Every women can benefit from a little black dress.
If you’re going to buy a little black dress, with a bit of forward planning, you can fashion-proof it almost indefinitely.
The most versatile LBD is a shift, and it should have so few details or distinguishing marks that it should almost be boring.
Firstly, make sure it’s sleeveless, even if you never bare your arms. A sleeveless design will remain constant as fashions in shoulder lines come and go.
Secondly, look for a design that is semi-fitted, not tight – go a size up if you have to. It should skim over your body, not fit tightly.
It should have a boat or scoop neck for maximum usability (make sure it shows your collarbones but has straps that are wide enough to hide all your bra straps), and it should be knee length. By knee length, I mean that sweet spot on your leg that suddenly makes them look longer. This varies from woman to woman (mine’s just below the knee, not bang on the crease).
Where fabric’s concerned, choose a matt, fine wool, if possible, or a matt polyester crepe if not – something unreflective – and make sure it has a lining, so you can wear it over other clothes easily. I prefer a princess seam, but a waist seam can be equally flattering – just make sure it’s a little loose in case you gain or lose a pound or two.
You can wear your LBD it as it comes, or with a white shirt under it, or a tee or short- or long-sleeved crewneck sweater, or a silk blouse.
Over it, you can wear any number of shrugs or evening cardigans, a crew, polo or v-neck sweater (so you only see the dress as a skirt), a wrap or a silk shirt tied at the waist.
It will do you for day-to-night with a change of top layer, you can team it with opaque tights and knee-high boots in winter, sheers and stilettos for a sexy look, or leggings and ballet flats when you need to move at speed. Even on its own, a flashy, glittering evening bag will bling it right up.
There is nothing more versatile than this shape of dress, and provided it’s knee-length and sleeveless, it won’t date – rather than replace it, get yourself another one in silk, velvet or linen, or the same style in another colour.
You don’t need to break the bank to buy a decent shift dress – they start at about £30 – but do pay for quality fabric, a lining, and to get it tailored to fit if necessary.
* What dates a shift dress? Skirts that are too long or too short – knee length is always right. Having a skirt that’s a mini or mid-calf and below limits the number of times and places you can wear it.
Sleeves, and the shoulder line that supports them also date clothing. The fuller the sleeve, the bigger the shoulder that’s need to support it. So avoid sleeves.