The little black dress is a staple of any wardrobe that includes dresses. It’s timeless, and can be as elegant, sophisticated, rebellious, or downright dirty as the wearer chooses. The LBD has been peppered across pop culture since Vogue first published a sketch of Coco Chanel's “Ford” dress, a classic sheath dress that is considered the fairy Godmother of the little black dress, back in 1926. Mademoiselle Chanel wore the dress herself in the now iconic black-and-white profile image, in which she’s smoking—don't try it at home kids, no matter how cool Coco looks—and has her hands proudly on her hips.
Over the past 90 years, the little black dress has caused more gasps, more scandal, and more fashion inspiration than any other one item. Everyone from Josephine Baker to Sophia Loren to Debbie Harry has made headlines in an LBD, and for generations the dress has been mythologized as the one most sought out wardrobe staple.
If you can nail the LBD, you nail life. From Chanel to Dior to Givenchy to the everywoman’s no-name dress, the LBD is ubiquitous, and immortal, despite coming in many different silhouettes. Here are the 5 most recognizable, iconic little black dresses from pop culture history.
1.. Edith Piaf’s Collection Of LBDs (1940s)
French folk icon and singer Edith Piaf made the little black dress her uniform in the 1940s. She always wore a simple, black sheath dress while performing, and was given the nickname “little black sparrow,” which sounds both beautifully tragic and achingly adorable. Being known for her collection of LBDs was her second most famous trait—the first being her inimitable voice. It’s been suggested that she wore her black dresses for this reason: so that her outfit would never distract from her singing.
2.. Holly Golightly’s Givenchy Dress in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
The iconic image of Audrey Hepburn in the opening scene of Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961), in a broad rim hat, pearls, large sunglasses, and a classic Givenchy LBD is seared into the cultural consciousness and transcends generations. It’s arguably the most iconic little black dress in pop culture history. If you didn’t grow up thinking this was how you’d dress every day when you were big, you were doing childhood wrong.
3.. Elizabeth Hurley’s Versace Dress (1994)
Liz Hurley’s black Versace dress, held together with safety pins, was so controversial it’s come to be known as “THAT dress.” THAT dress indeed. The rising star wore it to the premier of Four Weddings And A Funeral in 1994, which she attended with then boyfriend Hugh Grant, although it’s widely considered that it was her style, and not her date, that launched her into the public eye. I mean, I bet you didn’t even notice Hugh Grant in the photo at first, so...
4.. Princess Diana’s Christina Stambolian Dress (1994)
Princess Diana got in a lot of trouble when she wore a figure hugging little black dress to a Vanity Fair party in 1994. The conservative media didn’t know what to do with the Princess’ body-con, off the shoulder mini dress, and it furthered her detractors arguments that she was mostly just a harlot in a Princess' shoes. But for her fans, it was an empowering moment. You’ve heard of Khloe Kardashian’s revenge body right? Well, before Khloe was getting fit post break up, Diana was wearing this dress post breakup from Charles, and sometimes it’s called her “revenge dress”. Get it girl.
5.. Posh Spice’s “Little Gucci Dress” (1997)
Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham was basically the spokesperson for the little black dress in the mid to late '90s. The LBD was having a real moment in the '90s, and Posh made it her business to be part of that moment. In a cute skit in Spice World, the other Spiceys make fun of Posh’s limited wardrobe options (“the little Gucci dress, the little Gucci dress, OR the little Gucci dress”), but considering the LDB has endured while platform Sketchers and leopard print tube tops have not, I’d say Posh is having the last laugh when she looks back at old photos.