"You can wear black at any time, you can wear it at any age. You can wear it on almost any occasion. A 'little black frock' is essential to a woman's wardrobe. I could write a book about black." ~ Christian Dior
That jaw dropping Little Black Dress has been done a million and one ways over the centuries, and it somehow never goes out of style. But where did it really come from? What catapulted it to stardom? Well mes cheries, any Miley or Gaga can strut her strut her stuff in Versace's latest invention, but to be a truly schooled fashionista, one must know her history. Besides, what is more satisfying than leaving someone speechless who misjudged you as a brainless ditz with a credit card? Put those nay-sayers in their place darlings, fashion is a power house industry and deserves the respect of a full education. So class, sit down and take notes.
Along with the Renaissance, Italy also birthed black as a fashion statement. Seen as far back as 1473 in the triptych by Jean de Witte, featuring a young woman in a lavish velvet gown with an intense scarlet ribbon. Although, the Spaniards are the reason for the initial mass appeal, as black dye was expensive, it became the color of the Spanish Royalty almost exclusively throughout the 16th century.
Fading in and out of style, black had predominantly declined in the 17th & 18th centuries. The first half of the 19th century, black paved its way as the fashionable color for men, who wore it in the English Style assimilated with merchants and businessmen. By the latter half of the century it became a fashion statement for wealthy women as well. But black was cemented in wardrobe after Sargent painted the Portrait of Madame X, causing a scandal in Paris and emerging it as the color of seduction.
The American Vogue of October, 1926 would forever change the game as it unveiled photos of Coco Chanel's "little black dress" that they described as "The Chanel 'Ford' - The frock that all will wear." Chanel had done much experimenting with black garb, but this piece debuted at a time when the world needed simplicity and craved a break from the extravagant canvases of her competitor Paul Poiret.
Then Hollywood quickly climbed on board, with many starlettes featuring stunning black gowns that were crucial to their characters' role. Christian Dior became infatuated with this idea of minimalist beauty as he began bringing these desires of Hollywood to the runway and then trickling it down to the women who walked the streets. "I have no wish to deprive fashion of the added allure and charm of color, but I could perfectly well design a whole collection simply in black or white. Color cannot transform a failure of a dress into a success; it merely plays a supporting role in the cast where cut is the star performer." (Christian Dior). Continuing the phenomenon, in 1961 Hubert de Givenchy made that very rare and pure movie magic moment with Audrey Hepburn's iconic ensemble in Breakfast at Tiffany's, and women everywhere have never been the same.
After a minor decline in the 60s, Yves Saint Laurent brought back black in steel force through the 70s and set his name in the history books. Through the next couple decades fashion wavered between whether it found black elegantly sexy or a punk statement toward anarchy. Powerhouse designer Vivienne Westwood created bridges for the fashion-antifashion opposing crowds and was the first to successfully change the industry toward an edgy, goth direction. Gianni Versace made his mark with a gift to blend the hard elements of the punk movement with the timeless seductiveness that we all know and love, and Karl Lagerfeld found a way to bring Chanel into the 21st century. With every turn of the season, designers left and right find new ways to amaze us, and somehow black is still not boring.
Reference: The Black Dress by Valerie Steele
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I wonder what the next
la mode en noire holds mes cheries?