Coco Chanel may have been the first designer to popularize the little black dress in the 1920s, but Hubert de Givenchy was the man who made the LBD a cocktail party staple.
The great Givenchy dressed Audrey Hepburn in an ankle-length black dress (complete with elbow-length gloves and tiara) for her most stylish role ever, as Holly Golightly in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
But that wasn’t the first time Givenchy popped Hepburn into a sleek noir number. In 1954, he fashioned a calf-length, nipped-at-the-waist frock that Hepburn wore for her delicate role as the title character in Sabrina. Costume designer Edith Head was given full credit for that dress, but in the ensuing years, Hepburn acknowledged Givenchy for his work.
Givenchy went on to outfit every “it” woman of his day, from Lauren Bacall to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. And he, along with friend and mentor Cristóbal Balenciaga, were behind some of women’s wear’s most iconic silhouettes, including the chemise and the sack dress. (Think of the sack as the bulbous precursor to the empire waist.)
After Givenchy retired from his storied house in 1995, maverick designers John Galliano and Alexander McQueen would sit at the French fashion house. But even with their chic, punk-meets-ladylike fierceness, the House of Givenchy is still best known for its impact on the black dress. Givenchy made the LBD the LBD. And today, it’s a wardrobe perennial that speaks to the seductive woman and girly girl in all of us.
In honor of Givenchy, who died Monday at his home outside Paris, here are some of my favorite little black dresses from throughout the years: