Objects of Desire: The little black dress

  • Michaela Schuett illustration
By
From the January 12, 2012 edition

I love Lady Gaga just as much as the next gay man, but being so unpredictable with her fashion has become, well, predictable.

My theory is that inspiration for the singer’s outfits comes from randomly turning to three words in the dictionary and choosing sartorial turns from there (a fun game, actually; my three words: fantasy crucible needle).

Gaga is creative and important, but, alas, the average woman cannot show up to a cocktail party in an egg, wearing beefsteak as a headband, and dodge ridicule.

Don’t get me wrong; I’d be a card-carrying member of the cult of the individual if carrying cards wasn’t so conformist. But the lionization of in-your-face-uniqueness has me rooting for a strong resurgence of the little black dress.

A force in fashion, the LBD has even earned its own acronym. History holds that the style of a black cocktail dress was first produced and popularized by — who else — Coco Chanel in the 1920s.

Before then, black dresses were reserved for moments of mourning. New widows wore black for at least a year according to social standard, so wearing a short one to go out and enjoy yourself was, I imagine, vehemently tsk-tsked.

Of course, the look took off and has been a staple in every generation’s wardrobe since then. Its allure is proof that something simple can offer feminine mystique. Or maybe because every monetary class can afford a pretty one — even inexpensive LBDs look sophisticated.

Cut and material are the most important things to consider when picking out an LBD. Don’t pick anything too trendy, otherwise you’ll be buying a new one next time popular opinion changes. Your best bet is to pick a cut that’s most flattering to your body shape and then get trendy with your accessories.

When picking the material, keep in mind the idea that LBDs can easily transition from day to evening wear. Tulle is probably too fancy, cotton not dressy enough.

It’s hard to mess up styling: sensible shoes and hair and a blazer during the day; stilettos, bling and bare shoulders at night.

Simple can be oh-so-sexy. Just ask Gaga herself. Much to the delight of fashion bloggers, she wore an LBD last August in a style similar to Audrey Hepburn’s in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Black is the new beefsteak.

Objects of Desire is a bi-weekly column that explores the items Columbus shoppers crave. Follow Jackie Mantey on Twitter at @Jackie_Mantey.