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Updated November 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best little black dresses

Women’s closets are filled with an assortment of garments for every possible occasion — from holidays and special events to running casual errands, women have an outfit for whatever comes their way. When it comes to dresses, the choices are endless, and buying a specific dress for every circumstance is not only exhausting but costly.

This is where the timeless classic “little black dress” proves its worth. A little black dress has become a staple for women’s wardrobes; it’s a simple go-to that can be limitlessly versatile. Little black dresses can be vintage and elegant or sassy and bold, and with the right accessories, they can be worn nearly anywhere.

Finding the perfect little black dress is an easy feat once you narrow down your preferences in terms of design, length, and material. In addition, learning about various styles and looks allows you to take full advantage of its adaptability, so you’ll be rocking your little black dress wherever life takes you.

Little black dress with accessories
Don’t be afraid to accessorize. Try adding a scarf, belt, hat, or other pieces to change up your look. Little black dresses are meant to be versatile, so experiment.

How to buy the best little black dress

What is a little black dress?

While there aren’t exact rules for what your little black dress needs to be, there are some features that embody the overall look. Little black dresses are usually simple in style and cut, designed as form-fitting evening or cocktail dresses that are shorter in length. They’re understated and classy, and they’re intended to be a staple garment that women can turn to for formal dinners or events.

The iconic “little black dress” has evolved into a flexible piece of attire, and though it originated in formal settings, little black dresses today can also be worn in more casual situations.

Material

Little black dresses are made from a large range of materials, and your choice is dictated by your environment and specific comfort needs. Some of the most common fabrics include cotton, polyester, rayon, cashmere, silk or satin, wool, chiffon, velvet, and lace.

There are many other fabrics that your little black dress may be constructed from, but cotton is one of the most affordable and readily available. The majority of dresses are made from some variation of cotton since it’s lightweight and breathable. 

Length

The little black dress is designed to be exactly as its name states: little. This means that it’s shorter in length, and there are really only two dress lengths that epitomize this style:

  • Midi: Midi dresses hit at the knee or just under – and sometimes, they reach the calf.  Midi dresses often fit the body quite tightly, but they may also be loose and flowy. Midi-length little black dresses are among the most popular because they’re more conservative and elegant, which was the initial objective of the little black dress.
  • Mini: Mini dresses are the shortest dresses, always falling over the knee – usually about halfway up the thigh. Mini dresses may be loose, tight, or even form-fitting. They’re more provocative and can set a sexy or sassy tone.

The length of your little black dress should make you feel comfortable. Whatever your desired look, choose a length that makes you feel confident and that you like the look of on your body. The length also affects which events you can wear your little black dress to, so keep that in mind when considering your length options.

Style

Here’s a look at the most popular little black dress styles.

  • A-line or babydoll: A-line/babydoll dresses are form-fitting at the waist and breast areas and flare at the hips and thighs. 
  • Bodycon: These are tight and form-fitting in the entire bodice and have very short sleeves or thin straps. They’re flattering and often slimming. 
  • Cami or tank: Cami dresses are basic in design with thin straps over the shoulders. They may be tight or loose-fitting.
  • Wrap: Wrap dresses have an adjustable waistline with a waist tie. They’re form-fitting at the breasts and waist and are known to be comfortable since they can be tightened or loosened as needed.

Bodycon and A-line dresses are the most common little black dress styles. They express the formal cocktail dress style, while wrap and cami dresses are more casual.

Little black dress on hanger
Staff Tip
Avoid drying your little black dress in the dryer. Instead, hang it to air dry in a room or area with reliable airflow.
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Features of little black dresses

Sleeves and straps

Little black dresses are small and use minimal material, and their sleeves follow this same style. Most little black dresses don’t have much in the way of sleeves, but sleeve styles are spaghetti straps or tie-strings, short sleeves, off-the-shoulder, one-shoulder, halter, strapless, three-quarter sleeves, and long sleeves.

Spaghetti straps, short sleeves, and halter straps are popular picks because they’re simple and comfortable. Three-quarter sleeves and long sleeves are common sleeve lengths for little black dresses with a midi length.

