Or three or four, in fact…
My recent purchase of a little black dress from Wall set me thinking about the place of the LBD in a girl’s wardrobe.
The basic idea of an LBD is that it’s multipurpose. You should be able to wear it to work, then out to dinner; or to meet your partner’s parents; or to a funeral; or to a cocktail party. It should go from day to night and from reasonably casual to reasonably formal with just a change of accessories. In this, it differs from a spectacular black dress such as the Versace number that Angelina Jolie (and her leg) wore to the Oscars recently.
I now have four LBDs – five if you count summer weight.
Perhaps the most versatile of them is this cool wool, lined shift from M&S. It took me a little while to track this down, because I had very specific requirements: a scoop neck – high enough to give coverage but low enough not to look frumpy or make my boobs look enormous; lined but lightweight; knee length; matt fabric and either princess line (the one I found) or with a waist seam. Last week I wore it with fleece-lined tights, suedette stiletto-heeled boots and a cashmere poloneck underneath, but it’s just as useful over a white shirt or under a cardigan or leather blouson, or teamed with loafers or kitten heels for summer. If you can only buy one LBD, this is the type to have. Make sure it’s lined, so that it slips nicely over underlayers.
Another of my faves is very much a winter dress. A long sleeveless column in stretch velvet, it has a v-neck with a twist and a split at the back, and is very bog-standard, from Dorothy Perkins, but the simplicity of the cut makes it look very expensive. It’s very glam on its own or with a sparkly shrug or stole, but I often dress it right down with a poloneck sweater so that it looks like a skirt (but is much more comfortable to wear out to dinner, as it has no constriction on the waist).
A good dress for mid-season or for cool evenings is, again, one that I’d wanted for a long time – a knee-length wrap viscose dress from Boden. The trick with wrap dresses – those with 5 per cent or more elasthane – is to get them a size bigger than usual. I like the Boden version of the modern wrap dress because it has very long ties and little details at the collar and cuff that add a touch of femininity. This dress looks great over a vest of the same or contrasting colour – I’m past the age of revealing the cleavage it’s designed for (a fault with many current wrap dresses, which create way too much exposure at the front). And the fabric is completely matt, which is forgiving to lumps and bumps.
My latest LBD is the pima cotton jersey one from Wall (see earlier post), but a much older garment is a linen sundress from Hobbs, which I must have owned for 15 years or more. This is a simple tank, but in two layers, so the straightforward heavy linen tank underlayer is topped with a double layer of very thin chiffon-like linen that crosses over a little in front. Kind of hard to describe, but it’s a lovely dress that just floats around the body in a hot summer. I tend to team it with a transparent black kimono in a silk called ‘sha’, which is something like an elastic organza.
Much as I like my dresses in other colours – in blues and pinks and green and yellows – they are not as versatile as black dresses, especially if you live a city life, and even here in the countryside they get a massive amount of wear. One or two good LBDs in your wardrobe and you’ll always have something to wear.