The cocktail dress is one of these rare articles of clothing that must be special enough to make an impression at a variety of events, yet versatile enough to be worn time and time again. It’s no small feat, which is why the most famous and popular form of cocktail dress is a true classic—the little black dress.

Coco Chanel was not the first designer to put her clients in a black dress, but she was the first to finally wrench black from its associations with mourning and reinvent it as the preferred color for festive, carefree occasions. In the mid-1920s, her simple, straight, one-piece calf-length dresses received almost universal acclaim, becoming the uniform of sophisticated swells throughout the decade and into the Great Depression, when it was admired as much for its economy as its style.

After World II, Christian Dior did not neglect the cocktail dress when he unveiled his New Look, although his creations used miles more fabric than Chanel ever would have contemplated. By the 1950s, though, the black cocktail dress seemed almost risqué, a crass instrument of seduction when compared to the innocent circle skirts of teenage girls, to say nothing of the frumpy house dresses worn by their stay-at-home-moms.

Even so, sleeveless cocktail dresses from the 1950s ranged from those basic black numbers favored by film sirens and vixens to only slightly less modest wiggle dresses in metallic brocade. Cotton prints with arms that stopped above the elbow, with peekaboo details around the waist, were also common. At some parties, purple lace dresses (tight at the waist, flared at the hem, and accessorized by multiple strings of pearls) would frequently square off against strapless numbers in baby blue chiffon.

For 1950s girls attending the high-school proms, white cocktail or party dresses were widely embraced, but so were dresses in soft pastels. Although it was probably not self-evident at the time, these muted tones paved the way for the bold reds and blues that would become prom favorites in the 1980s and ’90s.

In the 1960s, though, the little black dress came roaring back thanks to a dress Hubert de Givenchy created for actress Audrey Hepburn, who played Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” The form-fitting dress she wore for that film, with its thin straps over bare shoulders and a vent at the hem that exposed Hepburn’s leg to the knee, was so legendary that it sold at auction almost half a century later for just under a million bucks.

Givenchy’s cocktail dress for Hepburn is only one example of a prominent designer’s little black dress kick-starting a young actress’s career. For example, Elizabeth Hurley achieved almost equal notoriety in 1994 when she wore a Gianni Versace variation of the little black dress to a film premiere. That post-Punk creation featured a dangerously plunging sweetheart neckline and was held together by nothing but outsized safety pins.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

MyVintageVogue

MyVintageVogue

The history of 20th-century women’s fashion largely played out in the pages of magazines such as “Harper’s Ba… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]

1960s Fashion and Textiles

1960s Fashion and Textiles

Put on your go-go boots and check out this wavy, groovy tribute to 1960s fashion and textiles, courtesy of the Vict… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Fashion Guild

Vintage Fashion Guild

While primarily designed to steer buyers to online vintage clothing shops, this blog is chock full of interesting, … [read review or visit site]

