How to Style a Little Black Dress



How to Style a
Little Black Dress

Because every girl’s got one in the closet...

Or two. Or three. Men have written odes to it and women have sung its praises. “When you think happiness, I hope you think that Little Black Dress,” crooned Taylor Swift in her first single release.

Whether short sleeve or strapless in summer, or long sleeve and warm in winter, the perfect little black dress transitions from daywear to evening wear in a heartbeat. It is simple, yet sophisticated. It’s difficult to go really wrong when accessorizing a little black dress, at the same time, when you’ve nailed it, it can be oh so very right.

So Lets Talk Color

So, let’s talk color...

Styling Your Little Black Dress:

Six Do's and A Don’t

The basic concept behind pairing colors with the LBD is that it is a neutral palette that shows off almost anything placed against it. Although this leads to maximum styling flexibility, there are still some guidelines that can help you to make the most of your look.

1st Do

Do: Consider adding a single pop of color

If you have a statement piece that is a single bold color, pairing it with your LBD can be a match made in heaven. Because your dress is a neutral palette, anything bold placed against will stand out. The eye is naturally drawn to color and black will recede into the background.


This could mean anything from lime green pumps to a turquoise necklace to a to-die-for pink handbag. Check your shoe rack or accessory drawer. Most of us have a piece we fell in love with, bought on the spot, and then never used because it was just way to “out there.” Pairing it with your LBD not only makes it pop, it also makes it more chic - think less weird, more wow.

Do: Choose wisely when adding more than one color

Just because you can pair almost any colored accessory with your little back dress, does not mean that all accessories that go with your LBD go with each other. You still want to choose accessories that tell a color story together.

In “Choosing the Right Color Shoes to Rock Your Dress” [link title to article], we introduced the concept of the color wheel. The guidelines that held true there, hold true here. Choose complimentary colors, or different shades and tints of the same color.

Do: Pair black with white

White is considered the opposite of black, although in truth they are both neutrals. Pairing white with black, echoes the color palette of a men’s tuxedo, and is the ultimate in chic. It also transitions well from day to night.


Do: Pair black with red lips

The old rules used to say that luscious red lips were too strong a statement for daytime. We say hogwash. A black dress pairs beautifully with red lips, any time of the day.

Bud do know this. As we noted before, black is neutral and any bold color will stand out particularly strong against it. People won’t be able to take their eyes off your bold red lips (especially with just a hint of ultra-shiny gloss), and that may be exactly the look you were going for.

Do: Watch out for black/orange and black/yellow pairings

Do: Watch out for black/orange and black/yellow pairings

how to style a little black dress - watch out for dangerous pairingsSome pairings come with cultural baggage, whether we like it or not. They trigger impressions that may be completely independent of what we are actually seeing. Forest green plus true red just screams Christmas, whether it’s December of June.

Two color pairing challenges arise with our LBD. Black next to yellow evokes images of highway warning signs and few women want “slow” to be an overriding impression. Black paired with orange wanders quickly into Halloween pumpkin territory.

The solution for both is simple. In each case the primary color in the cultural reference is the non-black color – signs are mostly yellow, pumpkins are mostly orange. If you want to pair your little black dress with yellow or orange, feel free to do so, just don’t overdo it. Instead of a yellow or orange coat, opt for a yellow or orange clutch or broche. Choose a single colored piece rather than an entire set of yellow or black accessories.

Do: Pair black with browns or navys

Do: Pair black with browns or navys

Once thought of as a fashion faux pas, pairing black with a warm brown or a true navy is now seen as high fashion, with the brown/black pairing particularly ubiquitous in 2012. The key here? Choose shades of brown or navy that are clearly discernable as different than the black of your dress.

Navy or brown with black tend to offer more of a subdued daytime look due to the relatively low-contrast of the color pairing. They can be particularly perfect when you want to wear your LBD from day to night. Where your black and brown or black and blue during the day, and when the sun goes down, switch out your accessories for bolder colors and no one will even remember it was the same dress.

And One Don’t: Match Blacks

It is extremely difficult, almost impossible, to match blacks that were not produced together. Even if you think you’ve got a perfect match, it likely will last only through a single wash or dry cleaning at which point the two will start to diverge. And the reality is that you probably don’t actually have the match that you think you do. Different people’s eyes perceive colors slightly differently, with one picking up the blue undertones and another the brown undertones in seemingly similar blacks.


To stay safe? Avoid black on black, or even very dark blues or very dark browns that may be mistaken for black in certain lights. Then again, who wants to play it safe? Wear what makes you feel fabulous!

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