Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Search for the Little Black Dress

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Do you own a Little Black Dress? According to any fashion guide, a LBD is one of those essential clothing items that should be hanging in every woman's closet. But in reality, a perfect LBD is a Holy Grail of fashion. Smitten with the vision of the Ideal One I am on a perpetual quest to locate it.

Of course, at any point in my life I had some black dress hanging in my closet, but it was never The One. OK, I used to have this vintage cotton lace shift number when I was in college, that was quite perfect, but it was a size 2 and it has been a long time since I could fit into it. I don't know what happened to it btw, I am pretty ruthless with my clothes. Then, in my no-nonsense-years, I had this awful, no-style, polyester, a-line dress that I would wear to every party, my 'good enough' black dress. Later, I tried various funeral style dresses that were too somber, bridesmaid variety dresses that were uncomfortable and ugly, suiting dresses (hello Emmaleigh and Olive beauties) that were great but too business-like, black sequin dresses that were too festive, strapless and backless dresses that never worked for me, ruffles-down-the-front silk dresses that were too trendy, lace dresses that were too short, full skirt dresses that were too skip-to-my-lou girlish, soft jersey dresses that were too beach-vacation-only and many others that were just plain wrong on me.

What I am looking for in a LDB? I would say good fit, comfort, quality, versatility and reasonable price. My latest attempt at finding this elusive wear-it-everywhere-anytime garment is this boat neck, elbow sleeved dress from Talbots, in black pointe jersey. It is quite close fit in my smaller dress size, I would not size down. The fabric is rather substantial and it does not have much give. I hope this means it will keep its shape. I like the simple cut of this dress, the boat neck neckline, the sleeve length and hemline. I could wear it to the office the way I styled it in the picture below but I have worn it with black patent heels, pearls and leopard clutch for an anniversary dinner with hubby.

Talbots boat-neck dress, size 6

In the end, I still don't think it is THE dress, but I think it is pretty close.

The reasons I like it:

  • The fit is quite flattering, pencil skirt shape usually works the best for me
  • It can be dressed up or down and change the look with accessories and shoes
  • It can be worn with regular bra
  • It can be winterized with a cardigan or blazer
  • It can be worn year round, except for some very hot days in the summer
  • The fabric is substantial enough to hide some bumps
  • I like the neckline
  • I like the length
  • It is plain with no embellishments therefore not memorable
  • It was very cheap, I bought it on major sale for about $38
The reasons why it is not The One:
  • comfort: the fabric is a little clingy so it requires a slip when wearing tights
  • quality: I am worried that the color will fade and turn rag-like after few washes (but I don't know this)
  • versatility: it does not layer as well as a sleeveless dress

Or maybe I just like to be on the quest and do not really want to stop? This way, the best is still to come.

Do you own a LBD? Or do you think they are a genus of mythical creatures, the unicorn dress equivalent? Are you searching for one perfect dress that can serve you in any circumstances or are you OK with just having several for different occasions?



  1. happy valentines day to you too!
    i own quite a few black dresses,but i am still on the quest for the ONE.the dresses i have are nice,just not perfect.they are mostly jersey dresses and show every lump an bump,so i guess i am looking for something a little more structured and sleeveless,so i can wear it year round.
    BTw. my husband ordered the sunflower bracelet for me,so iam excited even though it will take a couple weeks to get it.

    1. Nice hubby! The sunflower bracelet is so cute, too bad it takes so long to get it. I really like the black jersey dress you were wearing in one of your posts.

  2. Yes I do, well I have hmm, three I think but one of them is indeed the mythical LBD. It's about ten years old and I always feel wonderful when I put it on. It cost a fortune at the time but it has been worth it. I think the Talbot's dress looks wonderful on you.

    1. Tabitha, you are a lucky one. If it makes you feel like a million bucks it IS worth a fortune, right?
      I was meaning to tell you but in my previous post the pictures in puffer are taken in Edinburgh and the other at Loch Ness, I visited two years ago and I loved it!

  3. Well I did have about 10 black dresses. Then last summer I bought a gorgeous black wool dress with short sleeves and silk lining from Brooks Brothers. Even on sale it was spensive. It has a silk charmeuse sash that can be tied on to a loop at the shoulder to form a bow (party-ish) or can be worn at the waist (dinner-ish).
    So I got rid of most of my collection, I kept a black lace dress from JCrew and also an old black velvet dress. Feels good to pare it all down.
    Love your Talbots dress, it's very flattering on you!
    Happy Valentines Day.

    1. Oh Dani, you are as ruthless as me.. Hope you will show us your BB dress at some point. I got a dress there too that I LOVE but it is not black.

  4. You found a lovely LBD there. It looks flattering and very versatile.
    I am still on the hunt for my perfect black dress and I can't help but wonder if it really exsists, especially when there are so many things on the criteria list to make it absolutely perfect.
    I did find a so close, but not quite 100% LBD at H&M recently, but it is a tad too low-cut and I don't expect it to last forever, but the shape is perfect and classy.

    1. Thank you fshnonmymind! Maybe the concept of a perfect LBD is just a ploy of fashion industry. Since nothing is ever perfect we keep on looking and keep on buying.
      But wait, Tabitha says they do exist, so back to the Google board...

  5. i love your dress. like you i've been searching for years for the perfect one. add the perfect white shirt, jeans and trenchcoat to that list. i think i may have found my perfect lbd and i got it at the thriftshop for $4. it's a lightweight sleeveless wool gabardine type fabric. i can layer something under it in the cooler weather and wear it as is in the summer. it's pretty dang perfect and i've found myself skipping the racks of black dresses b/c of that. hopefully this is the one.

    1. Janet, you are the only person that can find a perfect LBD at the thrift store of all places, lucky you!!!

  6. Your dress is lovely and versatile. I've found that I cannot get by with just one LBD. My best going out LBD is a tailored sleeveless wool crepe v-neck from ABS Prive collection. It's lined in silk and has a wide silk satin band framing the neckline and then criss-crossing the bust and circling around the back. Very dressy, I feel like a million bucks in it.

    I also have a cotton/polyamide knit short-sleeve sheath from Tristan (a Canadian store) that has waist ribbing and a flattering, but casual crewneck. I liked it so much I bought it in blue as well and have worn that blue dress to work, lunch and to a casual wedding. The black has been to summer funerals and also out to dinner with the right accessories. Unlike most knit dresses, these really hold their shape, don't wrinkle, are amazingly comfortable and the big bonus, they were made right here in Canada!

    I really like J.Crew suiting dresses and the Banquette in black stretch flannel can fill in for a LBD sometimes. It can also go to a funeral and of course, the office, where it usually shows up. The neckline is a bit low so a scarf or cami is needed if you're not going out for fun. The tailoring and substantial fabric can hide a myriad of sins.

    1. xoxo, yes, sometimes I think one is just not enough. Your dresses sound wonderful, you should showcase them at one point on your blog. I do love the JC suiting dresses, I have quite a few.