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There are so many dresses in this world. Maxi dresses are the go-to for anyone looking for comfy-cute style during the summer. Mini dresses are perfect for nights out and other special occasions. And tailored printed dresses pack a serious punch during an interview. But try as they might, none of these dresses can eclipse the LBD.
As longtime Chanel Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld famously said: “One is never overdressed or underdressed with a little black dress.” He’s not wrong—wear a black dress, and you can pretty much go anywhere.
That said, not all little black dresses are created equal. Some are better for seasonal flings, and others are timeless pieces worth investing in. Since you can’t buy up every LBD you see (I mean, you could, but I don’t recommend it), it’s worth paring down the selection until you reach a few essential basics that transcend seasonality and complement each other.
Here, we break down the seven kinds of black dresses every shopper should try to get their hands on—and why.
1. A Casual Maxi
Look effortlessly glamorous by throwing on a casual black maxi dress and calling it a day. Perfect for running errands, brunching with friends, and going on semi-casual dates, this dress is extremely versatile. And that’s not even the best part; not only will a black maxi keep you looking great, but it’ll also keep you feeling comfy all day long.
How to wear it: Just put it on and pair it with your favorite accessories. I’m a sucker for a black maxi, turquoise earring, and strappy sandal combo, but it’s pretty hard to go wrong. (Pro-tip: Layer a denim or leather jacket on top of your maxi dress when it’s too cool to go sans outerwear.)
A maxi we love right now: Maeve Luella Maxi Dress, $148 at Anthropologie.
2. A Slip Dress
Slip dresses are the effortlessly sexy basic every wardrobe needs. Dress it down by wearing it over your favorite tee—and pairing it with some chunky sneakers. Or dress it up with a choker, some earrings, and your favorite heels. No matter how you style it, you’re sure to look great.
How to wear it: Like I said before, you can pretty much do whatever you want with a black slip dress. Spend some time in your closet and pull out some oft-neglected accessories. I’d bet they’d all look great with your new slip.
A slip dress we love right now: Out From Under Sunshine Slip Dress, $44 at Urban Outfitters.
3. A Sheath Dress
A classic black sheath dress will fill the hole in your wardrobe other, more casual LBDs left behind. A structured piece like this is excellent for a formal affair—or a day at the office. The cherry on top? This dress will make going from day to night an absolute breeze. Just swap your jewelry and shoes accordingly, and you’ll be set.
How to wear it: If you’re wearing your sheath dress to the office, we recommended keeping it simple—layer on a blazer and slip into your go-to black pumps. Post-work, opt for a strappier sandal and statement jewelry of your choosing. The silhouette is simple enough that you can get super creative with your accessories.
A sheath dress we love right now: Eliza J Extended Shoulder Sheath Dress, $128 at Nordstrom.
4. A Flared Dress
No silhouette is more flattering than this 1950s classic. I’m prettier sure the empire waist will never go out of style, so you can rest assured this basic will be with you for many years—or even decades—to come.
How to wear it: Do the cinched waist justice by keeping your outerwear cropped; whereas a shorter cardigan will work with the dress to highlight the empire waist, whereas a drapier jacket might obscure it. When it comes to shoes and jewelry, you can pretty much take your look in any direction. Since the dress is both fun and sophisticated, accessorizing should be a cinch.
A flared dress we love right now: Nanette Lepore Ladder Stitch Black Fit-And-Flare Dress, $498 at White House Black Market.
5. A Lace Dress
A classic black dress becomes instantly more glamorous when covered in intricate lace. Designers like Dolce & Gabbana can’t seem to get enough of this classic look, and your favorite fast-fashion retailers (Zara, H&M, etc.) have followed suit.
How to wear it: Though the move with most other LBDs is to go all out with accessories, with a piece like this, you’ll want to keep things simple. Opt for neutral, understated shoes and jewelry—and instead, keep the focus on your makeup. Whether you go for a dramatic smokey eye or a bold red lip, you’ll look absolutely stunning.
A lace dress we love right now: Lulus Spread Your Wings Black Lace Midi Dress, $76 at Lulus.
6. A Party Dress
Whether bejeweled, feathered or lined with transparent panels, a black party dress is the kind of necessity every closet needs. I mean, what else are you going to turn to for that super fun festivity coming up?
How to wear it: Have fun. Go all in on the accessories, layer on everything sparkly you can find, opt for a bold makeup look, or keep it simple. This is your party look, so just do you on this one.
A party dress we love right now: Topshop Disc Sequin Slipdress, $170 at Nordstrom.
7. A Fabulous Gown
Dressing for a black tie occasion can be tough, which is why everyone should have a black gown at the ready for any surprise galas that make their way onto your calendar. Since the dress is so sleek and simple, you can accessorize at your leisure (which is great, because different events demand different vibes, ya know?).
How to wear it: Up the drama with statement jewelry, or keep things things understatedly elegant by paring things down.
An evening gown we love right now: Free People Essie Maxi Dress, $279 at Free People.
A version of this article was originally published in April 2014.