Although black tended to be associated with mourning in the 19th century, by the early 1900s it had become an acceptable colour for elegant evening and day gowns. The dress illustrated in this coloured pencil drawing may represent a design for a widow in the final stages of mourning when she was beginning to reenter social life and attend the theatre and other events, as although extremely fashionable in silhouette, it is untrimmed save for a few touches of white, and the wearer is depicted in a reflective, pensive mood. However, it is equally probable that it was simply designed as a "little black dress", a smart, understated black gown, designed to enhance and emphasise the wearer. Although the "little black dress" is popularly credited as a 1920s invention by Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel (1883-1971), images such as this show that the concept existed well before Chanel launched her career as a fashion designer.
The fashionable corset of the time had a straight front and a curved back, which pushed out both bust and bottom, creating a "S-bend" silhouette, which can be seen in this drawing, along with the way in which the wearer leaned forward slightly. The dress is designed to enhance this effect, with a trailing skirt and a pouched bodice front, the fabric hanging from the bust and caught up at the waist creating a "pouter pigeon" effect. The sleeves echo the lines in the bodice and skirt, fitted at the top and fuller at the bottom. The high piled hairstyle with a dramatic black hat poised on the top also enhances the wearer's posture and height.
The artist, Lucien Guy was a French illustrator and caricaturist active in the early 20th century, who appears to have specialised in portraying elegant, fashionable women of the period.