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Ode to the L.B.D.

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

We saw them hanging in our mothers’ closets. Did they exude a faint, exotic hint of cologne when we lifted dust covers? Did memories of special occasions suddenly pop to mind? We knew that dress was very special and hoped to one day grow up enough to own one like it. The little black dress embodies sophistication, confidence, and the sense of having arrived----with the bonus of hardly ever going out of style. Even in today’s mishmash of what passes as fashion, having workhorse of a dress offers security and makes getting ready effortless.

The role of kid was clearly defined and never varied. There was no waffling or whining, we knew who and what we were and accepted it happily. We could---and did dream what the future might hold. Movies and TV shows of the 1950’s defined how adults ought to look. Men were clean shaven and spiffily dressed and women wore lovely outfits that accented physical attributes in alluring but modest ways. The aura of mystery served to make the clothes---and sex appeal even more appealing.

Newspapers and magazines ran advertisements sketched in ink of fashion models posing in various situations wearing that most iconic of dresses. Those dresses no matter the size, shape or financial situation of the wearer were perfectly designed, incorporated such elements as darts and other almost forgotten tailoring tricks to give a well-fitting, comfortable, long-lasting garment that varied from figure to figure.

Necklines changed according to designer’s whims but rarely dipped below the collarbone. Sleeve lengths ran the gamut, up and down the arm, but this dress was rarely sleeveless. A crisp linen creation for summer might be the exception and was usually coordinated with a small cardigan or wrap. Skirts for those dresses might stand out or flare slightly from the figure but unless it was an evening dress, gobs of fabric were never gathered and attached to the waist. The silhouette was long, clean, and pencil-thin.

Fabrics varied according to season but in winter fine woolen dress material was always lined with black satin or taffeta to keep the garment’s shape. As the dress was pulled over lingerie and sheer stockings, the lining caressed the body making a subtle swishing sound. The long closure in the back usually required assistance getting buttoned or zipped. We often ran from the dressing area in a cloud of newly applied fragrance to seek help. The excitement of dressing for an event and seeing results reflected back was half the fun.

Black dresses were always held in abeyance at runway shows and brought out at the very end. Black creations ensured that sophistication was within every woman’s reach. The black dress was a miracle bordering on magic. Young girls waited because black was allowed only after a certain age. Donning the black dress was a passage into maturity. We soon learned that sheer stockings created the need to shave legs—with a razor. Welcome to adult womanhood.

I remember black dresses I have owned. I’ll never forget them but to be on the safe side, taking the time to document and truly pay homage makes good sense. Bobbin-olive offers a variety of journals to include stories and memories of the entire gamut of clothing you’ve enjoyed, loved---and, yes, even hated in your life. Once your journal is in hand, words, (even quick sketches) can spill forth onto the page and give you (and select readers) lots of enjoyment. Thanks to designer Coco Chanel, my clothing mantra will always be: Long live the Little Black Dress!

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