How to Dress Up That Little Black Dress

Three Methods:Pick the Right Dress for the Right OccasionAccessorizeDon't Forget Makeup

A style essential introduced by Coco Chanel in the 1920s,[1] the classic little black dress can go a very long way. It can move you seamlessly from the office to a party - all with the addition or removal of the right accessories and complementary clothing. But in a world where many women are relying on their little black dress to beautify their wardrobe and make them look fantastic, it can be hard to stand out among all the other little black dresses. Here are some suggestions for dressing up your little black dress so that you stand out from the crowd.

Method 1
Pick the Right Dress for the Right Occasion

  1. 1
    Start with the right little black dress. Not all little black dresses are equal; some have more style and suitability than others. When choosing a little black dress, keep the following things in mind:
    • Daywear for parties, lunches, and events: Wear a fitted black shift dress, with a slashed neckline. Avoid anything that clings to the body and lean towards dresses that skim your body contours. The length should drop just below the knee. This is suitable for the office as well.[2] For office wear, softer fabrics look great in black.[3] And lightweight wool crepe is a good summer fabric if wearing a black dress.[4]
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    • Evening wear, incredible dates, and amazing events: This dress can be slinkier and yet should remain well-shaped. Look for a ruched black dress with straps, close-fitting but in fabric that conceals all, and with a heart-shaped bodice. The length should end on the knee. [5]
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    • Casual: A black wrap-around silk jersey, a black linen shirt, and the forgiving stretchy black dress are all suitable for less formal events and home wear.[6]
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    • Trendy for Teenagers: For the younger ones who want to wear a LBD (little black dress) with a twist, try making it funky by pairing it up with kitsch jewelry with matching bright nail polish (like bubblegum pink or turquoise) and maybe even bright tights to go with it!
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    • Spend a reasonable amount on your little black dress. It's one wardrobe item that you're unlikely to give away.[7]
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    Wear the dress rather than letting the dress wear you. Black is the ultimate classic color and the easiest to work with, and if you can wear it well, you can't go wrong. However, black doesn't suit everyone. For example, it can drain pale skin tones or it can simply make some people feel too somber and dour.[8] However, this doesn't mean you should avoid little black dresses.
    • If black doesn't suit you, be sure to keep the dress as far from your face as possible (such as using a plunging or deeply rounded neckline and straps instead of sleeves).[9] That way, it won't drain the color from your face but you can still benefit from the elegance, simplicity, and backdrop of wearing black.

Method 2

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    Add pantyhose. Pantyhose evens out your skin tone on your legs and provide the finishing touch to the look. For evening wear, sheer black or gray tinted pantyhose are an excellent choice. Colored tights could also work with a black dress provided the color matches with other accessories and is right for your age and skin tone.
    • For winter wear, remember that legs tend to look longer when the shoes and tights color match.[10]
  2. 2
    Choose the right shoes. Dressing up the little black dress with shoes is a significant part of the look because the shoes can provide contrasting color or style to the dress. Shoes worn with the little black dress should be of very good to excellent quality because they are a feature piece and people's eyes will be drawn to them with your black dress backdrop.
    • Try plain black and unadorned flats for a casual look suitable for the office or an informal event. Chanel-style slingbacks are also good additions for daywear.
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    • Classic evening shoes that go well with a little black dress include ballet slipper flats, single-strap slingback sandals, or pumps.
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    • Wear a bright color, such as red high-heeled pumps, to add a bit of excitement.
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  3. 3
    Use jewelry to brighten up the little black dress. The little black dress provides a magnificent backdrop for showing off your favorite jewelry pieces.
    • Additions that work well include a necklace that fits the neckline style of the dress, a brooch pinned in a cute spot, or an updo with daring earrings. The list is really endless as far as combos go!
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    • A little bit of sparkle with costume jewelry can go a long way and is perfect for evening wear.
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    • If you're in the possession of diamond necklaces, brooches, and other jewelry pieces, use the dark backdrop to let the diamonds shine their best.
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    • Wear pearls. If it's a shift-style dress, pearls with white satin gloves and round-toed pumps make for an adorable look, à la romantic Audrey Hepburn. Don't wear pointed pumps though, as these are too fierce for such a soft and retro look.
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    Add a belt to the black dress. Provided the style of the dress can handle the addition of a belt, it can provide a very emphatic contrasting feature on your little black dress.
    • Select a belt for color, texture, glamor, or pattern. The only concern is to ensure that it fits well with the dress as a whole – check the complete look in the mirror.
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    Add a scarf. If you like wearing scarves, this can make a lovely addition to a black dress. Select a print or pattern that matches with the other additions to the dress and ensure that the scarf is of high quality, such as a silk scarf.
    • A silk wrap can make an elegant addition to a plain black dress. Try a very simple pair of black pumps, preferably rounded and a pair of chandelier earring with a Dupioni silk wrap. The chandelier earrings and Dupioni silk wraps look great when matching and a warm color.
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    If you don't mind wearing gloves, they can really dress up the little black dress. White gloves for the daytime and black gloves for the evening can work wonders.
  7. 7
    Select a suitable bag. Again, the bag is going to get noticed because the black serves as a backdrop to anything you're holding, so make sure the bag is treated as part of the overall fashion look. The bag doesn't have to match the shoes or other accessories but it should blend well with the color scheme.
    • A small clutch bag is a lovely, discreet look. Try a dazzling or sparkling color to dress it up for the evening.
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    • A handbag should be good quality and clean.
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    • A larger bag can work for casual wear, provided it's in excellent, clean condition.
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    Add headwear and hair accessories to the list of possible dress-ups for the little black dress. A well placed hat can be suitable for special events such as race meetings, royal events, and very warm days.
    • An astutely placed hair bow, floral item, bejeweled hair piece, or simple ribbons can go a long way to making a lovely statement with the little black dress.

Method 3
Don't Forget Makeup

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    Match your makeup. With a black dress, all your accessories should have a color theme. The same goes for your makeup. Make sure your nail polish, eye shadow, and lipstick match your wardrobe.
    • As an alternative, just ensure that your makeup highlights the best features of your face and gives life to your entire look.


  • A bright red lip looks fabulous with a little black dress. Just remember to keep the eyes minimal and avoid blush as it may look "clownish".
  • Try wedge boots, a blazer, bandana style scarf and 15 denier sheer tights with a classy updo, choux bun or braid for an office party. You could team this look with elbow silk black gloves and pearls for a special event.
  • Remember, it's a little black dress. If you cover much of the rest of yourself in black the overall look may be gloomy.
  • Don't be afraid to layer with your dress. Cardigans are a simple and classic addition, and you can get them in all different cuts- baggy, cropped, or fitted. Same goes for jackets and blazers.
  • Change into a different pair of shoes to change the look.
  • Try some plum-colored makeup as well. Purple and black go together excellently.
  • Wear the little black dress with tights in autumn/fall and winter for warmth or even a bit of color.
  • A lint brush is your best friend! If you don't have one, buy one or try to keep your dress really clean and free from pet hair or lint.
  • Famous women who have made the most of the black dress include Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Rene Russo, and Ann Margaret.[11] Do an online search for images of actresses and other famous women in black dresses to find out which styles you'd like to emulate with your own black dress.
  • Always keep your little black dress clean and ironed. Dry cleaning, or a synthetic little black dress, is a smart option.
  • For a casual look, put your dress under a tight black skirt, teamed with ankle boots and tights, and perhaps a leather jacket.
  • There are many benefits to wearing black. For instance, transitioning from day to night is a snap. Black clothing also conceals dirty better. And finally: the less conspicuous nature of black means that you can wear it more often than other colors.[12] In addition, it can look expensive even when the dress or other item isn't, it looks slimming, hides tailoring imperfections, and it tends to always be available on store racks.[13]


  • Don't wear heels that are too high if you're attending a standing event; you'll pay for such a choice with very sore legs and be tempted to slouch.
  • Don't over accessorize. All of the above ideas should be plenty for any outfit.
  • The fit of the dress is everything since it is so plain... imperfections will stick out more if the dress is too tight or too loose, so take caution and only buy and wear things that will fit you.

Things You'll Need

  • Little black dress
  • Accessories
  • Handbag or a purse
  • Shoes
  • Pantyhose, tights
  • Smile

Sources and Citations

  1. Kim Johnson Gross, Jeff Stone, Rachel Urquhart, Chic Simple: Women's Wardrobe, p. 157, (1995), ISBN 0-500-01681-X
  2. Karen Homer, Things a Woman Should Know about Style, pp. 94-95, (2003), ISBN 1-85375-519-2
  3. Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, What not to wear for every occasion, Part 2, p. 37, (2003), ISBN 0-297-84355-9
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