Queen of Your Closet Series: How to un-borrify the LBD

If you have ears, which I assume most of you do, I know you’ve all heard the advice that every woman should own a plain LBD, a.k.a “Little Black Dress”.  Now, I realize I may stand alone when I say this, and it may not be in tune with your own line of thought, but my feeling on that bit of advice is this….it’s overrated.  And, well, kind of a cop out too.  Why? Well, I think it’s “safe” for many ladies to buy plain black, because they feel like it’s slimming or classic, that it’s “formal” simply because it’s black, and they may not want to risk choosing to buy a dress they really like in a great shade they absolutely love, for fear that it will attract attention that they’d be uncomfortable receiving, that it’s not “practical”, or that they don’t know how to maximize the versatility of it’s styling once it’s in their closet.  Give me the cash to buy a new dress, and I promise you, the last color I’d ever willfully choose to buy would be black.  I’m a color-lover at heart; black is the anti-color.  It  just doesn’t do it for me. It’s BORING.  Look in my closet, and you see I lie not.  I do not own a plain black dress. The two LBD’s I do own have a slight pattern to them, the one I’m wearing below and Anthro’s Layered Column Dress which you’ve seen me wear here.

I think there are many ladies out there who feel under-confident in their ability to style an outfit, and the LBD provides them with a “safe” option, a no-brainer solution for dressing up.  Don’t you?   It has been ingrained in our lady-brains as being a wardrobe piece that is sexy, easy to wear, and timeless.  I don’t argue that a black dress  is timeless.  It certainly is, because it’s a totally blank slate.  But blank slates are super boring when you don’t gussy them up, and sadly, many LBD wearers I’ve seen don’t make the effort to gussy at all.  I don’t argue that the LBD is easy to wear either….anything can be categorized as “easy to wear” based on the attitude of the wearer.  (My green Beda dress , in my opinion, is one of the easiest dresses in my entire wardrobe to style).  As for sexy, well I think the LBD is where some ladies take it a bit too far.  The “little” in LBD shouldn’t mean as little fabric as possible, yet quite often this is what I see at more dressed-up occasions.  Lots of skin and a sea of black.  So I have this ….well, I guess you could call it a prejudice (though I hate that word) against LBD’s.  Got a formal to go to?  Just pull out the LBD.  Show some cleave.  Show a little lot of leg.  That’s the only accessory you’ll need!  See?  I’m ruined.  I’ve seen way too much.   The LBD has become such a cliche.  And cliches are BORING.

Wearing: Dress-Banana Repbulic (old!), Cardi-J.Crew Ethereal Ruffle, Shoes-Nine West, Necklace- ATL, Flower clip- Anthropologie

What to do then?  Do I abandon the LBD altogether?  My personal LBD solution is to buy one that has a bit of a neutral pattern going on, so it becomes an LBPD (Little Black Patterned Dress).  It’s still a blank slate, just more interesting.  But I don’t just call it good there; I add more.  It’s like the white box challenge for the HGTV Design star….build on it.  Add layers of interest with color, texture, and razzle-dazzle (or shine), as Stacey and Clinton (gods of What not to Wear) have shouted again and again.   If you walk into a cupcake shop, do you buy a plain chocolate (or plain vanilla) cupcake without any frosting?  I bet you my in-utero baby that answer’s a ‘no’.  Of course you don’t!  Why? Because that would be boring. And you deserve better than boring.  You add to it, choosing your favorite flavor, perhaps a colored frosting, toppings…making it ultimately more delicious and interesting to your taste buds, in other words, more YOU.  Dressing your body deserves the same consideration as your taste buds.  Don’t you think?