Fashion-Era

Fashion-Era

Bursting at the seams with content, this site contains hundreds of pages of fashion and costume history, including … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Lot 7 Vintage 1940s Thru 1950s Party Cocktail Day Dress For Repair Or PatternsAllsaints Lolita Dress Rare Size 10 Silk Dress Wedding Vintage Boho Gypsy Vintage 80s India Silk Sequined Butterfly Iconic Cocktail Disco Party Top 0/s Vtg 50s 60s Style Pinup Grecian Sapphire Chiffon Full Skirt Cocktail Dress S MVintage 80s Stain Glass Beaded & Sequined Cocktail Dress Sz S Vintage 90s Does 60s Navy Blue Caged Trim Kitten Bow Cocktail Dress Sz XlVtg Rare 50's Floral Brocade Screen Siren Cocktail Swing Dress Amazing!Vintage 80s Multi Color Abstract Colorblock Beaded Silk Cocktail Party Dress Xl60s R&k Originals Black Metallic/chiffon Cocktail Party Dress M 38-28-44 As IsVintage 90’s Does 50’s Silk Black Cinched Waist Cocktail Dress Sz MVintage 50s 60s Silk Blue Cocktail Wiggle Dress Lg. Mother Of BrideVintage Sequined Cut Away Dress - 80s Cocktail Vixen Vamp Black Mini SmallVintage 1950s Black Chiffon Goddess Cocktail Party Dress~label Miss Elliette, CaVintage 1933 Pink Dress Flapper Cocktail Gown Downton GatsbyVtg 60s 70s Runway Plunging Goddess Hippie Wedding Boho Disco Draped Maxi DressVintage 1960s Sequinned Beaded Peach Cocktail Dress SVintage 80s Sapphire & Platinum Beaded & Sequined Cocktail Dress Sz L Vintage 90s Armani Collezioni Jet Black Beaded Cocktail Skirt Sz Xl Vintage 90’s Does 40’s Lace Cocktail Bombshell Sequin Belted Dress Sz L Vintage 80s Ebony Floral Applique Rare Embellished Swing Cocktail Jacket Sz LVintage 80’s Mermaid Hued Embellished Silk Cocktail Party Blouse Sz L Vintage 80s Oscar De La Renta Plush Black Velvet Textured Cocktail Dress Sz SVintage 80s Midnight & Platinum Sequined Studio Cocktail Jacket Sz L Vintage 90s Navy Blue Ruffle Trim Cocktail Jacket Sz S Vintage 90s Gold Lace Embellished Edge Cocktail Dress & Jacket Set Sz L Vintage 80s Silk Mermaid Hued Beaded & Sequined Cocktail Jacket Sz MVintage 90s Ebony Ruched Nude Illusion Classic Velvet Cocktail Dress Sz XlVintage 80s Glam Bb Black Tuxedo Sexy Cocktail Party Coat Dress Jacket Sz LargeVintage 90s Black On Black Sequined Cocktail Dress Sz Xl Vintage 80’s Sequined Silk Striped Colorblock Oversized Cocktail Top Vintage 80’s Oscar De La Renta Silk Antique Floral Ruched Cocktail Top Sz L Vintage 90s Does 70s Creamy Blush Rhinestone Trim Bolero Cocktail Jacket Sz M Vintage 90s Ebony Ribbon Crochet Trim Silk Cocktail Dress Sz L Vintage 90s Does 60s Hot Rose Classic Cocktail Dress Sz XsVintage 80s Silk Made In India Sequined & Beaded Cocktail Jacket Sz LVintage 1950's Formal, Prom, Cocktail Dress, Large, Metal Zipper, Sheath, Wow!Vtg Zum Zum 80's Cocktail Party Prom High Low Bow Dress Blk Sparkle IlgwuVintage 80s Gold & Black Leopard Print Swing Bold Cocktail Jacket Sz M80's Dave & Johnny Rockin' Black White Sequin Party Cocktail Dress Size 11 12Vintage 50s Black Satin Embellished Beaded Hourglass Pin Up Cocktail Dress MVintage 60s Hot Pink Sheer Chiffon Sequin Art Nouveau Maxi Cocktail Party Dress Vintage 80s Silk Black On Black Beaded & Sequined Paisley Cocktail Jacket Sz XlVintage 90’s Vibrant Silk Figurative Cocktail Jacket Sz L Vintage 80s Sapphire Blue Embellished Silk Key Hole Back Cocktail Dress Sz L Vintage 80’s Beaded Swirl Silk Fuchsia Fashionista Cocktail Dress Sz M Vintage 90s Black On Black Embellished Bell Sleeve Cocktail Jacket Sz M Vintage 90’s White Heavily Embellished Silk Scalloped Cocktail Party Top Sz XsVintage 50s Nic Mar Black Mexican Drop Waist Bubble Hem Hourglass Cocktail DressVintage 1950's 1960's Cocktail Party, Sun Dress, S/m, Chiffon, Metal ZipperVintage 80’s Onyx Sheer Sleeve Rhinestone Brooch Opera Cocktail Jacket Sz SVintage 90s Midnight Black Embossed Sequin Cocktail Jacket Sz MVintage 90s Ebony Rhinestone Brooch Deliciously Draped Cocktail Dress Sz M Vtg 50s Turquoise Satin Wiggle Cocktail Dress, Size Small To MediumVtg 50s 60s Little Black Dress Wiggle Flapper Fringe Sleeveless Cocktail 13 Xs SVintage 80s Laurence Kazar Black Silk Silver Beaded Sequin Disco Cocktail Top MAlberto Makali Vintage Couture Black Cocktail Dress Padded Bust Beading Size 4Gorgeous 1960's/70's Retro Vintage Bodycon Cocktail Dress + Paisley Print M/lVintage Victor Costa Metallic Gold Cocktail Evening Jacket MVtg 60s 70s Mod Hippie Orange Cocktai Boho Scooter Disco Megan Draper Mini DressVintage 90s Does 40’s Jet Black Beaded Trim Cocktail Sheath Dress Sz S