Dressing up has always been my greatest joy
But when it's time to be discreet
There's one thing you just can't beat
And that's a strapless backless classical little black dress.
The Little Black Dress is a simple, (usually) short black dress, with little to no trimming or decoration. Expect very few frills, ruffles, or sequins. It's also most often sleeveless, strapless, has spaghetti straps, cap sleeves, or a halter-style top. The effect is to make an impression of a grand, yet simple style, that could fit the fashion in any decade since the early 20th century.
This dress was created during The Roaring '20s when fashion was in a big upheaval compared with the decades before. Coco Chanel came up with a dress that would work in an evening or formal occasion, and blend in through any decade since.
An anecdote on where Chanel found inspiration on the dress is that while she was looking at her maid, she observed upon the simplicity of the uniform and tweaked it by removing the apron and the lace trimmings, leaving only the black part of the dress. In reality, Mme. Chanel, and fellow couturier Jean Patounote , after seeing women wearing black mourning dresses during and after World War One, transformed them into livelier and classier outfits that could be worn for multiple occasions.
This versatility and ability to work with any shot made the dress immensely popular with Hollywood costume designers, which spread the dress's popularity around the world.
Despite how it seems, this isn't really the opposite of a Pimped-Out Dress (and may rarely even overlap with each Happy Holidays Dress). It's just the pimping out is rare, to a lesser degree, and still done in a way that makes the dress last.
But not every style of this dress is guaranteed to last. Many such dresses (stereotypically from The '80s) are more likely to be an Outdated Outfit.
Also, while it's true that the first thing that comes in mind for the dress is the one worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's (as the page image above), do NOT mention it as a Chanel creation made in 1926, like most fashion articles do. Though the concept of the Little Black Dress is Chanel's, the specific one Hepburn wore was created by Hubert de Givenchy in 1961.
Compare Lady in Red, Ethereal White Dress, Princesses Prefer Pink, Graceful Ladies Like Purple, True Blue Femininity, Fairytale Wedding Dress, Simple, yet Opulent, High-Class Gloves, Fashions Never Change.
Contrast Fashion Dissonance, I Was Quite a Fashion Victim.
- Akari from March Comes in Like a Lion wears black dresses with a full-lengthed skirt as part of her "uniform" while working at Mikako's Ginza bar.
- Shaman King: Anna Kyoyama's iconic outfit is a black mini dress.
- In the manga of Soul Eater, BJ comes to Death City to find the spy or mole (rather than the anime version, where he came to help build a Magic Tool). One of the people he needs to investigate is Marie Mjolnir, his Old Maid ex-girlfriend. She shows up to the interrogation in a slinky little black dress, which has about the desired effect.
BJ: Do... do you teach wearing that?
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion, a short sleeveless one, with a white necktrim and hem, forms one half a major part of Misato Katsuragi's Iconic Outfit, the other major part being her red officer's jacket.
- In Spider-Man, Queen wears a beautiful seductive black dress in her debut issue and wears similar ones in the issues after it. She's both beautiful and deadly wearing it, easily able to defeat Spidey several times.
- Gwen Stacy wears a jaw-dropping version in Spider-Man: Blue.
- Tsuruya in Kyon: Big Damn Hero has one, and she wears it to a movie. With Kyon, his sister and Miyoko.
- Twilight in Hard Reset 'borrows' one, after stealing the perfect earrings.
Ew, I got changeling splattered all over my new dress!
- Chloe of the Vermilion in Infinity Train: Boiling Point wears a black dress with fireball decals on the side. This is to highlight that she's an alternate version of the Chloe Cerise from Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail as that Chloe wears a white dress with blue sealife decorating the collar and waist.
- In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, thirteen-year-old tomboy and Tyke Bomb Famke Smith-Rhodes-Stibbons is co-opted into the Assassins' Guild School's orchestra to be part of the percussion section in a prestige performance. Her music teacher and her mother have to explain that for the perfomance, she will, whether she likes it or not, meet the Dress Code for female orchestral musicians, which is a long black evening dress and a more graceful, feminine, hairstyle.
- Son of the Sannin: A (non-canon) omake has Naruto bringing Tsunade wearing one of these, showing off her ample rack to Killer B in order to convince him to help Naruto train in the use of his tailed beast. Tsunade is not amused.
- Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: Misty wears one for a nightclub date with Ash during the Indigo League. Ash himself and many others at the club are enticed by it.
- 21st Century Serial Killer: Erin wears a black dress on her date night out with Aaron.
- Breakfast at Tiffany's has probably the most iconic example with Holly Golightly's dress, designed, like all of Audrey Hepburn's costumes for the film, by Hubert de Givenchy. Notably, although she changes her accessories constantly, she never appears in any dress but the black dress, implying she's trying desperately to look richer than she actually is.
