The little black dress

From Hepburn to housewives, the LBD is astonishingly versatile. In fact, it may well be the fashion holy grail, suggests Bridget English

The must have piece, the one item of clothing that will carry you through every occasion, be it a night you may not remember in a Temple Bar hovel, a dinner with family or a day of lectures: the ultimate fashion fall-back. No such piece you say? The fable of the college wardrobe? Have faith dear freshers, it’s not a myth.

A little over a year ago, in preparation for what was sure to be the most fun, most exciting but most daunting year of my young life, I threw away the no-thought uniform which had carried me through six years of Loreto days, and began to plot the “college wardrobe.” While many of those “it” pieces lie abandoned at the back of my closet, and many have failed to venture into the light of day, a few have carried me through all of the above situations.

It may be a cliché but trust me when I say that Holly Golightly had the right idea – the Little Black Dress is the tried and tested must-have piece season after season. Mine, a Topshop purchase that is undoubtedly one of my favourite ever finds, has become the staple of my college existence. Satin, high necked, and seductively backless, it can be dressed down with flats, tights and a fitted blazer (menswear is where it’s at for Autumn/Winter) or teamed with heels and some eye-catching jewellery for the aforementioned Temple Bar adventure. It has been carted around Dublin and back, and has never failed to make me feel flirty, feminine and fabulous.

It may be twelve months later but I still have big plans for my LBD – this season it is the perfect blank canvas to the statement accessories we saw on catwalks from Paris to New York. Think feature necklaces (goth-like at Givenchy or a little more reserved at Philip Lim), vintage brooches (60s demure à la Mad Men) and jewel toned tights (Proenza Schuler did it best with mustards, pinks and purples). For Autumn/Winter ‘08, the LBD is all about lace. Whether you are following the goth trend or just hoping for something a little sophisticated and understated, this latest incarnation of the little black dress is flexible, while remaining classic, and is sure to be something you’ll wear with pride for seasons to come.

Nobody understands more than a Trinity fashionista how hard it is to walk down Grafton Street without a quick detour into BT, Ted Baker or A-wear. Trust me when I say that many of your lecture-free hours will be lost to such pursuits, and while I am certainly no Baz Luhrmann, if I had one piece of advice (sunscreen aside) this season, and every season, it would be to pick your pieces carefully.

Look for pieces that are timeless, well-made and versatile. Pick something you know you’ll happily wear years later and won’t make you cringe when pictures of your college days are still flittering around Facebook. If you’re shopping on the high street (and I think it’s safe to assume that most of us students are) you’re bound to run into at least one person who has the same jeans/shoes/top, or most vexing of all, the same dress. The trick is to make it your own outfit; be it with cute accessories, a few alterations or maybe just a killer attitude, make sure to carry it with a healthy dose of originality!

Whilst it will certainly be one of your most daunting challenges to come up with something charming and different every single day (and even more than that – as even Citi Bar deserves a night time look), and there will inevitably be days when it is tempting to throw on some O’Neills, a hoodie and forget you’ve ever even read a copy of Vogue, this daily routine is also one of the most fun opportunities to show your new class mates who you are. Self expression has never looked so good!