The classic black staple in every woman’s wardrobe makes its way out of the closet and onto the elegant display of the Little Black Dress Exhibition at the Mona Bismarck American Center for art and culture in Paris. Inaugurated by The SCAD Museum of Art, curated by André Leon Talley, and sponsored by MAC Cosmetics, Little Black Dress travels through time to study the transformation of the single garment that has continually captured the essence of the changing society we live in. Showcasing nearly 50 garments, the exhibition highlights the exceptional talents of some of the most influential fashion designers of all time such as Coco Chanel, Prabal Gurung, Stella McCartney, Diane Von Furstenberg, Giambattista Valli, Miuccia Prada, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Proenza Schouler, and Tom Ford.
The art centre’s grand mirrors, golden Baroque motifs, and paintings above the doorframes intensify the exposition experience as we feel like we are transported to a regal location, like a majestic ballroom. The exhibition opens with a timeless little black dress designed by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel Haute Couture. A donation from Anna Wintour for the SCAD Museum of Art, this eternal, simple dress is the only one that is framed.
Most of the garments are from the 21st Century and flown in from New York, with several dating from the mid 1900s from Paris or London. While some dresses are from the closets of private individuals, every dress is infused with the significance of its time. Mariano Fortuny designed the earliest piece in the exhibition, a pleated silk dress from 1907. One of the newer garments, designed by recent Savannah College of Art and Design graduate Alexis Asplundh, takes a modern spin with a large neon green zipper in the front of the dress.
Sequins, silk, lace, satin, organza galore, the Little Black Dress covers the entire spectrum of elegance. We see the tenacity in the woman who wears Prabal Gurung’s leather dress and the vigour in the one who sports Ohne Titel’s athletic dress. We even witness one Comme des Garçons dress designed specifically for men. Many little black dresses are not so little at all. Luscious gowns grace the exhibition floor, including one showstopper designed by Oscar de la Renta, who used 400 meters of tulle to complete the look.
From service to individuality, limitation to provocation, from enchantment to sophistication, Little Black Dress tells stories of time and women’s role during specific periods. The exhibition documents the evolution of this fundamental dress. Through the choice of fabric and shape, the very nature of the LBD develops as our society does. The little black dress, both long lasting and versatile, has become an indispensable must-have for daywear, eveningwear, and more currently, anytime-wear.
This is the second exhibition curated by André Leon Talley and was inaugurated in Savannah, Georgia at the SCAD Museum of Art.
Little Black Dress is located in Paris, France at the Mona Bismarck American Center for art and culture. It is open to the public from July 3 – September 22, 2013.
For more information please visit: www.monabismarck.org/programmes/exposition
Words / Sheri Chiu
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