- In the first film adaptation, Bridget Jones wears two such dresses in the film, each having to do with Daniel and Mark.
- Clown Kill: Jenny wears a black sleeveless dress on her first day back to work.
- Dear Diary: Annie uses this exact phrase when seeing a black dress in a fashion store. At the end when her husband gets a look at it, it helps revive their stagnant sex life.
- Subverted in The Duff. Bianca dressed in one to the party with intention to get the guy but exposed her to the concept of "DUFF" and get pissed off instead, and she (and her friends) fired up the sewing machine to mix and match the LBD with her black/red plaid T-shirt and created the dress she really shines in.
- In the film version of The Fountainhead, Dominique wears a dress, with an ermine-trimmed neckline, to the opening party of Roark's first major building.
- While it's true that Chanel launched the LBD in 1926 in Paris, the film It (1927), starring Clara Bow in her modified work clothes, that kickstarted the dress trend in Hollywood.
- Lucy: By accessing more than 10% of her brain's power, Scarlett Johansson turns into a superhuman computer. So naturally, she wears a little black dress.
- In Mrs. Doubtfire, Miranda has a couple of dresses to wear for her date. Daniel in disguise tries to convince her to go with the older, and more frumpy, black dress, and it doesn't work.
- Audrey Hepburn's little black dress in Sabrina (1954). It was actually designed by Hubert de Givenchy, but in a power grab, Paramount costume designer Edith Head took credit for all of the clothes worn in the film.
- In Shock Treatment, the Spiritual Successor to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, there's a whole song called Little Black Dress.
- Shortcut to Happiness: When the Devil turns up to buy Jabez Stone's soul—a deal that is sealed by the two of them having sex—she is wearing a little back dress with Navel-Deep Neckline, which she reveals to him via Sexy Coat Flashing.
- Double Subverted in True Lies. When told to "dress sexy", Helen puts on one with huge frills that seriously date it. Then she looks really hard in a mirror and rips the frills off as part of her impromptu self-makeover, and the dress fit a more timeless style.
- Rising Sun: The Disposable Sex Worker wears one when she's murdered, serving to make her corpse Drop Dead Gorgeous.
- The Zombie Apocalypse in Apartment 14F: Red, the call girl living one floor below Bradly, is introduced wearing one while she's with a customer.
- There's an actual publishing company, specialising in Chick Lit, called Little Black Dress Books. Including this trope in some form is probably a contractual obligation.
- Used as a metaphor in Al Franken's The Truth (with jokes). Al quotes a blogger who referred to the 9/11 attacks as "Bush's Little Black Dress" — just as the dress can be slipped on for any social occasion, the 9/11 attacks could be used as the justification for any policy he wanted to pursue.
- Nicci of the Sword of Truth wears one of these all the time. It's symbolic of her unfeelingness and becomes associated with her being "Death's Mistress". In fact, when she's worried she might be recognized when she doesn't want to be, she wears a red dress and relies on her... assets to distract men.
- Just Juliet: Lena describes the dress she puts on to her first date with Juliet as this, even using the term exactly. Juliet later also wears one.
- A character attempting to vamp Captain Sheridan on Babylon 5 wears an exact copy of Audrey Hepburn's Breakfast at Tiffany's classic black dress.
- In the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy is shown holding up dresses in front of her to decide what to wear to the Bronze. Her comment on the black dress is "Hi, I'm an enormous slut!" Sure enough, Buffy wears a little black dress while doing her notorious Mating Dance with Xander the following year.
- CSI: NY:
- One episode had a trio of female crooks who robbed a jewelry store while dressed as Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
- Stella wore LBDs on several dates, including the one she changed into before leaving work in the season 1 finale, "What You See Is What You See." This was one time Mac definitely *didn't* Ignore the Fanservice.
- Christine had several LBDs, too. The one she wore on their date in the season 9 Valentine's Day episode prompts Mac to gush, "You're breathtaking."
- When Frasier brought Daphne as his date to a very exclusive club in the second season, she did so in a LBD that was clearly invoking Hepburn, right down to the gloves, pearl necklace and even wearing her hair in a bun.
- One of Rachel's attempts to seduce Joshua involves inviting him to a fake party and putting on a slinky black number she calls her "lucky dress". Unfortunately for her the dress can't make up for her clumsy attempts at flirting with him.
- In season eight Rachel shows up at Monica's Halloween party in a black, strapless dress despite specific instructions that everyone was supposed to come in costume. When Monica challenges her on it Rachel claims she's dressed as "woman who spent a lot on a dress and wants to wear it before she's too pregnant to fit into it". Monica lets it go on the proviso she get to borrow the dress once Rachel is too big for it.
