com

Gala (above) wears an oversized sweater dress with her lace-up booties.

Check out this similar sweater dress, boots, tights. backpack, hat and sunglasses.

Eliza J turtleneck fit & flare sweater dress | 40plusstyle.com

Eliza J turtleneck fit & flare sweater dress

Black blazer dress

A blazer dress could be another versatile option to consider. You could wear as it is, or layer over a long-sleeved sweater.

Black Halo sleeveless blazer minidress | 40plusstyle.com

Black Halo sleeveless blazer minidress

Black shirt dress

Deborah wears a black shirt dress | 40plusstyle.com

Deborah (above) chooses an oversized shirt dress with her silver sneakers.

Steal her look with this similar shirtdress, sneakers and earrings.

WAYF shift shirtdress | 40plusstyle.com

WAYF shift shirtdress

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.

Julia Jordan sequin tiered A-line dress | 40plusstyle.com

Julia Jordan sequin tiered A-line dress

Black wrap dress

The wrap dress is an icon of style that is flattering for most women, no matter what your body shape.

Fraiche by J faux wrap dress | 40plusstyle.com

Fraiche by J faux wrap dress

Black velvet dress

How to find the perfect little black dress for your body type | 40plusstyle.com

Luxurious and decadent, velvet is always a good option for winter.

Regan (above) wears a perfect little black dress v-neck velvet dress.

Check out this similar velvet dress, pumps, clutch and necklace.

Fantaist velvet wrap sheath cocktail pencil dress | 40plusstyle.com

Fantaist velvet wrap sheath cocktail pencil dress

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.

If you’re worried about satin showing up any “flaws” on your hips and thighs, look for a dress with satin on the top and a different material on the lower half.

Eliza J twist halter neck cocktail dress | 40plusstyle.com

Eliza J twist halter neck cocktail dress

Black silk dress

Silk is always a beautiful option for any season. If you find a flowy dress, you can create different looks by cinching it at the waist or leaving it loose.

Eileen Fisher silk blend shift dress | 40plusstyle.com

Eileen Fisher silk blend shift dress

Black lace dress

lace shirtdress | 40plusstyle.com

Lace is great for adding texture and interest to your LBD.

Kim (above) cinches in her lace dress with a red belt.

Check out this lace dress from Dress the Population, and wear it with this similar pair of pumps. belt, earrings and clutch.

Karen Kane lace sheath dress | 40plusstyle.com

Karen Kane lace sheath dress

Black summer dress

The LBD looks just as beautiful for summer as it does during the cooler months. Style with metallic accessories for a stylish vacation (when you’re able to travel!).

Tommy Bahama off the shoulder dress | 40plusstyle.com

Tommy Bahama off the shoulder dress

How about you? Have you found the perfect little black dress for your body shape?

Continue reading:

  1. The Best Dresses With Sleeves For Women Over 40
  2. The Best Dresses To Hide Your Tummy
  3. The Best Dresses For Your Body Shape
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How to choose the perfect little black dress for your body type | 40plusstyle.com

Feature image by Lizzi

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