Infiltrating lobular breast cancer (ILC) is the most common special breast cancer subtype. With mutational or epigenetic inactivation of the cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin (CDH1) being confined almost exclusively to ILC, this tumor entity stands out from all other types of breast cancers. The molecular basis of ILC is linked to loss of E-cadherin, as evidenced by human CDH1 germline mutations and conditional knockout mouse models. A better understanding of ILC beyond the level of descriptive studies depends on physiologically relevant and functional tools. This review provides a detailed overview on ILC models, including well-characterized cell lines, xenograft tumors and genetically engineered mouse models. We consider advantages and limitations of these models and evaluate their representativeness for human ILC. The still incompletely defined mechanisms by which loss of E-cadherin drives malignant transformation are discussed based on recent findings in these models. Moreover, candidate genes and signaling pathways potentially involved in ILC development and progression as well as anticancer drug and endocrine resistance are highlighted.