The Little Black Dress, known simply as the LBD, is getting an update with a capital L. The classic dress popularized by Coco Chanel back in the 1920s is now taking form as the little black leather dress.
The trend took off in 2011 when actress Jennifer Aniston created a sensation at a red carpet movie premier in a simple version. The sleek silhouette – coupled with the surprise of an all leather dress – was all it took to launch a look that’s filtered down to wardrobes across America.
At Monkee’s of Raleigh in North Hills shopping center, an all leather black dress by Susana Monaco with a girly flair skirt has been a big hit.
“The new leather dresses are cute – they’re not a biker girl look,” says owner Kristi Koren. “Its feminine silhouette appeals to a lot of different customers.”
Leather and knit
For fall 2013, the look has morphed into being part knit and part leather. Koren’s favorite in that style is a Rachel Zoe sleeveless drop waist dress with a leather skirt and leather collar.
Ginny Torreson-Berk, the New York City-based representative for Lafayette 148 New York, says the leather/knit combo is a more versatile, wearable alternative for many women. She says an all-leather dress can be difficult to alter and clean. The beauty of adding knit material is that it’s more wearable in warm months and is forgiving to the wearer’s figure, especially when the leather is used as inserts to visually trim the body and add waist definition. It all adds up to a style that’s more cross-generational.
“It makes young women feel sophisticated, and it makes older women feel youthful and trendy,” Torreson-Berk said.
The style is so popular almost every fashion line or store has jumped on the bandwagon.
From bargain retailers to those that sell fine womenswear, there are numerous LBLD options to choose from. Prices vary depending on whether it’s faux or real, how much leather is on the dress, and the quality of the materials and craftsmanship. Forever 21 has a version that’s $30; major department stores such as Belk have them in the $100-$200 range; higher end versions from boutiques and luxury stores are $250-$450 and up.
Wearing leather is a personal choice. If you go faux, Arlene Goldstein, vice president of trend merchandising and fashion direction for Belk, says the old term pleather (for synthetic leather), is out of fashion. The new term is “vegan leather,” and it’s not limited to bargain lines. Many high-end designers from Alexander McQueen to Stella McCartney are using quality vegan leather in place of the real deal.
Goldstein also recommends mixing leather with other wardrobe items to raise the cool quotient.
“Leather usually always works well with denim, or a leather trimmed top with a knit pencil skirt,” said Goldstein. “Even a cocktail dress with a leather jacket. Tender with tough is an awesome pairing for fall 2013.”
Accessorize your LBLD
Kristin Jackson of Neiman Marcus at SouthPark mall in Charlotte thinks the key to the LBLD is to find great quality dresses that will wear well and be easy to accessorize. She recommends taking your cue from the style and tone of the leather.
“I love a great animal print shoe or handbag with a leather dress,” she says. “Don’t hesitate to mix your prints for added interest.”
Experts expect the look will be around for seasons to come.
“Leather is a classic,” says Koren. “ It’s never going to go out of style. It’s a wise investment, something that you’ll keep in your closet and wear again and again.”
If the LBLD isn’t your style, Jackson says all women should think about incorporating leather – or vegan leather – into their wardrobe in some fashion. Her favorite is the leather biker jacket paired with a dress, pencil skirt or skinny pants.
“Think of the leather jacket as something that takes the place of a cardigan or blazer as a topper that can take you from day to night.”