6 Tips to Find the Perfect Little Black Dress After 50
If you need to invest in an LBD or upgrade your current go-to, stylists have suggestions.
A little black dress, often simply called an "LBD," is a closet staple. The ideal one can last for years, and with the right accessories, you don't even have to switch it up from season to season. But as we get older, that reliable LBD in your closet may not suit you anymore—maybe it's too short, or perhaps you've just worn it one too many times. After 50, specifically, it might be time for an upgrade, which means finding a new and improved little black dress.
"[The LBD] is the one wardrobe essential that covers all the bases—work event to cocktail party to date night to church, then back again. A perfect LBD has unmatched versatility that can be dressed up and dressed down, transitioning from desk to dinner, week to weekend, or sweet to sexy in an instant," Elizabeth Kosich, certified image stylist and founder of Elizabeth Kosich Styling, tells Best Life. "If you don't have one, buy one. If you have one but it needs replacing, replace it. Your LBD will save the day (and night) time and time again, so make sure you have a great one that fits, flatters, and flaunts your best shape—especially after 50 when things start to shift."
If you're convinced you need to own a little black dress or to upgrade the one you always turn to, the process doesn't have to be overwhelming. Read on for stylists' top six tips for finding a flattering and fashionable option.
Consider your shape.
The nice part about an LBD is that the only real requirement is that it's black—so you're free to experiment and find a dress that really suits your figure. And even though black is considered a universally flattering color, you can't underestimate the importance of fit.
Kosich has recommendations for four body types, namely hourglass, V-shape, inverted-V, and straight. Depending on where you fall, certain dresses might fit you best.
For example, for hourglass shapes, Kosich stresses balance. "Keep top and bottom in balance, then accentuate the waist," she says. "Bodycon, figure-flaunting dresses are best, so look for fabrics with stretch and shapes that contour every curve."
Not a fan of anything too tight? A wrap dress is also ideal for an hourglass shape, specifically one with three-quarter-length sleeves, which will draw attention to your waist.
For those with a V-shape, where the widest part of your body is above the waist, you want to strike a balance between your hips and shoulders. Kosich recommends A-line styles with full skirts, including pleats, ruffles, or tulle. But you can also opt for a peplum style "which performs double-duty by adding an interesting detail while balancing," she explains.
On the other hand, if you have an inverted-V shape, where the widest part of your body is below your waist, the balance should be between your shoulders and hips, Kosich explains. Asymmetrical necklines are optimal here, specifically one-shoulder styles.
For those with a straight body type, meaning your body is the same width all the way down, you want to define your waist by adding volume to the top and bottom. Kosich recommends fit-and-flare silhouettes with "enhanced volume."
Invest in quality.
Because a little black dress is something that you can wear so often, it's one piece that you can allow yourself to spend a little extra on.
"You can find a little black dress within any budget," Brigid Stasen, elite stylist at Bridge Your Style, says. "My advice is to splurge and make your LBD an investment piece. It's a timeless piece in your wardrobe, and you will have it to wear for many years to come."
Stylists specifically say that you should look for quality fabrics when shopping for an LBD, as they really make a difference.
"Invest in an LBD made from high-quality fabrics with an effortless drape and luxe feel," Yenia Hernández Fonseca, stylist, luxury fashion expert, and contributor to Margo Paige, says. "Crepe, silk, or jersey are great fabrics for warm weather, while cashmere and wool will definitely have your back in the colder months."
Don't sacrifice comfort.
While stylists encourage you to get the dress you really want—even if the price tag is a bit higher—you shouldn't purchase a luxury LBD that's uncomfortable. At the end of the day, that defeats the purpose: Your go-to little black dress should be something you always feel comfy and confident in.
"Prioritize comfort when choosing an LBD," Fonseca says. "Look for dresses with a bit of stretch and a comfortable waistband to allow ease of movement and provide structure. This will also ensure that the dress will adapt to any changes in your body without losing its shape."
Stasen notes that the arm holes can be a nuisance, so make sure you take note of how you feel when trying on different options. You should also decide whether you feel comfortable with or without sleeves.
"For my 50+ [clients], I prefer a dress with sleeves and pockets for convenience," she explains. "So many LBDs are sleeveless; I recommend accessorizing with a jacket, sweater, or pashmina wrap for additional coverage and style."
Pick the right neckline.
It's important to consider the neckline when shopping for an LBD after 50, as you want something flattering yet versatile. While a deep plunge may be appropriate for a night out on the town, it likely won't transition to many other occasions.
"Consider a neckline that complements your body shape and enhances your best features," Rosie Mangiarotti, fashion and garment expert and founder of Perkies, says. "V-neck, scoop neck, boatneck, or square necklines can be flattering and stylish choices."
According to Kosich, for those with a straight body type, the boatneck can be particularly flattering.
Don't forget about the length.
Similar to the neckline, hemline can also be tricky, as you want a dress that you can wear to several different events. Further, after 50, you want a dress that feels suitable for your age.
"The wrong hemline can make or break the perfect LBD," Kosich says. "Too short may not be age-appropriate and too long is sure to swallow you whole. For most women, the ideal hem length is about one inch below the knee, which is generally a good rule of thumb. If you're over 50 and want a shorter hemline, consider opaque black tights to keep proportions balanced and maintain a polished, elegant look."
Fonseca also recommends classic knee-length or midi dresses as the most versatile options, and Ivor Boyd, managing director at Logans Fashions, calls these options "a safe and elegant bet."
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Strike a balance between timeless and trendy.
Another tip from stylists is to find a dress that truly suits you—and that doesn't mean it has to fall in line with what's "in" right now.
"For women over 50, I advise not to try to look younger by wearing an LBD that is too trendy," Stasen says.
If you want to introduce a bit more of your personality, however, Boyd says that you can go for as much or as little detail as you want.
"A common misconception is that an LBD has to be plain," he says. "Feel free to explore dresses with interesting details like a unique neckline, tasteful embellishments, or even lace or sheer panels. Remember, the 'perfect' LBD is one that makes you feel confident and beautiful."