Lifestyled by Paula Joye

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December 20th, 2012

The Black Dress Guide.

The Black Dress Guide.

The Little Black Dress is a festive season fall back. From its genesis at the hand of Coco Chanel in the 1920s to Audrey Hepburn’s luxe breakfast, it is to wardrobes what cake is to icing – essential.

Got nothing to wear? Black will always work. It’s just about finding the right shape and look for you. Long, short, loose, here’s a guide to this season’s best buys and five ways to style them for the party season.

The Mini.

The rules with a mini are this.

1) Nothing too tight. Look for draped, ruffle or bell shapes.

2) When you’re showing off this much skin keep everything else on the low-down – no accessories, no big hair. Go for adjectives like simple, understated and clean.

CLICK TO BUY: Witchery Tie Beach Dress, $79.95Candela Paige Dress from Shopbop, $330James Perse Crepe Mini Dress from Net-A-Porter, $375.

The Maxi.

Long, fluid and always elegant, a maxi gown is the ultimate summer shape. I love a dressy maxi (like the one I’m wearing here from Zimmermann) because you can dress it down with a flat or up with a heel. They are the ultimate canvas for stacked bangles, cuffs, cocktail rings. Channel Slim Aaron’s muses and Miami it up.

CLICK TO BUY: Sportsgirl Mid Pocket Maxi, $39.95Acne Magenta Long Dress from Matches Fashion, $330. Now $200Jason Wu Strapless Brocade Gown from Boutique 1, $3,794. Now $2,277.

The Flapper.

Baz Lurhman’s Great Gatsby finally has a release date (May 25) and dresses with fringing and the drop waisted 1920′s silhouette are everywhere. This shape is perfection if you are tall and lean – curvier shapes should go for shorter version of the same style.

You don’t want it to cling to your body – a gentle skim and shimmy is the look you want.

CLICK TO BUY: Topshop Knitted Bead Flapper Dress, £95By Malene Birger Wasuinia Feather and Sequin-Embellished Crepe Dress from Net-A-Porter, $524; Stella McCartney Maurice Fringed Dress from Matches Fashion, $2,645.

Copy my faux bob with the help of my How-To video.

The Peplum.

The shape of the year, the peplum is a flatter-all provided you buy a style that hits your waist at the right height. The shelf effect only works when it sits below your belly button – any higher and it has the reverse effect and will make your hips appear wider.

CLICK TO BUY: Bardot Liberty Peplum Dress, $139.95DKNY Sleeveless Peplum Dress from My-Wardrobe, $293.75Hakaan Bunky Stretch-Crepe Peplum Dress from Net-A-Porter, £1,512.32.

Five Ways To Style A Black Dress.

Belt It Up: It’s amazing what one little accessory can do. Skinny, thick, neutral or bright, a belt can make a dress look completely different. Try belting just under your rib cage not on your actual waist. This is the smallest part of your torso and creates the illusion of a tinier waistline and longer legs.

Dress It Down: Make a classic dress casual by adding a denim jacket, flat sandals, a straw hat or ankle boots. Careful with the fabric – shiny satins, sequins and silks can look a little bit ‘walk of shame’ during the day.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: The shot of Audrey Hepburn wearing pearls and a crown eating a croissant outside the Tiffany store in New York remains one of fashion’s most enduring moments. Why deprive yourself? Pearls, crown, black shades – just do it.

Statement Shoes: Nothing is a better backdrop for stop traffic shoes than a black dress. Jewels, sequin, feathers, colour – no shoe is too embellished or too high. Think Dorothy on a night at Les Cage Aux Folles and go out dancing.

Take Everything Off: One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a black dress is over-accessorising. For a truly elegant, classic finish, try wearing it on its own. No jewels, no colour – just a black clutch, black shoes, slicked back hair and a red lip.



  • Champagne4lulu

    I love that Zimmermann dress! Is it available now? x

  • PaulaJoye

    It was the bridesmaid dress I wore to my sisters wedding in September. You can buy from Bridesmaid range.

  • Sarah

    I admire your self confidence. I would be really self conscious wearing something as short as that mini. Which is stupid, because I know my legs are fine.

  • Champagne4lulu

    Thx Hun! xx

  • Lauren

    Paula, which dress are you wearing in “The Flapper” photo? It’s delectable – I NEED it!

  • Mel

    Paula, you look fabulous in all but that Maxi by Zimmermann is divine on you! It seems so authentic on you, your house, your decor … Your pineapple fetish hehe. It all breathes ‘effortlessly chic’. You should have THAT on the main home page because you look stunning and comfortable – isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Thanks for an endless year of inspiration and warmth. XO

  • PaulaJoye

    Thank you Mel.
    That made my heart sing.

  • BB

    Hey Paula, great post! Where is the frock with the tulle skirt from? The one you are wearing with the pink heels?

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