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 pretty much what the name implies: 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.
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.
- Akari from 3-gatsu no Lion wears black dresses with a full-lengthed skirt as part of her "uniform" while working at Mikako's Ginza bar.
- BJ: Do...do you teach wearing that?
- Tsuruya in Kyon: Big Damn Hero has one, and she wears it to a movie. With Kyon, his sister and Miyoko.
- Twilight in Eakin's Hard Reset Hard Reset 'borrows' one, after stealing the perfect earrings.
Ew, I got changeling splattered all over my new dress!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Delenn does the exact same thing much more successfully twice.
- 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.
- One episode of CSI: NY had a trio of female crooks who robbed a jewellery store while dressed as Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
- 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.
- 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...
- 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 fan service, 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 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 Absolute Cleavage; the little fabric remaining is thin enough to cling skin-tight.
- 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:
- Green/Leaf from Pokémon Red and Blue. She never got to wear it outside of an official art though due to her not appearing until FRLG 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.
- In The Chapel Chronicles, the main character, Chapel Smith, wears a little black dress in almost every strip. Its 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.
- 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.