It is a truth universally acknowledged that there is no wardrobe staple quite like the little black dress. The LBD, as it is fondly known, soared in popularity after Coco Chanel freed it from the shackles of the clergy in the mid-1920s, declaring it “a uniform for all women of taste”. Then in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Hollywood darling Audrey Hepburn gave a masterclass in pairing one with a statement necklace and updo.
Nowadays they’re everywhere, in all manner of styles, colours and textures – and rightly so. The LBD needn’t be boring. There’s a little black dress for every budget. That said, it’s easier to justify a splurge on something that’ll last you years. LBD's can be dressed up differently using colourful blazers, shoes and accessories, or dressed down with trainers, ankle boots and leather jackets.
Christmas party season is fast approaching, meaning it’s high time we went shopping for the best. It's all about the fit, so we’ve tried these on to gauge how true to our usual size they are. There are some pretty plus-size, petite and maternity options on this list, too. Some are suitable for going straight from the office to a sophisticated drinks do; others are sexier and designed for the dance floor. Enjoy strutting your stuff!
Zara Sequinned Fringe Dress: £39.99, Zara
Shake your tail feather in this fabulous fringed dress from our high street favourite, Spanish retailer Zara. Covered in bang-on-trend black and gold sequinned tassels that shake as you dance, it would look beautiful teamed with strappy heels, a nude lip and lashings of eyeliner. It’s loose-fitting for easy movement, so if in doubt go for the smaller size. Getting dressed is easy; just undo the top button at the back and slip it over your head.
It has a high neck at the front, a slight dip at the back and falls to just above the knee. Delicate black mesh sleeves emphasise the detailing. It’s comfy on and not at all tight around the middle, but expect it to feel a tad itchy under the arms – until you’re a couple of proseccos down, that is. If you’ve got a Great Gatsby-themed New Year’s Eve party in the diary, this dress is fit for a Daisy. Sizes XS-XL.
LK Bennett Eline Black Dress: £225, LK Bennett
This beautifully-made sheath dress is one of the most flattering on our roundup thanks to contouring seams that hug your silhouette. Designed by luxury high-street go-to LK Bennett, the material is stretchy enough to avoid being tight and uncomfortable. It’s a smart buy if you’re hunting for something classic that’ll never go out of fashion.
Its cut to mid-length, lined and has a subtle back zip for easy dressing. The cute cap sleeves, chic v-neckline and slight slit at the hem give it a conservative yet contemporary edge. LK Bennett’s fashion experts recommend leaving your necklace at home and letting the statement collar shine. It’s also available in navy and comes in a petite fit for women measuring 5’3” and under, too. Go for your usual size. Sizes 4-20.
H&M Velour Dress: £8.99, H&M
For a cheap and cheerful LBD, look no further than H&M. They have a huge range in store but our top pick is this velvety number that looks simple and stylish on. It falls mid-thigh, without being so short you fear to bend down, and is sleeveless so you won’t get too sweaty in the club. It pulls on easily without the need for a zip. The neckline is high at the front but plunging at the back, which looks sexy but means you’ll need a backless bra.
The skirt gently flares for fun spin factor when dancing. For less than a tenner, you can’t expect much from the unlined material, but it’s soft to touch. It comes up true to size and is also available in festive red and green. Sizes 4-18.
Adrianna Papell Ruffle Crepe Drape Dress: £112, House of Fraser
Go from desk to dinner in this upmarket sleeveless shift dress from New York womenswear brand Adrianna Papell. Made from a softly textured crepe, it features a chic popover bodice and a playful ruffle down the centre. It has broad straps, a silky lining and does up with a hidden back zip. It hangs at any office-appropriate knee-length and looks amazing with big stud earrings, strappy heels and an updo. It’s pricey enough to be high quality without breaking the bank, especially as you’ll wear it so often. Opt for the size that normally fits you best. Sizes 6-18.
Quiz Curve Black Bardot Knot Front Dress: £29.99, Debenhams
Designed for plus-size women, this alluringly feminine dress has a knotted front and off-the-shoulder Bardot neckline that draws the eye upwards and accentuates your bust. Its pretty dip hem that falls just below the knee and swooshes about as you dance. Simply pull it on over your head – it’s stretchy enough – and position the sweet short sleeves over your upper arms. It’ll look gorgeously glam teamed with statement dangly earrings and your favourite pair of party heels. This LBD is so fun to wear you won’t want to take it off, but luckily it also comes in deep berry and bottle green. Sizes 16-26.
Twinset Milano Mesh, Lace and Plumetis Dress: £172.86, Twinset Milano
Girls with a grungy edge to their romantic style will be besotted by this stunning mesh, lace and plumetis (a lightweight fabric woven with raised dots) dress from Italian clothing brand Twinset Milano, which opened its first UK store on the King’s Road this summer. The intricately-patterned lace cap sleeves are our highlight, though be careful not to catch them on anything! It’s a textural delight that falls mid-thigh, with a round neckline and non-itchy jersey lining.
