Accessorizing A Little Black Printed Dress



Splurging on a pricey black dress can make you feel slightly wanton. “I will wear this so rarely! Be sensible, Oh Woman, refrain” But I have found there are ways to make your LBD more flexible. And flexibility builds value. A lesson for life, really, but we’ll move on.

It helps if your LBD is not really black

Asked, “How do I find a little black dress I can wear forever?” one might think first of bright accessories against a monochrome garment. But consider a print. Of course, it helps if the print is skillful, subtle, almost art in and of itself. This is Dries van Noten’s photoprint of a Belgian toile,


and the Tokyo night sky. I’ve showed it to you before.


I wore it, last week, out to dinner with my dad and two sisters. We ate at the Flea Street Cafe. It’s a local institution, run by Jesse Cool, and looks exactly as you expect a Northern California restaurant should. And, if you have no archetype in your mind for that, imagine white table cloths, plants, food called out by origin, stunning presentation, nobody in tight clothing. In my new retirement life, heels are rare, so I put these on. Bare legs and some artsy earrings kept me in the California spirit.


Never mind the parking lot. There remain a few of us in California who believe that cars are not accessories.

Shoes, hair, and jewelry take a little black dress one way or the other

Ballet flats in a bright color steer you to the casual side. Of course, long hair all over the place helps.


One can’t always count on a nearby red truck. As I said, an auto does not an accessory make.

Loose and floaty gives more flexibility than tight and heavy


This dress is made of lined cotton lawn, so it survives a pretty wide temperature range. Not every experiment will work, of course. Beige Reiker gladiator sandals, while comfortable on gravel, weren’t the best style choice. But as my sister suggested when we were out last week, a pair of chunky strapped black sandals, or color-blocked, like these, or these, would have been perfect.

Pile on the black and the shine when you want to turn the Fancy dial

What I haven’t shown here is a picture of this same dress worn with those same Louboutins, black tights, gold chandelier earrings, and a gold cuff. That’s what I wore to an awards event we attended for my most recent job.  Perplexingly, no one paparazzied me, “You in the little black dress regalia! A picture, please!” So trust me without a photo, if you could, it was quite fancy in effect. Hair up, sheerest black tights, and strappy sandals could have taken me anywhere in San Francisco except the Opera or Ballet opening night.

This might be a data point for those of you considering investment pieces. Despite the extreme drop in my cash flow, post-retirement, I regret the Dries dress not one whit. It’s art and I wear it and it never lets me down. Where to find the (admittedly somewhat elusive) designer? Barney’s carries Mr. van Noten, as does Yoox, on sale. Tulips and stripes. This embellished bead slip dress. Sigh. And he’s not the only one who gives good print – you can take a look at the blog sidebar for a few more ideas if you’re so inclined.



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  • I would wear Dries for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and to bed, too.

  • I love that dress so much and let it slip by me as I wasn’t sure I would like it by the next year. Well, I like it even more, and it’s very versatile and a piece of art for sure. Love all the looks, with the exception of the gladiators, but even black and silver Birkenstocks would be great with it, and very chic and you could walk on gravel.

  • Very convincing demo of the versatility of a fabulous LBD!

  • Lisa that dress is a total winner – what a fabulous print! I also wonder about all the dresses I buy and whether I’ll get much wear out of them – but it’s usually a weather problem that causes that sort of dilemma in the UK. I love the way you’ve styled it this time… heels are always my fave with a LBD :)

    Catherine x

  • Those last pair of shoes do not work in my opinion!Other then that I am certain you were a hit on the streets of Northern California!

  • you look great in that dress. If I had legs like yours, I’d wear dresses that length 24/7!

  • It is a fabulous dress in so many ways. I think it is the arty print that makes it do versatile….I do wish that you had a picture of your outfit for that awards event as it would be an elegant way to style this dress.
    That cash flow post retirement thing does affect my spending but I am saving for Paris too which I am very excited about… is all about priorities.
    The dress was a wise investment.

    7:28 am
    Lisa said...

    @Bungalow Hostess, Well if I ever dress it all the way up again, I’ll share the picture:). I agree, Paris>LBD:)

  • I love things with mixed patterns, these are delightful. The shoes really change up how dressy it appears and the patterns mean you don’t have to load on too many jewelry statements for decoration. I think it belongs in a suitcase!

    Just yesterday a girl at the YMCA had a dress with a t-shirt top, emblazoned with an Aeropostal logo, and a two different fabric skirt. It was similar to this -loose sleeved top with a not quite A-lined skirt – but girlish in color and pattern. As I walked past on the way in, she was climbing on the handrail waiting to be picked up, I wondered whether her mother made it or if it came that way.
    Now that I have seen yours I think hers is probably fashion trickle-down.

  • You could go around the world with that dress. Perfect cut and just enough edge. Thinking how fun in Autumn with your biker gear and tights!
    Margaret in Arabia

  • Great dress, and you’ve showcased its versatility beautifully. Love the prints.

    Flea St. Cafe!!! One of my No Cal favorites. Used to go with my folks.

  • Perfect dress! I had to chuckle when I couldn’t find the “truck” in the picture with the red car. Hee hee, only true city dweller would call that little Honda a truck, but I love the color juxtaposed with your shoes. I would love those shoes, myself — what are they?

    7:29 am
    Lisa said...

    @Kristina, They are Sofie d’Hoore, a Belgian designer. As it turned out, I bought them too small for me. As soon as I check off my Master EBay goal, I will sell them.

  • Great dress and convincing demonstration. Despite the fact that the shoes in the last photo did not work with the dress there are many casual flat options that would. I think something beautiful that you love is always worthwhile, especially if it is something special like this, far more beautiful and versatile than if it were a simple solid dress.

  • The dress is as lovely as any piece of art, and you look fabulous in it, but I could not under any circumstances justify spending that kind of money on a dress, investment or not. Even if I had the money, I’d spend it on other things like travel or charity or maybe a better mattress. Most of us must make choices in retirement on how to spend our reduced income and that wouldn’t be one of mine.

    7:31 am
    Lisa said...

    @Wendy Bird, I would not have done so prior to writing this blog. I have learned so much about fashion, and craftmanship, that I am interested in peak design and craftmanship and the garment feels like more than a dress.

  • That dress is just one of my favourite things ever, of yours. I’d buy it in a moment of dress-love because I know I’d get years and years of wear out of it.

  • You have successfully milked that marvelous dress for all its worth. I can’t believe the difference the shoes make! Bravo!

  • Beautiful dress, but, for me, it doesn’t qualify as an LBD. No amount of accessories erases the fact that it is a completely recognizable dress; one, everyone, will remember. Thanks for the suggestions, but I’ll stick with the little, solid black number!

  • Beautiful on you, I especially like it with the shiny black shoes. Not a fan of those particular sandals, but I think a strappy black sandal would be lovely.

  • Still not receiving your emails I found a couple in the SPAM folder, and I’ve been moving them, hoping that Yahoo would take the hint.
    This dress is so great…a work of art, as someone stated above. And FLATS!! I’m so happy!

    7:33 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mamavalveeta03, Thank you for staying the course. Technology shifts are progressing, and I will let everyone know when we’re finished.

  • Does the “little dressmaker” still survive in some habitat-protected enclave? Your post inspires me to scour the fabric shoppes for blacks-that-match and create my own versatile LBD. (My sewing skills do not extend to print coordination.)

    7:35 am
    Lisa said...

    I think that’s a great idea. And I know where I live there is a dressmaker – I had her alter my wedding rehearsal dress.

  • I love this dress! And, it looks fabulous on you—and I love its versatility.

  • so lovely – those are some prints i can get behind. and you know how i eschew a print of any kind!!! i even love it with the bright ballet flats…

  • Oh, my: D van N is a revelation. Here’s mine:

    and this one (we are def. out of LBD range now, but so what!) is terrific!

    7:33 am
    Lisa said...

    @Alex in Seattle, Oh Alex, that first one SLAYS me.

  • Lisa, that dress is beyond fabulous and a very nice change from the usual LBD.

  • I love this dress. As someone who expects way too much out of my clothes (I tend to under buy, as in, “two tee-shirts for summer should be fine…”)this is the kind of go-anywhere, do-anything dress I would live in. Chic, easy, comfy. Well done!

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] by Dries van Noten because it is the single best piece of clothing I’ve ever owned and I worship the […]

  2. […] last week when I attended Tish Jett’s book signing. Determined to wear the afore-mentioned Dries van Noten I yanked out my black tights morning of the event only to find that I had one pair, very dark and […]