- In the first episode of The Lone Gunmen, the heroes run into a bearded fellow in a suit while he's committing a crime. Moments later, before leaving the scene of the crime, the guy strips off "his" suit, beard, and wig, to reveal the show's new female antagonist in an LBD - which fit well under her disguise and didn't stand out in public.
- Almost all the main female characters on Mad Men have worn a black dress at least one time during the series.
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Midge's standard outfit for standup comedy is a simple black cocktail dress.
- Person of Interest. Sameen Shaw prefers casual wear, but wears a cleavage-revealing black dress whenever she's required to Show Some Leg.
- Dean's Crossroad Demon in Supernatural always wears a sexy little black dress.
- The Little Black Dress is listed as one of the ten must-have fashion items in Tim Gunn's Guide to Style.
- The Flash (2014). Iris West is trying to get Barry Allen to hook up with Felicity Smoak, and regards it as encouraging when she turns up for their trivia night wearing a sexy black dress. On seeing Felicity, Iris's boyfriend immediately tells her she's welcome to buy that dress herself.
- She's Gotta Have It: Nola gets a sexy, very expensive one in an episode to help feel better about herself. It doesn't work out though, as she gets more attention than she'd like.
- Impeachment: Resident Fashionista Monica Lewinsky wears a few classic (and sexy) black dresses that showcase her voluptuous curves to their advantage, one in one of the show's promos where she is waiting to hear from President Bill Clinton and another one that shows off her ample cleavage while at Linda Tripp's Christmas party in a soft, flowy fabric that follows her contours.
- "Gettin' You Home (The Black Dress Song)" by Chris Young makes use of this trope.
Walking' thru the front door / Seein' that black dress hit the floor...
- The second verse of "Since You Brought It Up" by James Otto:
You been lookin' for that little black dress
You found the perfect one today
Yeah, it's just hangin' in the closet
You wanna wear it in the worst of ways
- In the music video of Selena Gomez's "Round and Round," she wears a black dress under her trenchcoat.
- In the chalga song, "Moqt nomer" by Teodora & DJ Jerry:
Little black dress next the skin / and hot body underneath
- "Tiffany Blews" by Fall Out Boy:
Oh, baby, you're a classic, like a little black dress...
- In the music video of Cinderella's "Shake Me", the Cinderella character has a poster of the band, which comes to life and transports her to one of their shows, where's she's wearing an 80s version of a little black dress.
- GLORY posted a picture of ODB in a black dress to prove she could be chic and feminine away from the ring.
- Black Rose has wrestled in a little black dress on a few occasions. Besides fashion or Fanservice, it also doesn't stain much when her(or preferably, someone else's) blood gets on it. (the same reason Lady Demonique, Disiple, Monster Pain, etc wear black)
- Rayna Von Tosh (first graduate of the SHIMMER academy seen in WSU, Chikara and surrounding promotions) has worn a little black dress with red decorations, presumably to go with her pinup girl gimmick.
- The first collection of the Barbie Basics was focused entirely on little black dresses, all the twelve dolls wearing some interpretation of the little black dress, with fashion packs consisting only on accessories, in order to adapt the dresses to different situations.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic toyline, the Pinkie Pie's Boutique Fashion Style toy has a black minidress and headband.
- In ANNO: Mutationem, to get by Nocturne Maze's Dress Code to search for an informant, Ann puts on a black dress called the Twilight Veil for easy access.
- In Bendy and the Ink Machine, one of the cartoons - Alice Angel - wears a short, strapless black dress adorned with only a white bow on the chest.
- In Bendy in Nightmare Run, Alice keeps her dress from Bendy and the Ink Machine as her default outfit. Her flamenco dress also has a short, strapless black dress as its base.
- Rayne in BloodRayne 2 begins the game in a black evening gown. Floor-length with long slits up the sides and a Navel-Deep Neckline; the little fabric remaining is thin enough to cling skin-tight.
- The Convenience Store: One night, a woman wearing a short black dress and shoes walks into the store. She gives the Player Character a protection talisman.
- Ms. Walsh from Double Homework wears one of these to go clubbing. The protagonist and Lauren, who are on a date at the time, run into her, and are shocked to find her Shaking the Rump, not least because she told them that the was going to a meeting with the school board after class.
- EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: Blackberry sports one during the cruise ship segment, when everyone puts on some drip to blend in with the high class passengers. Zophy fits himself into a sharp white suit, so they get some extra light and dark out of the encounter.
- An item in Fallout: New Vegas is pre-war singer Vera Keyes's black dress. A female Courier can wear it (and it gives very slight armour, too). Male Couriers end up with it transforming into a tuxedo. Somehow.
