"You can wear black at any time," said Christian Dior in 1954. "You can wear it at any age. You may wear it for almost any occasion; a 'little black frock' is essential to a woman's wardrobe."

Dior's advice is particularly timely now, as the LBD was all over the autumn/winter catwalks, with film noir and femme-fatale inspired styles smouldering like a lit cigarette.

Strike the right balance between classic styles and next season's details, and you can buy a dress now that will look chic for years. Fresh motifs include large pattern lace – as seen at Prada, one-shoulder styles and draping at Lanvin and austere, moulded silhouettes at Balenciaga; while crisp ruffles and tiers still look modern.

For evening Reiss has a good selection of LBDs, including a strapless cocktail pencil dress with a frilled front, and Warehouse have a slinky jersey dress with one strap.

For the day a plain jersey dress in a slightly Grecian style (try Topshop) is a comfy, timeless option that provides the perfect foil to retro belts and chunky costume jewellery – next season's statement accessory.

In more practical terms, make sure you use a deodorant that doesn't leave white marks, choose a fabric that appears expensive, and look for garments that are lined – particularly in real silk. Approach dresses in high-shine satin with caution, as they can look unflattering and a bit cheap.

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