Little Black Dress Exhibition
Fashion and Textile Museum
20 June - 25 August 2008
Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last admissions 5.15 p.m.)
Adults UKP5, Students and concessions UKP3, Under-12s free
Some women wear them to look thin. Some wear them to look powerful. Whatever the reason, most women keep at least one little black dress in the closet, and now the age-old fashion staple is getting the spotlight at the Fashion and Textile Museum.
The Little Black Dress exhibition comprises two floors and nearly 90 years worth of satin, leather and lace that take the classic-black look way beyond Audrey Hepburn's shift from Breakfast at Tiffany's. There's Christopher Kane's barely-cover-the-bum design, the Julien MacDonald creation that Victoria Beckham wore in That Extra Half an Inch, and slashed and safety-pinned gowns by designer and FTM creator Zandra Rhodes. Rhodes ironically wore a cream-coloured stripy dress ("modified black") to the opening to stand out.
Model Erin O'Connor helped open the event on 19 June, and the museum is hosting almost a full month of talks and workshops with experts from designer Amanda Wakeley to milliner Mary Jane Baxter. The FTM website (www.ftmlondon.org) has a complete event schedule.
Andrew Fionda, of the fashion label Pearce Fionda, helped start the exhibition in Brighton, where he lives and runs a vintage shop. "I had all these great dresses, and they were just sitting in storage," the co-curator says. The majority of the 60-plus frocks on display are from his personal vintage collection. The rest came courtesy of the country's leading designers and regular women whose clothing has a story to tell.
"One thing I noticed about a lot of the dresses is how small they are," says one event organiser. "For one of them, the woman actually had a few ribs removed." Learning how to mutilate the body to shrink a size isn't the point of the exhibition, so don't get any big ideas. Just walk in ready to see some beautiful black Dior, Chanel and Biba that make it hard to remember why a girl would ever wear any other colour.
- Jill Hilbrenner