It’ll more than hold its own as a party dress, but we also plan to wear ours in the day with a leather jacket and buckled ankle boots. If you want it in another colourway, buy the nude pink and light grey combo too. Plump for your usual size provided it’s within the limited range on offer. Sizes XXS-L (6-14).
Pretty Little Thing Black Asymmetric Strap Midi Dress: £18, Pretty Little Thing
For a dress that looks far more expensive than its budget price tag, look no further than this elegant little number from the online retailer of the moment, Pretty Little Thing (yes, the one all those Love Island stars are ambassadors for). Made from a figure-hugging stretchy fabric, it has one asymmetric shoulder strap and falls to just below the knee. It looks fabulous teamed with statement earrings and strappy gold heels.
Flaunt your best assets, particularly if they include your bum! It’s meant to fit tightly, so go for your usual size or one below. This is an LBD made for dressing to impress at a fashionable festive soirée. Sizes 4-16.
JoJo Maman Bébé Black Lace Maternity Swing Dress: £39.20, JoJo Maman Bébé
Being pregnant needn’t mean missing out on all the festive fun. Maternity wear retailer JoJo Maman Bébé knows that and stocks this party-ready swing dress with pretty lace sleeves and neckline. It’s been specially designed to make the most of your figure using a soft and stretchy jersey fabric that doesn’t cling to your bump. The optional tie allows you to define your waist to fit your changing shape over the course of nine months – and wear it afterwards, too.
It’s on the shorter side, falling mid-thigh, and does up with a back button keyhole fastening. The size you usually were pre-pregnancy should prove the best fit. Grab this while it’s in the sale. Sizes XS-L.
& Other Stories Frill Mini Dress: £69, & Other Stories
If you’re not one to cover up too demurely, this frill mini dress from high street hit & Other Stories will catch your eye. Its ruffled neckline lets everyone know you’re ready to party without being brash and the thin spaghetti straps let you show off your shoulders. It hides cleavage but there’s a cheeky side slit up one thigh. In case you’re worried about squeezing it on, there’s a hidden zip up the middle off the back and we found it true to size for a slim fit.
Designed in Los Angeles, this flirty mini will be a firm favourite both for Christmas dos and summer nights on holiday. It’s worth trying if you’re petite, too, though obviously, it’ll fall closer to the knee. Sizes 34-42.
Hobbs Harriet Dress: £149, Hobbs
For a touch of gothic glamour, try this delicate crêpe dress from understated British brand Hobbs. Its floaty, smocked bell sleeves look ethereal holding a glass of fizz It has a high neck at the front and back and falls to knee length. Consider choosing the next size down as it’s a loose-fitting tunic cut. It’s lined but bear in mind that the material is thin so you’ll need to wear a t-shirt bra underneath. The concealed zip runs all the way down the back so there won’t be any struggle to get it on.
It’s not at all clingy – a good choice for a Christmas dinner! – and feels lovely and cool to dance in. It’s smart enough for a professional meeting, too. Sizes 6-18.
Dorothy Perkins Billie & Blossom Curve Black Sequin Shift Dress: £32, Dorothy Perkins
It’s sequins at dawn with this party-starting sequin shift dress from the Billie & Blossom range at high street brand Dorothy Perkins. It has three-quarter length sleeves with sequined cuffs and will catch every shard of light the glitterball throws your way.
Simply slip it over your head and fasten the button at the top of the high back. Comfortable and liberating to wear, it falls at knee-length and requires little accessorising bar a pair of shiny heels and lick of red lipstick. Considering we can’t count all those sequins, it’s great value too. Sizes 18-28.
Peacocks Women's Envy Black Lace Racer Dress: £30, Peacocks
Fresh from the new Envy range at affordable clothing retailer Peacocks, this bold and glitzy dress will add sparkle to any Christmas celebration. It’s made from a lined, lacy black fabric adorned with sequins and has a racer neckline that flatters the bust. There’s a hidden zip down the back for slipping it on faff-free and once done up, it has a bodycon fit. If you’re planning on going out-out and don’t want to worry about spilling red wine down a luxury buy, this LBD is a strong contender. Simply add big hoop earrings and high heels and you’re ready. It also comes in bright cherry red. Sizes 8-18.
The Verdict: Best little black dresses
It’s tough to pick one winner from the above, but Zara’s Sequinned Fringe Dress ticks all our boxes when it comes to choosing a party dress that’ll stand out from the crowd, be enjoyable to wear and won’t make our bank balance cry. That said, if it’s a classic LBD you’re after, LK Bennett’s Eline Dress comes out on top but – it will set you back a fair bit more.
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