What's the point of owning the slinkiest dress in the coolest non-color if you can't zip it up? Not only has the Little Black Dress ruled the most chic of wardrobes since the 1920s, it is the ultimate goal for those who want to have nothing to hide in the outfit that leaves nowhere to hide it.

Chanel is widely credited as having created the first one back in 1926, when Vogue rightly recognized it to be the piece of clothing that was going to revolutionize women's wardrobes, but it took Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany's to really burn the image – and the irresistibility – of the little black dress into the popular conscious and into the mythology of glamour.

"The Little Black Dress Diet Book", a new release by Michael Van Straten, Britain's top practitioner of alternative medicine, reminds us that, universal though the allure of the LBD may be, one doesn't create the alluring impact of Audrey Hepburn upon putting one on without a little bit of help. When so many diet books these days take things to rigid, boring extremes, this tongue-in-cheek tome sprinkles humorous observations in with more serious fare, such as valid meal plans, great advice, impressively simple recipes, do's and don'ts, and, of course – the light at the end of the tunnel – the goal of being able to fit into that ever-elegant LBD.

Ever since Chanel's tour-de-force of a simple black silhouette enlivened only with some diagonal lines of topstitching, the little black dress has taken one-shade stygian dressing from the realms of widows' weeds and turned it into the symbol of seduction and the fun-filled soirée. It's followed the unavoidable twists and turns fashion has taken over the decades. So the LBD revealed a very nipped waist and a full skirt from the late Forties to the mid Fifties before it went on to become a shapeless sheath and then a minidress in the Sixties. After those incarnations, it went through a ruffled renaissance and reappeared sylph-like in jersey à la Halston for the disco era. The '80s brought shoulder pads, gilt belts and immobile drapes, which were in turn washed away by the deconstructivism of grunge. Just when the century and millennium were ending, there was a sudden return to glamour. After that, the pace quickened, throwing out one after the next the seemingly innumerable trends that have carried us up to the present day.

But one thing remains constant throughout the many transformations of the most fetching of robes: the slim figure it is meant to grace. And so the woman who has acquired a striking example of this much-coveted piece of clothing has every right to feel the icy hand of social pressure squeezing at her ego when she observes, upon putting it on, just how the chips fall (or where they settled, as the case may be...).

As Van Straten writes, enthusiastically, "Are you panicking? Do the thoughts of summer holidays, beaches and bikinis fill you with horror? Now's the time to boost vitality, raise defenses and shed that excess baggage." With a can-do approach, the author gives a decisive tweak to the diet plan and its lackluster overtones. So delve into the 10 days of Van Straten's plan of attack, whittle away at that widening waist, and a special someone just might whisk you off into the night.

Little Black Dress Diet Book, by Michael Van Straten
Published by Assouline

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