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Your Stylist: How to make your little black dress work during warmer months

April 4, 2011 |  8:02 am

Resident Image stylist and market editor Melissa Magsaysay soothes your sartorial woes in the weekly Your Stylist blog column


Banana99 Dear Melissa, 
I could really use some fashion sense and help.  I  have many daytime events coming up this spring and summer and I really don't want to go out and purchase a bevy of new spring dresses.  I do have several black dresses and I want to know is there a way, with the proper shoes, hose and accessories, can I take a black dress and style it right to wear for a daytime event, such as a baby shower, or bar/bat mitzvah reception?  There are colorful shoes and hose available and I thought I could do a black and white look?  What do you think?
Valerie Page  Weitzman298

There’s a reason the little black dress has earned a spot on the short list of fashion essentials. An LBD is versatile, season-less and can go from day to night with a quick switch of an accessory or two. Now assuming your black dresses aren’t made of heavy wool or nubby boucle, or the length  doesn’t reach the floor, they should be fine to take right into your spring and summer events, just think carefully about how you accessorize.  Caslon3999

Jcrewbelt2950 I’m gonna go ahead and nix the black-and-white combo you suggested. Black-and-white looks so antiquated, either too retro-mod or bad early '90s. Rather than wear a white shoe, try a nude shoe. Nude shoes are such a major trend right now, especially worn with black. It’s a chic combo and nude heels elongate the look of the leg. You’ll definitely get mileage out of purchasing a pair if you don’t already own them, because you can wear them in the fall with jeans or trousers and a Ysl250 blazer or with any other color of dress.

If wearing a black dress with a nude shoe in warmer weather, I love the look of pairing the combo with accessories made from wood and natural, earthy-feeling materials. It gives the look kind of a tribal vibe and the natural materials feel right for spring and summer. Clasp on this hammered gold bracelet with wood beads from Oscar de la Renta and you’re on your way to getting that exotic tribal look. You can wear the nude KJL375 shoes, or if you have a nice brown leather strappy sandal or wood soled Deveauxjcrew198 wedge of some kind, that would work nicely as well.

If you really want to transform your LBD into something different, consider punchy accessories and a bright colored cardigan. Layer a floral print cardigan like this ivory, marigold and purple version from Nordstrom. Wrap a nude or taupe skinny belt around your true waist, cinching you in and defining your shape. Rather than a totally nude shoe, try a neutral colored heel with a pop of unexpected color, like this pair from J Crew which has a cool yellow strap. And finally go for splashes of fun accessories like Anntaylor168 Oscar360 this turquoise and gold ring from YSL and some spotted bright yellow bangles from Kenneth Jay Lane. 

And if you want to keep it really simple, changing your shoe to something super summery will always work. Try a black canvas espadrille like this pair from J Crew or make more of a statement with this fun pair of striped wedge espadrilles from Ann Taylor. It’s a simple switch, but the rope sole of an espadrille sandal just screams summer.

Anntaylorwedge168 Just remember that as you begin to transform your black dresses to suit the summer months, always make sure you are tying everything together somehow. Play with patterns like the floral or printed Jcrew118 cardigan and pull a color out of the cardigan and highlight it by wearing a cocktail ring or earring in that color. Stay away from patterned tights or pantyhose. It’s too heavy looking for warmer weather and daytime events. If you’re adding accessories that are black or a dark color make sure they are light and summery-feeling and -looking. Espadrilles, open-toe strappy sandals, bright pops of color in jewelry or a flattering nude heel are perfect pieces to change up the basic look of a black dress and will continue to work for you throughout the rest of your wardrobe.

Send your style queries to

Melissa Magsaysay

Photos, from top: black dress - Banana Republic, $99 at Banana Republic/Banana Republic; right, nude shoe - Stuart Weitzman $298 at Bloomingdales/Stuart Weitzman; left, skinny belt - J Crew $29.50 at J Crew/J Crew; right, floral cardigan Caslon $39.99 at Nordstrom/Nordstrom; left, YSL ring $250 at; right, spotted bangles Kenneth Jay Lane $375 at; left, suede sandal with yellow stripe J Crew $198 at J Crew/J Crew; right, black dress Ann Taylor $168 at Ann Taylor/Ann Taylor; left, wood and gold bracelet Oscar de la Renta $360 at; right, black espadrille J Crew $118 at J Crew/J Crew; left, striped espadrille Ann Taylor $168 at Ann Taylor/Ann Taylor.