Woman in a Long Black Dress

Woman in a Long Black Dress

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  1. Woman in a Long Black Dress

    Who are the people who wear long black dresses?  Both women AND men, it turns out. 

    When you think of a woman in a long black dress you are probably thinking of a large woman trying to look thinner, or a widow in mourning clothes or a fashionable person.  Of course you might be thinking of the old Hollies song of a similar name (Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress). 

    But heaven help the poor woman who insists upon wearing bright colors all the time when the fashionistas of today are stridently calling for women to wear black.  And who are those fashion arbiters who have decreed black the color of choice for every occasion? 

    The Fashionistas Insist on Black

    Fashionistas are generally the best dressed writers and readers of fashion magazines, those gurus of high style who make their ironclad pronouncements in such glossy magazines as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.  They are well-known personalities and public figures, whose rank was always enhanced by such glamorous icons as Princes Diana. 

    Princess Diana and the Long Black Dress

    Even in death Princess Diana still rules.  In June of 2010, it was reported by the AP of London that “A racy black gown worn by Lady Diana Spencer on one of her first official engagements has been snapped up by a Chilean fashion museum for more than $275,000, several times the original price.”

    The dress caused a minor scandal when Diana was pictured stepping out of a limousine in the outfit at a London charity event in 1981. But while some thought the low-cut gown was too daring for the 19-year-old royal bride-to-be, it helped establish her reputation as an overnight fashion icon.

    In the almost three decades since Diana wore it, a long black dress is still considered to be one of the most elegant statements a woman can make.  From inexpensive versions at JCPenney to the most exclusive designs of haute couturiers, long black dresses are still thought of as the height of fashion. 

    Men in Long Black Dresses?

    But what about men who wear long black dresses?  “Men in Black Dresses” is the title of a book by Yvonne Seng, Ph.D. and takes the reader behind the walls of desert monasteries, Sufi enclaves, ancient cathedrals, and mosques.  She asks questions of these wise men regarding the future of our planet.  They all wear black dresses, and according to The Washington Post the book “takes the reader on an exotic and enlightening journey to visit the mystical religious figures who guide the soul of the Arab world.”

    Michel Pastoureau in his book, “Black: The History of a Color,” states that black is the “favorite color of priests and penitents, artists and ascetics, fashion designers and fascists.  He believes black was the “archetypal color of darkness and death.”

    For Pastoureau, the history of any color must be a social history first.  “In dyes, fabrics, clothing, and in painting,” he says, “black has always been a forceful shaper of social, symbolic, and ideological meaning particularly in European societies.”  It certainly seems to define the people who wear it today.

    Here to Stay, but Accessorize Please

    Perennially in style for both fashionable women and religious men, long black dresses have earned a place in our culture as a hallmark of what is both popular and holy.  They define the wearers and are apparently here to stay.  For certain women, wearing black states they are fashion conscious and in style.  For certain men, it is the costume of their religious beliefs. 

    However, there are certain people who believe color should be part of the mix, at least part of the time.  A steady diet of all black is boring. Glamour Magazine says to avoid the (boring) slave-to-fashion look, remember that the Little Black Dress is a “blank canvas onto which you can paint just about anything you want” (not boring).  They urge you to get creative with your accessories.  Of course, holy men have religious symbols to accessorize with, such as jewelry or shawls. 

    By wearing black, both men and women define exactly who they are:  either stylish women, or religious men, all following the dictates of their belief systems. 

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