A French evening dress from 1929 (National Museums Scotland/PA)
16 November 2022

Little black dress phenomenon explored in new exhibition

16 November 2022

An exhibition exploring the success of the little black dress over almost a century is to open next year.

Beyond The Little Black Dress, at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, will bring together more than 60 looks from collections and designers around the world.

It will open with a simple, short black dress designed by Coco Chanel in 1926 and will look at fashions through the decades, from early pieces by Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Jean Muir to contemporary designers and brands such as Gareth Pugh, Simone Rocha and Off-White.

Chanel’s 1926 design was considered radically modern at the time and was hailed by US Vogue as “the frock that all the world will wear”.

Areas of the exhibition will be dedicated to highlighting black British designers whose work explores both blackness in terms of identity and the role the colour plays in crafting a futuristic, sci-fi aesthetic.

Georgina Ripley, principal curator of modern and contemporary design at National Museums Scotland, said: “Few garments are as iconic as the little black dress, which has often been held up by the fashion industry as the one piece every woman should have in her wardrobe. It has evolved dramatically in the century since its creation.

“From a simple shift dress which helped democratise women’s fashion to a bold political statement, it has moved through various iterations which reflect changing ideals of beauty and body image.

“Displaying classic couture, avant-garde pieces and garments that make a political statement, this exhibition will explore its enduring success, and ask why, in the fickle and fast-paced fashion world, the little black dress has achieved that rare status of being truly above the fray.”

The exhibition also considers how perceptions of the colour black differ in a global context, as well as how the intervention of smart technologies are establishing a blueprint for a more sustainable future.

It will run from Saturday July 1 to Sunday October 29, sponsored by Baillie Gifford Investment Managers.

Sam Pattman, philanthropy manager at Baillie Gifford, said: “We are delighted that our successful relationship with National Museums Scotland continues with our support for Beyond The Little Black Dress.

“This exciting exhibition takes a fresh look at a timeless classic, examining how it has remained in style for nearly a century and displaying a dazzling selection of garments from those worn by royalty to truly avant-garde creations at the cutting edge of the fashion industry.”

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