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Death To the Little Black Dress | Manolo for the Big Girl

Death To the Little Black Dress

Greetings all.

Twistie here. As of today, I’ll be taking on the task of filling your weekends with super-sized superfantasticness. It is my fond hope that I’ll be able to keep up with the fabulous Francesca and the delectable Plumcake in serving the needs of the larger fashionista.

I’m short. I’m fat. My feet are shaped like cubes. I am concentrated. There’s a lot of me packed into 5’2”. I have opinions and find them to be very true. I’m curious. I’m interested in the world around me. I’m comfortable in my own skin at long last in my mid forties. The child in me has never completely grown up, and I’d hate to think she ever would. I will do my best to share with you good advice, interesting facts and trivia, my quirky humor, and the beauty that is waiting to be seen in your own mirror.

Wherever you stand on the path to superfantasticness, I hope you will find my thoughts of help to you in your journey…or at least worth a good think.

And so, with no further ado, let’s get on with the show!

If there is one fashion perennial I truly hate, it is the ‘little black dress.’ Don’t get me wrong; a really great black dress on a woman who looks superfantastic in it is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. I have every confidence that when Plumcake speaks of her ‘little black dresses,’ they are indeed fabulous and flattering pieces of clothing worn with all the awesomeness she carries into everything she says and does. What I object to so is the concept of the black dress that is ‘never inappropriate’ and is ‘slimming’ to the wearer.

Contrary to popular myth, not every woman looks her best in black. There are women who look like they should have been buried a week ago if they try to wear black. Even among those of us who look good in black, there are only a few who look exceptionally great in it. The vast majority of us actually look a great deal better in some other color.

As for slimming, cut and fit are a lot more important in minimizing what needs minimizing and making the most of what deserves to be maximized. While bright or pale colors make objects look larger than dark colors do, the right seam hitting the correct line will do a better job of drawing the eye away from a problematic figure feature. If the dress doesn’t fit properly or is cut for the wrong body type, it won’t make you look slimmer, no matter what color it is. A black sack of potatoes is no more aesthetically pleasing than a pink sack of potatoes.

And while black doesn’t make your waist look much smaller, on the wrong woman it can cause a condition that is the antithesis of superfantasticness: invisibility.

Why aim for ‘not inappropriate’ when you can reach for ‘exquisite?’ Why become invisible when you can shine? Don’t reach for black because it’s safe. Be brave and find the colors that make your skin glow and your eyes sparkle. There’s a whole rainbow out there. Try it on and see what colors make you honestly look your best.

Leave the black for funerals, goth clubs and stage hands. Those are the only reasons to wear black unless it’s the color that makes you superfantastic.

18 Responses to “Death To the Little Black Dress”

  1. Fenny September 1, 2007 at 12:25 pm #

    Yay! Great to see you doing your stuff.

    Totally with you on the whole black thing – not that I tend to wear many dresses, little, black or otherwise. I much prefer to make my own dresses when I do have to wear one, as at least I get to decide on the style and colour, rather than having to make do with the vagaries of current fashion. I’ve got a whole pile of yummy fabric upstairs, but I seem to have mislaid my sewing machine!

  2. ELS September 1, 2007 at 12:27 pm #

    Bravo!!

    Welcome, Twistie. Good to have you on board.

  3. JaneC September 1, 2007 at 1:35 pm #

    I love my very simple little black dress, but I almost always wear it with a fabulous scarf or shawl. You are guaranteed not to be invisible when a slash of rich red drapes across your body, or a the green and yellow floral pattern of a Russian shawl envelopes your shoulders. But I am aware that green and the right shades of red do more for my complexion than black–hence the accessories in that color, placed strategically near my face.

  4. Linda Grant September 1, 2007 at 2:36 pm #

    I have written on this very subject

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1570305,00.html

  5. Twistie September 1, 2007 at 3:34 pm #

    Linda: you are singing my song! Black is fine, black can be beautiful…but it isn’t what makes all of us beautiful. I look nice in black, but I have stopped traffic in cherry red and in purple. Right now I’m wearing a simple turquoise tank top that always seems to make people ask what I’ve been doing that’s making me glow. It’ just a case of wearing the right color for my coloring.

    JaneC: I hope you’ll run right out and get a gorgeous red or green dress that doesn’t need a scarf to show off your fabulousness…not that I in any way object to a terrific Russian shawl! I love a good Russian shawl as much as I love Tolstoy, and black is a terrific background for them. But sometimes it’s fun to be fantastic without a shawl or scarf.

  6. Plumcake September 1, 2007 at 6:42 pm #

    INFIDELS!

    Although to be fair, Twistie is right. Not everyone looks their best in black. I look amazing in black as do most girls with “Winter” coloring, which is why I have an entire walk-in devoted to black dresses. However, a girlfriend of mine with fair freckled skin and red hair who is glorious in green and perfection in pink looks like hot buttered hell in black.

    I’ll admit I have little tolerance for imperfection in a dress, so I’m infinitely less forgiving than many of you might be, but to me, the danger of a brightly colored dress is that it must be cut flawlessly and out of the very best material or else it looks cheap. If someone notices my dress –regardless of color– before they notice me, I’d consider that a failure.