My personal advice is if you happen to own a great LBD with a flattering shape, that’s good quality, doesn’t reveal too much of what your mama gave you, and has proven versatility,  I would keep it….but only if you could spit and shake on a promise to gussy it up and show you know you’re better than a plain cupcake. :)

What’s your solution to the LBD?  Do you own one? Has it proven it’s versatility by being styled differently each time you wear it?  Or do you have an LCD (little colorfied dress) that stands in for more “formal” functions instead of black?  Or, do you subscribe to the LBPD line of thought?

xoxo Molly



Filed under Fashion, OOTD, Queen of Your Closet

21 Responses to Queen of Your Closet Series: How to un-borrify the LBD

  1. Un-borrify – great new word Molly Hansen!

  2. LaSirena

    I own one LBD and honestly, I kinda hate it. It's boring and I think I bought it for a funeral. I prefer grey to black. I probably own about 20 dresses and they are all full of color and pattern. Boo to black.

  3. bri

    I have two. One I haven't worn in more than a year. One I have NEVER worn, except to use as a base for an 80s dress up day. I will probably not get rid of them because you never know, but yeah, I am with you on the boring factor.

  4. Andrea

    Oh honey, I am right there with you. Black is so boring to me! I could never walk into a store when shopping for something more formal and pick up a black item in a sea of color! I love color! I crave color! I have creative color urges! So I don't own an LBD. I do have a full-skirted, 1950s, Betty Draper-esque brown sateen tea length dress that i will pair with vintagey jewelry and interesting heels for special occasions. The last wedding I went to, I wore the Across the Land dress in the original navy with cream and coral polka dots with yellow flower stud earrings. I LOVE that dress.

  5. april

    I have never owned a LBD, and I never intend to! I don't see the point (just maybe to a funeral?). I love colors and patterns! And if the event calls for something a little more understated, I say go for a different neutral like dark grey or navy blue.

  6. rachel

    I totally agree with you! I can’t bring myself to buy a LBD. It’s boring. If you only have one dress in your closet, then yes, maybe it should be a LBD, but not many of us reading your blog only have one dress. I always pick colour and print over boring plain black any day. Thanks for articulating what I’ve been feeling!

  7. I have two "little dresses" for formal events: on is cobalt blue, and one is royal purple. :) I don't do black!

    For anything more casual, I can hardly ever bring myself to buy something without a print (oh how I love a print!) and if I do, I end up stuffing so much color into my ensemble that it more than makes up for it.

    Example: http://real-redhead.blogspot.com/2010/12/all-dres

  8. I am with you on the LBD. I had one black wrap dress, but it is long gone. I prefer color. I really love the way you accessorized your dress. I love the flower in your hair, too. You haircut is so cute!!! Have you always worn it short? I am trying to grow mine out long, but everytime I see your hair I want to get mine cut just like it.

  9. I own a LBD, but never reach for it. Not to be morbid, but I've only worn it to funerals in the past few years. Now that I've moved past the wedding phase and deep into my family phase, I love the opportunity to dress up and incorporate color into my wardrobe at more formal occasions. I love the LBPD option! I bought the Overwhelmed Aster dress a month ago and can't wait to wear it to my next wedding…next March. LOL.

  10. My only true "LBD" dress is the black Dreamy Drape dress from Anthro. I don't reach for it often, but when I do, it's either with a ton of bling-y bright accessories … or just by itself in the summer with flats or (when I'm lazy) flip flops and with my hair pulled back during the day for a fresh look. I agree that the LBD is a bit of a cop-out! Love how you've styled this LBPD – amazing! :)

  11. Bluehen

    Totally agree on the LBD. I have a black dress I wore to a formal occasion, but only when I was very pregnant and it was paired with a suit jacket and lots of jewelry. I do own a Bailey 44 black maxi skirt, but it has shine to it and I love it with lots of color in terms of top and jewelry.

  12. I haven't bought a LBD in a LOOOOOONG time, which tells you just how much i need and want yet another one. In my early twenties, I used to reach for my LBD constantly! Also, black is considered an unlucky colour in our culture – i can't wear black in front of my grandmothers. I do like the LBPD though, especially ones with a dot pattern – kind of like yours! You look marvellous

  13. I remember buying an LBD because you know, I thought it was a staple that every woman had to own. A year later it ended up on the donation pile. I do have a couple of LBDs but they each have something going on and can be worn in multiple occasions. And I like it that way. With the donated dress, it just kept hanging there, waiting for an event to go to, and that time never came because it's more colorful sisters took the stage!! ha

