Celebrating the little black dress

If you were alive during the Victorian period, you would only wear black when in mourning. The dresses worn while grieving were simple as Victorian dresses went, devoid of any decoration. 

During the 1920s, Coco Chanel, after experiencing the loss of her lover Boy Capel, modernized Victorian tradition by turning the black mourning dress into a chic and simple, calf-length frock. This little black dress became her "Ford" (a reference to the Model T) and a staple in every woman's wardrobe. 

Dr. Constance Korosec, chair of Ursuline College’s fashion design and merchandising department, realizes the importance of this iconic garment. To chronicle 70 years of black dresses in fashion, Korosec created The Little Black Dress Show at Ursuline 

The hands-on exhibit features 30 exquisite dresses as well as black accessories that take you through various fashion periods. The exhibit features designer interpretations of the little black dress as well as evening gowns by Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta and Pauline Trigère. 

Many of the dresses are from the eighties, when fashion was about Victorian influences, geometric shaping and, of course, shoulder pads. 

Notable pieces are a textured wool crepe couture dress by JIKI Monte Carlo and a breathtaking Pauline Trigère dress, circa 1980. A stunning, ruffled silk moiré taffeta little black dress by Givenchy, reminiscent of baroque and Victorian era frocks, stands out as well. 

In principal, a little black dress should be simple, no longer than calf length, and (of course) black. It should be devoid of trendy or faddish details that might exclude it from being a classic wardrobe staple. 

This show is more than little black dresses; it is a remarkable display of fashion as an art form. 

The exhibit runs through October 25. Admission is free.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009