Lara popped this one into the suggestion box:
Is there a non-black alternative to the LBD? Black on my upper body depresses me, and I don’t like color blocking either. Then the modesty issue, sleeves and at least below the knee, please. So many beautiful LBD, but not for me. Any suggestions would be most helpful.
So let’s start with the general: What can you wear if a black sleeveless sheath leaves you feeling cold or looking pallid?
Try navy instead
Navy seems to be a controversial color that many women associate with casual dressing, prepsters, and/or sailboats. And I’ll admit that many navy evening dresses look a bit odd. However, navy has all the darkness of black with none of the cold, lifelessness. Navy pairs beautifully with loads of colors – as this post on complementing navy proved – and if you pick a simple navy dress with minimal detailing, you can load on the fun and funky accessories to complete your look. I suppose this might not fly at actual black tie, but anything less dressy than the dressiest should be just fine.
Add color through layers
If you’ve already GOT a black sleeveless sheath that fits and flatters you overall, you can kill two birds with one stone by layering. The complexion-draining properties of black can be mitigated by a cardigan, scarf, or necklace in a more flattering color. Put something non-black between your face and the dress, or up near your face. And since most LBDs are sleeveless, doing a wrap, bolero, or blazer helps in the modesty and temperature regulation departments. If you’re looking for something truly dressy, eDressMe has wraps, shrugs, and jackets appropriate for evening.
Try a pattern
There’s no denying that black feels dressy, but solid black isn’t required. Consider a print or pattern that includes lots of black, but incorporates other colors, too. Texture is also a great option – lace, sequins, and other embellishments can help black or black-and-other-colored dresses feel livelier.
Throw caution to the wind
I don’t own an LBD myself. I do love black, especially for winter, but if I’m going to a fancy dress party or formal affair I am far more likely to reach for bright red or regal purple. So Rachel Zoe thinks you need a classic Little Black Dress to be a complete human being. SO WHAT?!? If you like turquoise, get thee a Little Turquoise Dress. You look good, you feel good, and nobody comes up to you, drink in hand, and says, “Why on earth aren’t you wearing black, darling?”
In terms of where to find an elegant dress with sleeves and a below-the-knee hem … er, that’s a toughie. But here are a few places to check:
- Talbots – Their new Aisle Style line is aimed at weddings, but the garments are appropriate to most dressy affairs.
- Nordstrom – You can’t search by hem (besides short/long), but Nordstrom allows you to search by sleeves. Here are their current 3/4 and long-sleeved dress options.
- Boden – This British retailer organizes its dresses by length, and always includes “below-the-knee.” Weirdly, this is one of the only current options. But check back!
- Macy’s – Search by sleeve length and narrow from there! Here are 3/4 sleeve dresses, and long-sleeved options. (Those links are being finicky. If they don’t work, scroll down and look for “Sleeve Length” in the left rail.
- eDressMe – Again, a massive resource for all things formal. Most options are either knee-length or floor length, but there are some midi options mixed in.
Do you own an LBD? Is yours a traditional sleeveless version, or some alternative? Would you do a navy frock instead? Or a bright color? Does layering help make black less harsh against your skin? Where else would you recommend shopping for a modest LBD alternative?
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