You Won’t Believe the Sexy History Behind the Little Black Dress

Kat Collings

A little black dress is now a staple of nearly every woman’s wardrobe, and no one thinks twice about seeing a woman in all black (except for perhaps Anna Wintour). But the LBD wasn’t always the ultimate go-to look. According to a recent article on Racked.com, before the early 1900s, the black dress was reserved for widows during the two years following their husbands' deaths. While that's not all that shocking, donning the dark shade sent another, more scandalous message.

According to Racked, “It also advertised two very important things: 1) That you were sexually experienced, and 2) That you were currently available because your husband was dead.” In a culture where chastity was closely controlled—it was expected that a woman would remain a virgin until married—wearing a black mourning dress allowed a recently widowed woman to not only mourn for her husband, but also communicate her unique situation of having a sexual history and being romantically available. Indeed, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a current exhibit called, “Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire” that touches on the sex appeal of the black dress. A line at the show from D.L. Colesworth says, "When we see young ladies persist in wearing sable [during mourning] we are reminded of the reply a young widow made to her mother: 'Don't you see,' said she, 'it saves me the expense of advertising for a husband.'"

Even though the connotations of a black dress have changed dramatically since the 19th century, it’s interesting to see how traces of the LBD’s origins are still reflected in modern day society. As Racked.com pointed out, you rarely see black dresses worn to debutante balls or weddings and Princess Diana caused quite the scandal when she wore an LBD now infamously known as the “revenge dress” after Prince Charles confessed to adultery. 

Head over to Racked.com to check out their in-depth history of the LBD, scroll down to shop our top five black dress picks, and let us know in the comments below: Do you think LBD’s still hold any sexy significance?

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