11/13/2012 03:25 EST | Updated 01/13/2013 05:12 EST

The 411 on LBDs: Selecting the best little black dress to flatter your figure

TORONTO - The little black dress may be a wardrobe staple for many women, but the chic classic can quickly become a fashion don't if women select an LBD style ill-suited for their frame.

Toronto-based personal stylist Lisa McLatchie, founder of Practical Fashionista, said she actually tries to encourage clients to go for a different kind of LBD, a little "basic" dress.

If someone looks great in magenta or yellow, there's no reason they couldn't have a go-to dress in their preferred shade — something that speaks to their personality, personal style and skin colouring, she noted.

"The whole idea behind the little black dress is that it's versatile and that you can dress it up and dress it down depending on the occasion or your mood that day," McLatchie said. "It's easier to stick with a solid-coloured dress for that purpose.

But regardless of the style, colour or pattern of the garment, McLatchie said the main thing she tells women is to focus on the fit first — and the rest will fall into place.

She offers a breakdown by body type on how women can select an LBD to best flatter their figure:


Characteristics: Typically shoulders and hips are visibly the same width; smaller, defined waist in proportion to their hips and upper body.

McLatchie said women with hourglass shapes should focus on choosing dress styles which highlight their waist. Lower necklines or V-neck styles help bring attention to the waist by drawing the eye down, and bust-enhancing necklines help, too, like sweetheart, scoop neck or bustier styles.

Belted or wrap dresses are also great for the hourglass shape as well as anything with a bit of a soft drape.

"You don't want to put them in anything too stiff because that's not going to accentuate their curves and their ideal body shape."


Characteristics: Shoulders are quite narrow in comparison to fuller hips and thighs; tend to have a defined and narrow waist.

McLatchie said the emphasis for women with a triangle shape is to focus on their defined waist, so she suggests shaped or belted styles.

The idea is to keep the eye up for this particular body type, so choose styles with lighter, brighter or busier details on top rather than on the bottom, she noted. That could include sequins, a brighter pattern or distinct details or embellishments on the shoulders, such as studding.

McLatchie also recommended women with this body type go for necklines that help to widen the shoulder area so it creates more of a balance with the lower half. She suggests trying square neck, boatneck, scoop neck or bustier styles.

Inverted triangle

Characteristics: Shoulders are visibly wider than hips; narrow hips, straight waistline.

McLatchie recommends styles that are lighter, brighter or busier on the bottom of the garment rather than the top, such as those with details or banding around the hem. Shaped or belted styles will help to give the illusion of a waist because this particular body type doesn't have much of a curved waist, she noted.

McLatchie said any sort of style with a fuller bottom — lots of material or volume on the lower half — helps to balance out the top half.

Wide straps and halter necklines help with this body type because it helps narrow out the upper body. She also recommends selecting dresses with soft, drapy fabrics.



Costa Blanca head buyer Samantha Peppler said the retailer focused on taking a classic silhouette and incorporating trends of the season in its new range of LBDs.

The latest looks include peplum dresses with cutouts and a one-shoulder dress lace dress with a nude underlay. Sleeveless, sweetheart numbers, one-sleeved half halters and cap-sleeved dresses are also among the diverse array of offerings putting a twist on the LBD.

Peppler said women should look for a good parallel between sexy and sophisticated in their LBD.

"I would go with something a little less detailed a little more basic. Use accessories and other pieces to really give it the pop."

Homegrown designer David Dixon teamed up with Sears Canada for a special collection of little black dresses. Strapless, one-shoulder and sleeved styles in a range of cuts and silhouettes are all in the mix in the made-in-Canada line.

Dixon said women should seek out an LBD that suits their personality and fits well, but also has longevity in terms of the way it's styled.

"Don't be focused too much on the trend of the dress as opposed to the classic styling of it because how you can update a little black dress (is) easy through accessories.

"You can make that dress look vintage, you can make it look modern, you can make it look contemporary, and it really does depend on the person who's wearing it — and that's the person that brings it to life."



Still seeking some style inspiration? Here are some other memorable LBDs:

Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy

Arguably the most iconic LBD of all isn't a flirty cocktail creation — or really all that little — but a fitted, floor-length gown.

The sleek sleeveless number designed for the late screen legend for the 1961 movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's" ranks among the most famous in film and fashion history.

"It's the simplicity of it. It's timeless," said Dixon. "If you look at that dress, you could still wear it today and it doesn't look dated.

"I think the silhouette is quite modern and still being reinvented season after season. In most designers' collections there's variations of it."

Elizabeth Hurley in Versace

The model and actress left plenty of onlookers slack-jawed in 1994 when she stepped out in the racy black number for the premiere of "Four Weddings and a Funeral" with then-boyfriend Hugh Grant.

The dress featured a plunging neckline and high leg slit, but is best remembered for the oversized gold safety pins fastened to and adorning the revealing creation. In October, Lady Gaga was spotted in Milan wearing the infamous design.

"To me, that speaks to, again, someone's personal style and their interpretation of... that little black dress that's classic," said McLatchie.

"There's nothing that's wrong with the little black dress. I just think people need to make it more individualized and have some fun with it and let it speak to their personal style."



Costa Blanca:

David Dixon:

Practical Fashionista: