Little Black Dress
|Synonyms:||LBD, Fandom bicycle|
|See also:||Crossover, Crossover Pairing|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Little Black Dress (LBD) refers to a character who, like a little black dress, "goes with anything." These are characters who are easily paired with almost any other character, including crossover characters from other fandoms. Also known as the Fandom Bicycle ("everyone gets a ride"), the Launcher of a Thousand Ships (a reference to Helen of Troy), or the Cargo Container (gets shipped everywhere).
History of the Term
Little black dress has been used idiomatically to mean "something simple and versatile" since at least the 1990s. Its use in fandom seems to have started with fans of the X-Files character Alex Krycek. Krycek, in contrast to other characters, was popular with both het shippers and slash shippers in early XF fandom. An early use of the term was in a June 2001 discussion about crossover ships on alt.tv.x-files.creative, in which one fan remarked, "Alex is 'the little black dress' in everyone's closet. Good for any occasion." Another early use was in April 2003 on The Pits Mailing List where a fan said: "(Alex Alex Alex the little black dress of fandom)."
The term was still in use in X-Files fandom in April 2008. Te ran a Krycek-centric challenge called the "Little Black Dress Challenge" in 2008. On the challenge site, Te quotes Halrloprillalar: "Krycek is the little black dress of fanfic -- he'll take you anywhere in style."
- "And really, that's what it boils down to. All sorts of characters can be crossed over into other fandoms -- that whole recurring vs. regular thing can be a Godsend to those of us who like fucking with canon even more than usual -- but, well, Alex Krycek is more than that. [...] From Skippy to half-starved Rentboy to brutal Russian General to cold Operative to however else he's shown up, there are about a million ways to present him that can *all* be made to fit into canon. Some canon. Whichever canon it is this week."
In Buffy fandom, the term was popularized by Anna S, who said "Spike is a little black dress. He goes with everything, everyone."  Anna wrote Krycek slash in the X-files fandom, and most likely first encountered the term there.
Types of LBDs
Little Black Dress characters come in several varieties, depending on the fandom and community.
A character who pairs well with many other characters within a given fannish source text may be considered a Little Black Dress. Malcolm Reynolds, Spike and Methos are often considered LBDs in this sense. Professional Wrestling is unique in giving many particular characters the LBD role (such as John Cena, Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy and Evan Bourne, for example) -- it is suggested that this is because of the often random nature of feuds, and storylines.
LBD can also refer to a character who is often written into a wide range of crossover pairings. Like single-fandom LBDs, crossover LBDs are usually canonically flirtatious.
Multi-fandom LBDs also often have canonical attributes that help writers to plausibly cross them over with many different fandoms, such as being immortal or extremely long-lived, like Methos and Captain Jack Harkness; or extremely well-traveled, like Dean Winchester or Faith from the Buffyverse.
Some characters are considered LBDs in both their source fandoms and in a multi-fandom sense, including the aforementioned Captain Jack and Tony Stark.
A less common usage of LBD, unique to crossovers, is the description of entire fandoms as LBDs because they are easy to integrate into other fandoms. For example, OBAFU (Official Buffy and Angel Fanfiction University) by HonorH described Highlander as an LBD fandom for this reason; since everything in the fandom is supposed to be a secret, with the public unaware that there are immortals, it is very easy to integrate the fandom and its concepts into most other fandoms.
Some fans also use "little black dress" to indicate a character that they like so much, they will read absolutely any story involving this character, no matter the pairing. By this definition, any character can be an individual fan's personal "little black dress." Similar concepts include the bulletproof kink and the Beloved Slash Object.
- ASoIaF/Game of Thrones: Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, Daenerys Targaryen
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Katara
- Buffyverse: Spike
- Doctor Who: Jack Harkness
- Harry Potter: Hermione Granger, Severus Snape
- Heroes: Peter Petrelli
- Marvel Cinematic Universe: Tony Stark
- Sherlock: Sherlock Holmes
Communities & Challenges
These challenges are inactive or closed challenges.
- Black Dress Lex - Crossover comm for Lex Luthor
- Omnijaxual - a fest "that celebrates Jack Harkness'... willingness, desire, even, to do everything and anything (not human)"
- Of Alex Krycek and Crossovers - possibly the original LBD challenge
- Karen Springen, "Authors: Dinner Without Arugula", Newsweek, 24 September 1995: "A connoisseur of simplicity, she refers to the baking-powder biscuit as 'the little black dress of cooking,' [...]."
- "OT: Tribute/Deny the Lie!" thread on alt.tv.x-files.creative. Posts dated from June 1, 2001 to June 2, 2001. (Accessed July 5, 2021)
- "Re: [ThePits] Installments and WIPs and Other Waiting Games" (April 14, 2003)
- "Krycek was, so far as I know, the original little black dress of fandom" comment by Gryphonrhi, posted April 26, 2008, in the "Poll: Crossovers, Oh My" post of thefourthvine, . (Accessed October 4, 2008)
- Te, Of Alex Krycek and Crossovers Page last updated April 1, 2001. (Accessed October 4, 2008)
- Te, Neep Page last updated April 1, 2001. (Accessed October 4, 2008)
- Quoting Anna S., The Spike Zone of the BTVS Writer's Guild Page last updated October 15, 2005. (Accessed October 4, 2008)