No need here to extol the virtues of the little black dress – many a distinguished pen has done it before me. But this winter many designers, knowing only too well why women are so devoted to LBDs, have injected a pinch of pizzazz – with lace, embroidery, colour, beading – refreshing the genre and making it even more desirable.
LBDs, of course, come in many guises – sexy, austere, glamorous, triumphant (who can forget Princess Diana’s black Christina Stambolian number, the best-ever “revenge” dress, that she wore to the Serpentine Gallery not long after Prince Charles was interviewed about his infidelity on television). This autumn, Valentino and Alexander McQueen have taken the ladylike route. McQueen’s version (£1,355, first picture) is made from scuba wool, has a white Peter Pan collar and white cuffs tied with satin ribbon bows, while Valentino’s high-necked, long-sleeved lace dress (£6,075, second picture) is both demure and sexy over a silk shirt (£690) with the collar and cuffs peeking through. Paired with white plimsolls, it looks much cooler than when worn with a heel.
Simone Rocha homes in on drama with a sleeveless wool dress (£2,100, fourth picture) with a neckline embellished with beads and voluminous skirt that calls to mind cropped versions of Spanish infantas’ dresses in old court portraits. Much less dramatic and more wearable is her feminine take on the shirtdress in sheer tulle with embroidered floral motifs and a crocheted collars and cuffs (£1,545).
At Nina Ricci, creative director Peter Copping has given lace a slightly bohemian riff, using it in patchwork pieces with an asymmetrical pleat (£2,540). Most ravishing of all, in my view, are Erdem’s two sleeveless styles, one of which has bands of beading at the neck, waist and hem, and beautiful embellishments on the bodice and skirt (£2,785), while the other is a ravishing lace number with both the yoke and bottom half of the skirt adorned with white and burgundy flowers (£1,930, third picture). Equally lovely yet less decorated is a long-sleeved dress with a guipure-lace top and skirt and a flattering velvet band at the waist (£1,680).