Items: Is Fashion Modern?

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (French, 1883–1971). House of Chanel (France, founded 1913). Evening dress. 1925–27. Silk chiffon, crepe-back satin, and glass bugle beads. Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles. Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection. Purchase: FIDM Museum Fashion Council and other generous donors. Charles Creed (British, 1909–1966). Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers (United Kingdom, founded 1942) Dress. 1942. Rayon crepe. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Given by the President of the Board of Trade.Christian Dior (French, 1905–1957). House of Dior (France, founded 1947). Two-piece dress
(bodice and skirt). c. 1950. Silk taffeta. Indianapolis Museum of Art. Gift of Eleanore R. Carruth. Hubert de Givenchy (French, born 1927). Givenchy (France, founded 1952). Dress. 1968. Satin, jet beading, and equin trim. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Gift of Jane Holzer. Arnold Scaasi (born Arnold Isaacs) (Canadian, 1931–2015). Dress. c. 1966. Tulle, black net shawl, and ribbon. Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection at Drexel University. Gift of the Schneidman family in memory of Margaret (Peggy) Wright Schneidman Tilghman. Image taken during installation of _Items: Is Fashion Modern?_

Little Black Dress. 1925-1968

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Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (French, 1883–1971). House of Chanel (France, founded 1913). Evening dress. 1925–27. Silk chiffon, crepe-back satin, and glass bugle beads. Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles. Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection. Purchase: FIDM Museum Fashion Council and other generous donors. Charles Creed (British, 1909–1966). Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers (United Kingdom, founded 1942) Dress. 1942. Rayon crepe. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Given by the President of the Board of Trade.Christian Dior (French, 1905–1957). House of Dior (France, founded 1947). Two-piece dress
(bodice and skirt). c. 1950. Silk taffeta. Indianapolis Museum of Art. Gift of Eleanore R. Carruth. Hubert de Givenchy (French, born 1927). Givenchy (France, founded 1952). Dress. 1968. Satin, jet beading, and equin trim. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Gift of Jane Holzer. Arnold Scaasi (born Arnold Isaacs) (Canadian, 1931–2015). Dress. c. 1966. Tulle, black net shawl, and ribbon. Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection at Drexel University. Gift of the Schneidman family in memory of Margaret (Peggy) Wright Schneidman Tilghman. Image taken during installation of Items: Is Fashion Modern?

Valerie Steele: I am Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

The little black dress is an iconic fashion. It is more than a style. It is a concept. Because you can have any number of styles and variations of the little black dress. It could be austere, or it could convey a kind of charismatic deviance. It provides a frame for the individual woman.

People think that Coco Chanel invented the little black dress in the 1920s. But already over the previous several years, there have been big hits in black dresses.

There are so many layers of meaning that go into the little black dress. It's not just the '50s classic with pearls, but all kinds of various sort of dangerous and sexy styles subsequently.

There's the idea of the bad girl in the black dress and the good girl and the nun’s habit. There’s the Versace safety pin dress, which Versace cleverly referred to as "Oh, that old punk classic," you know. That was quite brilliant because it took all of the eroticism and danger of the black dress, and then added to it this very punk feeling of overt violence with the safety pins.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (French, 1883–1971). House of Chanel (France, founded 1913). Evening dress. 1925–27. Silk chiffon, crepe-back satin, and glass bugle beads. Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles. Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection. Purchase: FIDM Museum Fashion Council and other generous donors. Charles Creed (British, 1909–1966). Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers (United Kingdom, founded 1942) Dress. 1942. Rayon crepe. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Given by the President of the Board of Trade.Christian Dior (French, 1905–1957). House of Dior (France, founded 1947). Two-piece dress
(bodice and skirt). c. 1950. Silk taffeta. Indianapolis Museum of Art. Gift of Eleanore R. Carruth. Hubert de Givenchy (French, born 1927). Givenchy (France, founded 1952). Dress. 1968. Satin, jet beading, and equin trim. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Gift of Jane Holzer. Arnold Scaasi (born Arnold Isaacs) (Canadian, 1931–2015). Dress. c. 1966. Tulle, black net shawl, and ribbon. Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection at Drexel University. Gift of the Schneidman family in memory of Margaret (Peggy) Wright Schneidman Tilghman. Image taken during installation of Items: Is Fashion Modern?
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