Little Black Dress For a Little Price Tag

Fresno, CA Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" helped solidify the little black dress as a wardrobe essential. The dresses she wore were made by Givenchy. But today do you have to pay designer prices to get a great black dress?

"These days all the discount stores sell little black dresses, and some by big-name designers," Lisa Lee Freeman said.

Consumer reports checked out five little black dresses from low-cost retailers.

They ranged in price from 51 dollars for kohl's chaps Ralph Lauren dress to just 20 dollars for Wal-Mart's Norma Kamali dress.

Textile engineer Pat Slaven washed each dress five times and then inspected to see how well they held up.

Consumer reports says there are certain clues you can look for to make sure whatever dress you buy is well made. There should be no loose or dangling threads. The seams should be finished, not uneven or unraveling. And while a lining isn't essential, it is a sign of a good-quality dress.

The Wal-Mart dress comes at a great price and because of the material, you'll never have to iron it.

"But it has a few issues. The seams aren't finished. And the hem is just completely started unraveling on us."

Kohl's chaps Ralph Lauren dress was well made, but "it's just a little bland and boring. It would need a little pizzazz," said Regina Griffin.

This JC Penney Nicole Miller dress had to be hand washed because of the beading, which is annoying.

And there was a problem with some of the dresses shrinking - the biggest offender was Mossimo's dress, sold at target.

"After laundering, it shrank almost a full size. This mark used to be here before we laundered it," said Slaven.

But don't worry, frugalistas.

Freeman said, "we really liked H&M's little black dress. The seams were nicely finished and the lining was well sewn. And it was only 35 bucks!"

So getting a nice little black dress for your next party doesn't have to break the bank.

As fashions come and go quickly, some of these dresses may not still be available.

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