Neckline

The neckline of your little black dress refers to the cut of the hem at the neck, chest, and breasts. This plays a huge role in the style and breathability of your little black dress and affects the overall attitude. These are some popular necklines for little black dresses:

  • V-neck
  • Square neck
  • High-neck
  • Scoop neck
  • Plunging/deep V-neck
  • Halter/halter strap

Back design

While little black dresses may be minimalist, some have creative back designs that show a bit more skin and add a stylish accent. Some back designs you may want to consider include backless or deep V-back, high-back, strappy/criss-cross, or tie-back with a bow.

Dress lining

Some little black dresses are lined on the inside for comfort. The extra lining also helps conceal any undergarments that are worn. Though dresses with a lining cost more, the quality is usually higher. Dresses made from lace, satin, or silk often have interior linings. 

Embroidery, beading, and sequins

Some little black dresses are more sophisticated in their bodice style and are adorned with beads, sequins, or sparkles of another kind. These are more expensive than plain little black dresses, and their enhanced look makes them appropriate for evening and cocktail parties or holiday and themed events. 

You can have your little black dress professionally tailored if you find the hem is too long. 

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What to pair with your little black dress

Stiletto heels

Heels can take your little black dress from casual to formal in the blink of an eye. Stilettos in particular have an upscale look that many women prefer over more chunky heel styles.

Designer sunglasses

Nothing completes the look of your little black dress quite like a fashionable pair of shades. Grab your sunglasses whenever you’re hitting a happy hour or daytime event.

Shapewear

Due to the tight, form-fitting nature of some little black dresses, shapewear can be a lifesaver for those looking to attain a slim, smooth look. 

How much does a little black dress cost?

Inexpensive 

The most affordable little black dresses are found for $8 to $35. These are thin and made from the cheapest materials like rayon or cotton/polyester blends. They’re basic in design and likely have thin straps or short sleeves.

Mid-range

Mid-range little black dresses cost $40 to $85. They’re higher in quality and may include inner linings and sleeves with more material. Dresses in this price range may also sport creative back designs. 

Expensive

The priciest of these dresses may cost between $90 to $175. These are made from high-quality materials with reliable stitching. They may be found in boutiques and be handcrafted. Embroidered lace, sequins, and beaded dresses from well-known upscale brands fall within this price bracket. 

2-Woman wearing strappy, V-neck little black dress
Did You Know?
Some little black dresses can be worn backward or forward. If the front and back of your dress are different, switch it up by turning it around the next time you put it on and see if it works.
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Tips

  • Be thoughtful with your undergarments. Depending on the style, material, and cut of your little black dress, you’ll need a bra that offers support and stays out of sight. Black or nude bras, bralettes, and underwear are ideal for little black dresses. 
  • Hand wash or dry clean your little black dress. Check the tag along the interior for proper care and maintenance. Many dresses require washing by hand or with strictly cold water. When in doubt, dry cleaning your little black dress is always an option.
  • Dress it up with jewelry. A pendant, bracelet, or earrings can amplify your look with minimal effort. Don a string of pearls and a tiara if you’re feeling fancy.
Steaming little black dress
To remove any wrinkles from your little black dress before wearing it, use a steamer or iron. If you don’t have these on hand, you can hang your dress in the bathroom while showering — the natural steam may help reduce wrinkling.

FAQ

Q. What do you wear over a little black dress?

A. You can wear a cardigan, jacket, blazer, pashmina, or any other type of upper body cover-up you desire. Choose something that matches the ambiance of whatever event you’re attending, while taking the weather into account for your comfort.

Q. How do you style a little black dress in summer?

A. Wearing a pair of colorful heels or a floral kimono over your little black dress is a great way to create a summer look. You can also wear a jean jacket with casual sneakers for a more laid-back style.

Q. Where did the “little black dress” come from?

A. The little black dress emerged as a fashion statement in the 1920s when a style by Coco Chanel was featured on a magazine cover. It was further popularized by Audrey Hepburn’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s when she wore a black Givenchy dress with black gloves and pearls.

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