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8 Little Black Dresses!

The Little Black Dress is always a party winner but safe it is not - here's our guide to our fav LBD's this season!

I have a terrible habit of trotting out the same old outfit for Christmas parties. Everyone’s got that ‘old faithful’ at the back of the wardrobe which emerges as the default for any given occasion, but sometimes it’s time for a refresh and the festive season is the perfect excuse to do just that. So I was given a mission, which I happily chose to accept: to scour the shops of central Norwich and hunt out the perfect LBD. It’s a tough job!

Dress £50; Bag £38

Norwich is blessed with plenty of smaller independent shops but when you need something classic that’s going to have instant impact, we love Lady B Loves in the Royal Arcade. The two dresses that Jenny had laid out for me oozed with retro glamour.  The first was a wiggle dress, and wiggle I did (to the endless amusement of the shoppers around!) It gave me the silhouette I’ve always wanted, with a nipped-in waist, three-quarter length sleeves and a heart-shaped velvet neckline that was simply too sweet for words.

This isn’t a dress for the shy – it shows up every lump and bump, whether you wish to or not – but it made me feel outrageously brave, especially with a pair of heels and a matching heart-shaped bag. It’s an absolute showstopper. Lead me to the party!

The more forgiving cousin of this dress still has wiggle and wow, but in a gentler form. It doesn’t need spangle or sequins, although we did add a delicate velvet and pearl belt to emphasise the waistline. But its puffed shoulders, sweetheart neckline and fishtail hem make this an ultra-stylish option without need for anything else. If you’re looking for the ultimate classic LBD, it has to be this.

Dress £60; Bag £38

After that, it was time to hotfoot it across to intu Chapelfield, where appointments had been made for me with three Personal Shoppers (honestly, I’ve never felt like such a celebrity). My first stop was Monsoon, who have recently set up their Personal Stylist service and Rowena selected several outfit options for me including shoes and accessories.

There were so many that it was hard to choose two favourites but there were two which stood out. The first was a versatile dress with capped sleeves and a shorter hemline which was a nice balance between fun and formal. To give it the oomph factor, Rowena added black boots and a black bag with a gold chain that matched my gold accessories. This really toughened up the look – I felt a little bit like a gladiator going into battle! – but it could equally be softened with something less chunky.

Dress £99; Shoes £59; Bag £5 and bracelets £8 (both Accessorize)

Next up was the jumpsuit. I know, I know, it’s not a dress, but it was just too gorgeous to ignore. There were so many beautiful details: the yoke neckline, the shooting stars, the sheer sleeves, to name just three. Plus, not only was it incredibly comfortable, it made my legs look about six feet long, especially when twinned with a pair of silver heels. If you want to really stand out from the crowd, then this is the outfit for you – and anyway, who says you can’t have an LBJ…?

Jumpsuit £130; Shoes £59; Bag £15 (Accessorize)

After that, it was on to a quick zoom around House Of Fraser, where Personal Shopper Claire had opted for two dresses at the opposite ends of the style spectrum. If you’re a lover of Strictly, you may recognise the name Serenity & Grace, as the label is a favourite of Shirley Ballas. This was the most formal of all of the dresses that I tried, and although it does come with a corresponding price tag, if the occasion demands full-on red-carpet treatment, you can’t go wrong with this.

Dress £195, Serenity & Grace at House Of Fraser

By contrast, the smoking-hot minidress by Warehouse made me want to party hard! It’s the ideal choice for anyone who prefers to hide their arms without compromising on the vamp factor and it could be dressed up or down quite easily by adding thicker tights or boots. It’s velvet, too, which makes it toasty warm and at £52, it’s on the more realistic end of my budget too. That’s a tick in every box for me!

Dress, £52, Warehouse at House Of Fraser

Finally, I had one short skip down the hall to Oliver Bonas. They’re the newest addition to Chapelfield’s impressive lineup of shops and their storefront is a glitzy, shimmery world of promise. It took me several minutes to reach the changing rooms as my inner magpie was distracted by all the shiny pretties around and once there, the sparkle just got – well, sparklier!

Beth had a vast array of party dress waiting for me and I was dancing around like a child in a sweet shop before I’d even taken off my coat. Her first choice was a mid-length dress with skinny straps and a very subtle Jacquard print (too subtle for the photographs, sadly, but I promise it’s there!) If I’m honest, I would never have taken this off the hanger, but once on, I was seduced by the elegant drape of the fabric. This would look perfect with a furry stole across the shoulders for Christmas but also in January for cruise season too. Ahoy there, sailor!

Dress £69.50; Elana Metallic Cross-Body Bag £39.50

Lastly, it was time to really ramp up the style stakes and Beth produced nothing short of a Christmas miracle: a shimmering black tunic dress with short sleeves and a form-skimming line which fell to the knee and which made several jaws in the shop thud to the floor. Add a pair of gold heels and a rainbow sequinned clutch and you’re all set to party on until sunrise!

I felt like a million dollars in this dress, and it didn’t cost anywhere near that, either, so there’d be plenty of spare change left over to spend on some of the dazzling accessories that were also on display. It looked so lovely under the spotlights of the window display that we just had to take a video, so if you want to see full-on sparkle, check us out on Instagram and Facebook where it can be seen it all its glory!

Dress £55; Rainbow Line Sequin Clutch £29.50

So what was my conclusion? When it came to choosing an overall winner, it was a really tough call between the Lady B Loves fishtail dress and the Oliver Bonas sparkle extravaganza. But in the end, I’d have to go with the Oliver Bonas. It’s always nice to have a classic tucked away and the Lady B Loves dress could easily become my new ‘old faithful’. But it is the festive season, after all, and Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a little bit of glitter. So the Oliver Bonas is the one for me! Now, has anyone seen my mistletoe…?

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