    One is reminded of Coco Chanel (who released the idea of the LBD on the world in 1937 I believe). “Dress shabbily and they notice the dress; dress impeccably and they notice the woman”

    Welcome aboard Twistie!

  7. Christina September 2, 2007 at 12:06 am #

    Yay! A shout out to stage hands! I have to wear black all the time because I’m a stage hand (not my color at all), but I’m supposed to be invisible. Anyway, welcome.

  8. loretta September 2, 2007 at 1:58 am #

    The right seam and the right line and properly structured etc is all very well as an ideal, but it’s a nearly unattainable goal in the mass market, i.e. short of having the item made for you. There’s too much variation in bodies. This is a problem for all women shopping the mass market, obviously, but it’s a worse problem at higher sizes than at lower. Fashion-thin people can do the structured and perfect lines and so forth, at least if they take any trouble at all to look for the designers that work for them, because the range of body shapes that fit into a size 2 or 4 at average height — while it is a range — is one hell of a lot smaller than the much more extensive range of body shapes that fit into a 14 or a 24.

    Doesn’t mean you can’t find the occasional dress in a terrific color and a good material that fits flatteringly. But unless you are built more or less like a larger version of the fashionable silhouette — you know, pretty straight up and down: B cup, waist only moderately defined and hips not much wider than waist — chances are that dress is not going to be a work of fashion genius in a highly structured style that makes you want to wax eloquent over the lines of it.

    Not that I’m bitter.

  9. Constance Kent September 2, 2007 at 3:48 am #

    Food for thought! I am afraid I have often fallen into the trap of going black with the idea it is the color of elegance and simplicity, when truth be told, a deep chocolate brown or even navy is more flattering. I resolve to quit automatically choosing “black” by default.

  10. Linda Grant September 2, 2007 at 8:50 am #

    You do get a better fit with more expensive brands. Armani Collezioni go up to US size 16

  11. JaneC September 2, 2007 at 12:56 pm #

    Twistie, I do have a few red dresses, and one green one, but they are either day clothes or very formal–i.e. not suitable for the wine-and-cheese parties and concerts that I bring out the LBD for (and the scarves are not for dressing up the LBD as much as the LBD is the background for the scarves and shawls that I adore). Although, now that I’ve moved to Los Angeles, I’m usually overdressed if I’m wearing a dress at all–everyone else is in jeans, which makes me sad.

  12. Sara September 3, 2007 at 2:42 am #

    Black is not for everyone, this is true. Although, every woman should have a beautiful dress that is serviceable for many occasions through proper accessorization. I wonder if a great part of the LBD success is the relief of knowing you look great before you’ve even started decorating yourself.

    I, of the alabaster skin, dark hair, and giant green eyes, have close to ten LBDs–different cuts and fabrics and embelishments. The best among them feel like zipping myself into armor, so great is their beautifying power. It’s worth making the investment in something that’s well-made and nice, then making a further investment in having it tailored. There’s no way the effect Ms. Chanel had in mind is going to be realized in a $50 polyester crepe number straight off the rack.

  13. kalamari September 3, 2007 at 12:54 pm #

    I just recently bought my first little black dress. I feel superfantastic in it and got a really great compliment on how good I look in black. The black dress is versatile and can be dressed up or down. I think that is why it has become a wardrobe staple, although it is not for everyone.

  14. The Charlotte Allen September 3, 2007 at 5:40 pm #

    Twistie, you are so right on about black!

    Some people–brunettes–look absolutely fabulous in black. I, an ultra-fair-skinned, freckled, hazel-eyed strawberry blonde, look like I’m laid out. I could get away with black when I was 20–but those days will never come again.

    So I was quite distressed when I read an article today about Tim Gunn’s new fashion show on Bravo, including his list of clothing items every woman should own. One of those items was the “little black dress.” Oh no–what to do? (I worship Tim Gunn.) Your blog-post saved my sanity. Surely there are “black equivalents”–neutral shades such as navy, burgundy, camel, gray, brown–in which we black-o-phobics could find flattering, sophisticated, nicely cut “little” dresses to fill the LBD niche. You have pointed the way, and I’m forever grateful.

  15. Lexy September 4, 2007 at 12:36 pm #

    And another thing!

    Stop wearing black dresses to weddings. Not that any of you do that of course… but sing the gospel with me. No more LBD’s at weddings. It’s a celebration, try to look happy!

  16. La BellaDonna September 5, 2007 at 1:27 pm #

    No black dresses to weddings, no white dresses to weddings – although, curiously, black-and-white is just fine! I wear black 99% of the time during the day (I am a Person Of Pallor, with skin as white as snow, and hair as black as ebony, and lips as red as the rest of the story, and I look dandy in black. For the nighttime, however, I will, if at all possible, wear a colour; a nice, vivid, jewel-tone colour that flatters my skin and makes me easy to pick out of a crowd. One of the things I so dislike about the LBD for other women is that, if they’re not used to wearing black, they think any black garment is suitable for a festive occasion, and wind up in dresses of drab, null black, especially around the holidays, because they think that any black dress is a festive black dress – which is so, so far from the truth. I happen to love Festive Black – black with texture, depth, sparkle; black that shimmers, or rustles, or is beaded, embroidered, or spangled; silk or satin or velvet; wool crepe, wool gabardine, beautifully tailored; but those are all for the day. Night, and celebration, call for colour.