  14. ha…it's funny, I had an evening wedding to attend last summer, and my one LBD was actually kinda exciting for me, as a totally different look from my dressy everyday of patterns and colours and big skirts! I was trying to find something special to wear, and it somehow jumped out as a totally different thing. I guess I probably looked dull to everyone else though! I wore a long cream scarf that draped down my back to give it some contrast and drama I guess…

  15. I couldn't agree with you more! The one color that my closet is lacking in is black! I do own one LBD but have worn it once…4 years ago. Maybe it's time to say goodbye. Everytime I'm faced with the choice between black and a color I automatically choose the color…it's just more me! I also think my fair skin and lighter hair looks blah next to a sea of black so I avoid it a lot of the time for that reason too. I don't have one particular go-to dress for special occasions…I usually take the opportunity to go get something new if I have a wedding to go to or what not.

  16. Michelle

    I have lots and lots of dresses, but I will always hang on to my classic black dresses, too. I am much more into color than I was even just 5 years ago — but a kick butt figure flattering (form fitting, but not revealing) black dress can be hawt :) I totally agree — it can be so fun to add pops of color with jewelery and shoes depending in what look you're going for. I love how you styled your black dress!

  17. KL

    I have a few LBDs–and skirts, too–but they mostly got worn to band concerts. “Concert black” means blending in is the point! I do look good in black, but it’s simultaneously striking and depressing because my hair is also black and usually so are my heels. For formal occasions, I definitely prefer color and pattern. Had to restrain myself from buying the Overwhelmed Aster Dress recently, though, because I have no weddings to attend and I can’t imagine wearing a dress with a crinoline around campus.

  18. Couldn't agree with you more. I bought a lot of black dresses as a teen and in college because I was brainwashed by fashion mags into needing them and was mainly concerned with what might be perceived as most "flattering" or "slimming." Nowadays I just couldn't care less about 'em and they sit abandoned in my closet. I have a few jersey ones I like to pull out from time to time, but I always treat them as a blank canvas to showcase exciting statement accessories against, like graphic tights or bold cardigans. I think you are totally right about LBDs being a cliche. At one point they made a statement in their stark simplicity. They've become way too pervasive though and lost their impact. But color never loses its impact IMO :)

  19. Lauren S.

    Love this post! I've read my fair share of fashion books, and I admit to feel a major nod-off coming on when I get to the LBD chapter. Truth is, I don't have one. After my goth phase in college, I pretty much excised all my black clothing from my closet. Why? Because black just doesn't look good on me. Plus, I have two cats. I'd like to spend my days doing something other than reaching for a lint brush.

    I do have a lovely Shabby Apple black-with-white-polka-dots dress (the Jacob's Pillow for those who are curious). I just got it because I needed a basic go-to piece but didn't want a boring old LBD.

    Love your ensemble! Very inspiring.

  20. I don't know how these connections to your posts keep cropping up. Last week it was your styling post that included the Sugared Dress with my long lost Navy shoes. I should have told you long ago I was looking for the perfect Navy Shoe. You could have just shot me an email the day you discovered the Lake and Land Heels and told me you found them.

    Your entire post is the reason I stalled so long on Navy Shoes. I have always considered Navy, Black and Grey as non colors. Paying good money for clothing in those colors feels about as uninspiring as paying a household bill. Not fun!

    And why do I mention this post. I finally broke down and bought an LBD last night. If it hadn't been marked down from $300 to $60, I would have never been able to bring myself to use my precious Anthro Bucks.

    May the color-phile in me never die.

    I love how you so expertly add the little details of color to spice up this dress that can hardly be classified in the LBD catagory. And it looks adorable covering the LBB (little baby boy)

    I will be taking cues from you as I plot to unborify my LBD by Eva Franco.

  21. I love wearing color, but I love my LBDs, too. To me, a great LBD is all about cut and fit and fabric(and I am completely with you on the too-much-cleavage-too-much-leg problem). It's a palette to make *me* shine, rather than what I'm wearing.

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