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You’ve probably heard this countless times in the past, but a great little black dress is truly one of the most versatile and foundational items you can have in your wardrobe. They can work for either day or night depending on the styling and there are countless silhouette options for you to choose from at any given time. So, to help you make sense of all the different styles, I’ve broken down the seven types of black dresses that are essential to have in your rotation.
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 trendy seasonal flings and others are timeless pieces worth investing in. Brands like Dress The Population and STAUD both design pieces that will run you a little more money, while affordable stand-bys like ASOS and Target offer options priced below the $50 dollar mark. This all goes to say that you don’t need to spend money to find a dress that works for you but if you do want to splurge, the options are most certainly there for you to check out.
While I personally believe that you should have one of every dress on this list hanging in your closet, feel free to pick and choose your favorite silhouettes. If you know that slip dresses work for you, nab a few of those! But, if flared dresses are more your style, don’t be afraid to shop a few in different lengths.
In any case, read on to shop all of the cutest LBDs on the market right now.
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1. The Casual Maxi
Look effortlessly glamorous by throwing on a minimalist black maxi and calling it a day. Perfect for running errands, brunching with friends or going on semi-casual dates, this style of dress is extremely versatile. Not only will a black maxi keep you looking great, but it’ll also keep you feeling comfy all day long. Why wear something fitted and stiff when a floaty maxi looks so amazing?
Lala Maxi Dress
This option from Z Supply is peak flowy comfort, so it’s an instant add-to-cart.
Jersey Tank Maxi Dress
If you’re a tank dress superfan, consider this easy pick from Eloquii. The simple silhouette can be worn as is, or cinched at the waist with a belt for a little extra shape.
2. The Sheath Dress
A classic black sheath dress will fill the hole in your wardrobe other casual LBDs leave behind. Why? Because they work for a formal affair or a regular day spent at the office. Even better, this style of dress will make going from day to night an absolute breeze. Swap jewelry and shoes accordingly and you’ll be set.
The Cynthia Dress
This Cynthia Dress from M.M La Fleur is worth the investment because the silhouette is so classic. The weighty wool twill fabric looks just as luxe as it feels.
Color Block Elbow Sleeve Dress
This two-tone dress from Connected Apparel adds a hint of color-blocking to your black dress collection. Even better, it’s priced at under $50 bucks, so get thee to a Target!
3. The Flared Dress
No silhouette is more flattering than the 1950s-inspired classic flare. I’m pretty sure the empire waist will never go out of style, so you can rest assured this minimalistic style will be with you for many years—or even decades—to come. Plus, since this style of dress is both fun and sophisticated, accessorizing should be a cinch. It’s basically a blank canvas!
STAUD designs some of the most timeless dresses on the market, and this crisp cotton option is no exception.
Classic Longline Scoop Neck Midi Dress
Scoop-neck dresses never go out of style and this option from City Chic even has pockets!! Because this pick is so simple, feel free to dress it up with your most colorful heels or a statement-making handbag.
4. The Slip Dress
Slip dresses are the effortlessly sexy basic every wardrobe needs. Dress them down by wearing them over your favorite cropped tee and pairing them with a pair of chunky sneakers. Or, dress your slip dress up with some earrings and your favorite heels. You can pretty much do whatever you want with a black slip dress, so spend some time in your closet and pull out some oft-neglected accessories and just see if your fave frock suddenly makes them work.
Satin Cami Maxi Slip Dress
If you thought that slip dresses had to be expensive in order to be cute, think again! This option from ASOS Design retails for only $45 bucks, so your cost-per-wear is well worth it.
This high-shine Long Gown from CHARLENE is too good to pass up on right now. It’s available to shop in sizes 1X through 3X and has a super-flattering bias-cut design.
5. The Party Dress
Whether bejeweled, feathered, or draped, a black party dress is the kind of necessity every fashion lover’s closet needs. I mean, what else are you going to turn to for that super fun party coming up? Feel free to go all-out when it comes to your accessories, too. Try layering a few sparkly pieces, opt for a bold makeup look, or just keep it simple with neutral smokey makeup.
Black Promenade Dress
Meet the dress that you can wear all year-’round. It’s made from a ruched linen fabric that is begging to be packed away on vacation in the summer, but can just as easily be layered over a sheer bodysuit or tights in the wintertime.
Pleated Tiered Maxi Dress
This Pleated Tiered Maxi Dress from Mare Mare just screams party. I mean, those layers are to die for! A dress this cute calls for equally fun accessories and a red lip, no questions asked.
6. The Lace Dress
A classic black dress becomes instantly more glamorous when covered in intricate lace. 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 the texture.
This Nicole Dress from Dress The Population feels so sexy thanks to the sweetheart neckline and fitted silhouette.
Open-Back Bodycon Lace Dress
This long-sleeved lacy dress from Lane Bryant features a cut-out detail at the back for bonus fashion points. The sheer long sleeves let you show a little skin while still staying covered up enough for professional wear.
7. The Fabulous Gown
Dressing for a black-tie occasion can be tough, which is why you should have a black gown in your arsenal just in case any surprise galas that make their way onto your calendar. Since a well-fitting black gown dress is so sleek and simple, you can accessorize at your leisure—which is great, because different events demand different vibes, ya know?
Ruby Satin Charmeuse Dress
How pretty is the draped halter neck on this gown from BHLDN? I know that this pick is technically a bridesmaids dress, but It could totally work for any other formal function you have coming up.
Off The Shoulder Foldover Neckline Gown
If you want a dress with seriously glamorous energy, this gown from La Femme fits the bill. The off-the-shoulder neckline! The sky-high slit on the leg! I love it all.
A version of this article was originally published in April 2014.