The ‘little black dress’ is dead — thanks to Facebook and Instagram

By Lauren Cochrane, The Guardian
Tuesday, December 31, 2013 0:38 EDT
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Close up portrait of a young stylish teenager woman using a smartphone device while visiting the city, leaning on a fashion store shop window while shopping for clothes via Shutterstock
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Matchesfashion.com and Asos report rise in sales of bright dresses driven by attractiveness on Instagram or Facebook

It was once the failsafe option for the party season, but the peerless status of the little black dress is now looking less certain. If sales of the LBD used to dwarf those of braver brights and prints, retailers report that the dominance is over. At Matchesfashion.com, print or coloured dresses sell double the amount of black ones. Asos report 60% of dress sales come from designs that are not LBDs.

The fact that these two retailers do most of their trade online is significant. Part of this trend is down to online shopping. Unlike in a physical boutique, black clothing can look flat when presented in two dimensions. Brights and prints, by contrast, are tantalising. “Prints are always key for Asos as they are visually appealing when looking online,” said Jacqui Markham, Asos’s womenswear design director. The e-tailer has played to this strength – it has an inhouse team creating unique prints.

Print has had a resurgence in fashion of late. London-based designers lead the trend. Jonathan Saunders was an early pioneer and Mary Katrantzou and Peter Pilotto nailed the look on the catwalk with vibrant, photo-real, multi-coloured prints that made black seem beta to the fashion crowd. This shift – dating back to 2009 – has now been in the zeitgeist for long enough that it has gone mainstream. LBDs are the casualties. “Print isn’t taboo any more,” said Katrantzou. “Women want to wear an outfit that will say something about their aesthetic.” The designer is well aware of the power of her aesthetic online. “The colour and detail of my designs make them more noticeable,” she said. “It makes a big difference when you’re selling online.”

Social media is turning an average night out into a red carpet moment. A bright or printed dress is more attractive on Instagram or Facebook – a black dress looks boring by comparison. “The only black pieces that will make the best-dressed lists are those with embellishment or couture details,” said Emma Elwick-Bates, style editor at British Vogue. The same holds under the lens of social media – and women’s shopping habits are changing accordingly.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013

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