- A female Commander Shepard can wear two over the course of the Mass Effect series:
- Mass Effect 3 offers a spaghetti strap little black dress as part of her casual wardrobe. This one even includes her N7 logo.
- Aya wears one when At the Opera Tonight in the first Parasite Eve.
- Green/Leaf from Pokémon Red and Blue. She never got to wear it outside of official art though due to her not appearing until Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green due to space shortages. When Green came back in Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!, she finally gets to wear it after a two-decade-long wait, albeit now with a Modesty Shorts added beneath that dangerously short dress in her original design.
- Luste Teuber wears little black underwear, fingerless elbow gloves, and Zettai Ryouiki.
- Lecht and Rink wear black nun attire.
- Carmelita Fox from Sly Cooper has one that she wears when not suffering from Limited Wardrobe syndrome, most noticeably in the second game when attending a lavish party, and during the ending cutscene of the third game.
- In The Chapel Chronicles, the main character, Chapel Smith, wears a little black dress in almost every strip. It’s one of her fundamental characteristics.
- In El Goonish Shive, during the Grace's Birthday arc, Nanase gives Ellen a little black dress to wear. It's the first time Ellen, an Opposite-Sex Clone of Elliot, has ever worn anything remotely feminine, and she's quite embarrassed by the ordeal.
- Ménage ŕ 3 is a Sex Comedy with a fair amount of Fanservice, so most of the female cast are good-looking. They sometimes wear LBDs on moderately special occasions, with some effect. These tend to be the overtly sexy, bust-flaunting type.
- DiDi wears a little black dress for her date with Sandra, and later for a date with Matt.
- Wannabe Femme Fatale Sonya carefully chooses her dress for a contest of sex appeal with the more girlish Yuki. The effect is pretty much weapons-grade.
- Porn star Chanelle wears one for a night out on the town.
- In Sticky Dilly Buns, Ruby, who is something of an ingenue, is attempting to hint to her seemingly obtuse boyfriend Andy that she'd be interested in sex with him. The last stage in this process before she despairs involves an LBD that really ought to have done the job. This was, it turns out, borrowed from her ex-porn star sister Amber's wardrobe, and Ruby comments to Amber that it sent out a signal that could have blinded someone. (Ruby, having a respectable figure and killer legs, does indeed make a short-skirted LBD look very good.)
- In Wapsi Square, putting one on buxom Monica results in a Distracted by the Sexy effect on an innocent bystander.
- In Rhapsodies, "Blossom'' wears an especially small one to a party. (Apparently she found it in a bargain bin, one size fits all) Her friends wonder which end of it will have a wardrobe malfunction first.
- While usually not her style, in Angry Joe's second episode of "Hotel Awesome", The Nostalgia Chick wore a cleavage-happy, nicely fitting black dress to flirt with him. Actually...
- Betty Boop is iconic for her little black dress, though the Technicolor cartoons dyed it red.
- DC Animated Universe:
Terry: (after a long pan up of her in the dress) Never seen you in a dress before. (grins) You look good.
- Several in Batman: The Animated Series, given that Bruce hangs out around affluent people. Even Barbara Gordon has a mini one.
- In one episode of Justice League, in order to get acquainted with society, Wonder Woman decides to attend a formal ball, wearing a new, nice, black dress.
- Max from Batman Beyond sports one while posing as a date for Terry during a stakeout. It's fetching enough that he even comments on it.
- Frankie from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends wore one in three episodes for separate occasions: a dinner date ("Frankie My Dear"), a red-carpet movie premiere alongside Mac ("Ticket to Rod", although neither of them actually end up going) and a fund-raising party ("Fools and Regulations").
- Jez on Jimmy Two-Shoes wears one at all times as part of her Limited Wardrobe.
- Kim Possible wore one of these in "Emotion Sickness", to show that she's feeling a bit saucy towards Ron.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Mane Attraction," pop star Rara ends up wearing a simple black dress for her concert, contrasting the gaudy outfit her Svengali of a manager previously dressed her in.
- As of the website's first update in over a year and a half, Ruby Gloom's heavily-expanded wardrobe (which originally consisted of a medium-sized black dress, which actually seems to have been pushed out of the picture entirely) includes such a dress.
- Drew Saturday in The Secret Saturdays episode "Guess Who's Going To Be Dinner" when she and Doc go on an anniversary date.
- In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Queen Wrathmelior Lucitor, Tom Lucitor's mother, wears a black dress while attending the Silver Bell Ball. It's much simpler and saucier than the Elizabethean-style dresses worn by the Butterfly Queens and the Queens of other queendoms in attendance.
- In the episode of The Simpsons, "Lard of the Dance", Lisa dons one to get a date for the dance.
- The "revenge Dress," as worn by Princess Diana, is probably one of the most famous examples.