A staple in every woman’s wardrobe, the cultural significance of the little black dress and the radical power of the colour black is uncovered in this exhibition of immersive fashion displays.
The rich symbolism of the colour black in fashion has been adopted to express a spectrum of emotions and ideas across people and cultures, from death and mourning to power and luxury. Fashion historians often cite Coco Chanel’s design of a short black dress in the 1920s as the crucial moment the LBD became a cultural phenomenon. This iconic dress – which embodied modern femininity and provided a blueprint for women’s fashion over the decades – will be the starting point of this exhibition, charting a century of fashion.
The long-standing prevalence of the LBD, which remains a wardrobe essential to many, is due to its versatility and accessibility: its simplicity in colour and form has made it easy to adapt over time. Early designs by traditional fashion houses such as Yves Saint Laurent and Dior will be displayed alongside contemporary designers, such as Simone Rocha and Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, who have re-interpreted the classic look for a 21st century audience.
The exhibition will also spotlight Black British designers who explore Blackness as an identity and the influence of Afrofuturism within their work. The development of emerging technologies and their role in a sustainable future will also be explored.
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