How to Make a Little Black Dress Casual

Updated April 17, 2017

The eternally practical little black dress, or LBD, immortalised by Coco Chanel in 1926, is a staple item in most women's closets. It's chic, elegant, eminently versatile, and is the perfect dress to wear for practically any social engagement. You can extend its versatility by using accessories and other clothes in your closet to give you a casual look at no extra cost and with minimal time and effort. Be bold and adventurous and give that dress a new lease of life.

Forget the diamond earrings and the pearls. For laid-back chic, trawl the accessory and thrift shops for bracelets, necklaces and earrings that are big, bold and brazen. Change the focus of that little black dress from quiet elegance to a canvas for limitless creative design possibilities.

Try three or four wide bangles up your arm, wind beaded necklaces round your wrist or sport big fun earrings. Wear a big, chunky necklace or two. Make bold statements with colour and design, and don't be afraid to be extravagant with your creativity.

Pick your favourite colour and run with it. Try hot pinks, rich blues, deep reds, colours that contrast vividly with black; find a large scarf threaded through with gold or silver, and try different ways to tie it or wear as a trendy shawl. Use big brooches to secure it, or tie it with a casual knot. Tie five knots along the length of the rolled scarf, incorporating a long beaded necklace, and wind it around your neck or use it as a bandeau around your head.

Use a belt to give a defined outline. Pick out a belt in the same shade as the scarf, or stick with the black of the dress. Sling the belt low around your hips or pull it in tight to accentuate your waist. Be adventurous: use a long strip of thick fabric and knot it, or try a small triangular shawl secured below your waist, like a belly dancer, to accentuate the shape and movement of your hips.

Wear thick, brightly coloured pantyhose in cold weather and experiment with different shades, multicoloured stripes, textures and denier. You can stick with the black of the dress if you want to keep the colour accents concentrated in the jewellery and accessories, and carry that black right down to your footwear.

Wear slim-fit trousers or Lycra leggings rather than pantyhose. These look very effective with both a knee-length and a short dress and give instant casual appeal. Black is a good option for a sleek look with the thicker fabric, but colour experimentation is fun so find the right mix that works for you.

Try footless pantyhose when the weather is warm, or experiment with ankle socks in bright colours.

Dare to be different and wear chunky lace-up boots with that little black dress. The effect is sassy and immediately undercuts the dress by giving it a gamine, rebellious flavour. High heels with leggings or coloured pantyhose can work, and flat pumps are very popular for a casual look.

Put on a hat. It will give you an instant new casual look and downplay the chic of the dress. Try a range of different styles to find one that fits your face shape, and make it bold and brash for impact.


If you've become tired of the design of your little black dress but don't want to discard it, arrange for a dressmaker to alter it. Consider shortening the dress, removing sleeves and replacing them with straps, or putting in deeper darts if it's currently a little loose. Make some collars out of lace or contrasting material that you can attach and detach to suit your mood. Make the dress work for you. Wear a long-sleeved T-shirt underneath your dress if it has short sleeves. A capped- or short-sleeved tee looks attractive and casual under straps. If the dress is strapless, a leather or denim jacket will set it off well, particularly if you choose some interesting accessories and colours. If you wear a hat, minimise the amount of jewellery you wear and keep it simple, otherwise the overall look will be cluttered.


Flesh-coloured pantyhose won't have the same effect as making a bold statement, and will draw the eye to your conventional-looking legs under your repurposed dress rather than to your other accessories.

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About the Author

Veronica James has been writing since 1985. Her first career was as a specialty-trained theater sister responsible for running routine and emergency operating theaters, as well as teaching medical/nursing students. James's creative and commercial writing has appeared online, in print and on BBC radio. She graduated with an honors Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of North London.