The High WASP woman loves nothing so dearly as her little black dress. Think about it. Although the industry tries, i.e. Boyfriend Jeans and White Shirts, only the little black dress is spoken of in code. The LBD. “What are you wearing?” we ask. “My LBD,” we answer.
Little black dresses are, by the laws of physics, appropriate. That’s the point. For whatever reason, I do not know the science behind it, black reads like absence of color. That’s right. You can wear black without making any kind of color statement at all. Like buying IBM, back in the day. Can’t go wrong. Little black dresses absolve us of the responsibility of figuring out dress code. Of understanding our color profile. An enormous relief.
With the social contract resolved, you are free to find a little black dress that looks good. On you. You can optimize for your self, and nothing else. Good upper arms? Broad shoulders? Long legs of pleasing shape? Whatever you smile about when you look into the mirror? Play it up.
Oh, I know some like to insist we must fret over the relative au courant-ness of our little black dresses. But I believe, and will stand behind my statement, if you find the right LBD, good fabric, good fit, good design, suited to your personal geometry, you can wear it nigh unto forever. Until threads pop out of the weave. Until what was shiny becomes dull, what dull, shiny. (How do I know? Guess. You are probably right.)
Little black dresses can also allow for self-expression. If you go for that sort of thing. If you don’t spend your life trying simply not to make a mistake. If your greatest dream is not to avoid turning the corner of a hotel hallway, seeing into the ballroom from afar, and realizing instantly that they are feathered and you only gabardine.
For you, you lucky souls, self-expression is possible.
Let’s look at High WASP archetypes as example. (For no good reason. You and your culture have your own icons. Or you share mine. Doesn’t matter. This is for the sake of explication, deconstruction. The answer is not the answer; we are only modeling a process.)
The Sturdy Gal
She wears her LBD to the Garden Center Board dinner. Pulls out the family pearls. Vaguely annoyed by the frivolous supporting diamonds, but not enough to go shopping. She dreads shopping. If her sister doesn’t call to check, she will wear her flats, even though, being leather, they are unsuitable. Caught, she will bow her head and wear satin pumps. No heels over 2 inches, however, no matter what gets said. Or by whom. Leopard cardigan, matching clutch. Who says sturdy limits our fun?
The Artsy Cousin
The perfect chance to untangle all her Indian jewelry and hang it from ears and neck. Even if the little black dress is something her mother gave her. And the jewels might have been affixed to her clutch in some non-righteous workshop. But it’s all for a good cause. Many things are burning in this world.
The Grande Dame
She may mutter under her breath about the demise of long dresses on the West Coast for anything except Opening Night at the Opera. Or Hollywood rigamarole. “These awards,” she might say. “Good lord, when will they stop with all these awards? The next thing you know we will be awarding people for taking out the garbage.” I digress. The Grande Dame wears bling. She finds it appalling, that term, bling. But, in the language of the day, it’s bling. And the Grande Dame, who likes to shop, who has a personal shopper at Saks, and another one at that boutique (you know the one), she wears au courant shoes. Nude shoes. Take that Vanessa Williams, Chloe Sevigne, Sienna Miller. Ha! For the Grande Dame, the little black dress is only a starting place. But, fortunately or unfortunately, her deeply ingrained culture will constrain her to the world of the appropriate. Nude shoes, diamonds, outre jackets, and all.