Many are from the collection of fashion designer Andrew Fionda and other examples have been lent by designers and celebrity owners. All are displayed against a backdrop created by stage designer Michael Howells.
“When I travel I always pack a little black dress” said supermodel Erin O’Connor who opened the exhibition. “It’s like a blank canvas which can be dressed up or down, whatever the occasion. I think when you buy your first LBD, it’s a sure sign that you’ve grown-up.”
In 1926 Coco Chanel produced a simple black jersey dress which she described as ‘the new uniform of modern women’. Vogue nicknamed the dress the ‘Chanel Ford’ predicting it would be as popular and accessible as Henry Ford’s Model T Car.
Included in the show are seven dresses from the Seventies by museum founder Zandra Rhodes. Her 1978 version is worn with a pink jersey mask.
The first dress Barbara Hulanicki made for her Biba shop in 1964 was a little black dress and this had a huge influence in spreading the wearing of the garment not just across the classes but across the day. In the Fifties it had been largely confined to middle class girls attending cocktail parties. A 1970 Biba example is on display.
Travel writer Martha Ellen Zenfell has lent the dress she bought for £1 in Portobello Road and then wore in the Moroccan desert, at a New York club opening, in the Royal Box at the Royal Albert Hall and at a funeral. “This little black dress has never let me down” she says.
Joanna Lumley has lent her Jean Muir dress which she claims “transformed her life utterly”. Others loaning their own dresses include Joan Collins, and Anouska Hempel. There are some surprises such as Grayson Perry’s latex dress.
Andrew Fionda says: “My whole fashion career seems to have been highlighted by the little black dress and I think this is testament to its longevity. It is ageless, can always be reinvented and there will always, through one’s life, be an occasion to revisit this fashion and style icon.
“Whilst curating the exhibition l was amazed at everybody’s unique interpretation of the LBD, to some it is long and dramatic, to others it’s short, sexy and sassy, whilst some think it’s cute and very simple. However, to everyone, it’s a fashion staple, a must have in everyone’s wardrobe and a lifetime investment that will never let the wearer down.”
DUTCH film-maker Jan Kounen, 45, honed his craft directing glossy music videos for British electro-pop duo Erasure and visually dazzling films like the violent crime flick Dobermann (1997).
But his latest work, Coco Chanel And Igor Stravinsky, the closing film for last year’s Cannes Film Festival, is entirely different from anything he has done in the past.
Based on Chris Greenhalgh’s 2002 novel, it details the love affair between French fashion designer Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) and Russian composer Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen), after she invites him, his wife Catherine (Elena Morozova) and their children to live in her villa in a Paris suburb.
Considering how different Coco Chanel And Igor Stravinsky is compared to your other films, what attracted you to the story?
First of all, it was the chance to recreate the scene where Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring made its debut in Paris in 1913, sparking a riot among the concertgoers.
I was also attracted to the idea of journeying back to 1920, when most of the story takes place.
I’ve always wanted to do a love story, one in which the key characters are based within a confined space – in this case, Chanel’s villa.
|FILM-MAKER: Jan Kounen was keen to do a period film.|
Why did you have Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen play Stravinsky, instead of finding a Russian actor for the role?
I’ve long admired his acting, having seen him in Danish films like Adam’s Apples and After The Wedding, and the James Bond film Casino Royale.
And he’s certainly talented.
For this film, he had to learn to speak Russian and French, play the piano and conduct an orchestra.
Do you mind if people compare your film with another recent French film, Coco Before Chanel, in which Audrey Tautou plays Chanel?
I don’t mind, as long as they like my film better. (Laughs) But, really, they shouldn’t compare, because the two films chart different parts of Chanel’s life. I chose Anna Mouglalis, who can be tough, seductive and very elegant, to play a certain Coco who is close to 40 and already successful.
My film is focused on eight weeks of her life, while Coco Before Chanel is more of a biopic, touching on her earlier years.
I’m not interested in a regular biopic, so it’s good that Coco Chanel And Igor Stravinsky allows me to dive into the psychology of an affair through music and visuals.
I like the tension in the film, like someone walking on a razor’s edge or how a storm is brewing in the background without breaking.
Currently living in Paris, Kounen spoke to my paper during his recent visit to Singapore to promote his film.
Bar du Soleil, July 1961
‘What stripes are to tigers and peaches to cream, these sun clothes are to smart resort life: indispensable’, thought Vogue. The resort in question is Deauville, rich in sybaritic delights, whether dining, casinos or racing, and, as air travel became quicker and cheaper – just a short hop across the channel. Vogue’s sun-worshipper wears a loose sweater, slit deeply at the side, by Falconetto.
The London Look, September 1961
What could say more about early morning London life than a city gent (bowler hat, umbrella and moustache) setting off for the office? Possibly the addition of the smart new London mini-cab, introduced this month to the capital’s streets, as fast-moving as a trip round Piccadilly Circus. His companion’s swing coat is trimmed with fur and her cloche hat made of ribbed velvet, both by Cavanagh.
Summer Pleasures, June 1960
Pleasures were simple then, and it didn’t take much for an alfresco summer party to become a dance: a back garden, some paper lanterns, a record player and a rack of good discs. If you wished to push the boat further out, Vogue recommended hiring banana trees, bamboo plants, ferns and palms with which to create an ‘exotic’ look. Warming to the theme, Vogue suggested simple but flavoursome food: a hotdog stand in the garden with curry and rice, pizza, quiche lorraine. If the festivities lasted to the small hours, ‘a big dish of ham with scrambled eggs piled on top, kedgeree and kidneys grilled and encased in toasted soft rolls’ and perhaps some kipper fillets too.
Born in Los Angeles in 1918, Henry Clarke, the renowned fashion photographer, discovered his calling in 1945 whilst working as an accessorist at Condé Nast in New York. During an encounter with the great Cecil Beaton during a photography session at Vogue’s studio, Clarke was entranced by the photographic image. He promptly abandoned his fashion job, borrowed a Rolleiflex camera and began taking pictures.
Deciding to try his luck abroad, Clarke moved to Paris in 1949. There his friend, Robert Randall, reintroduced him to the fashion world. He quickly found work at Fémina, L’Album de Figaro and Harper’s Bazaar. The next year he began a fruitful collaboration with the French, English and American editions of Vogue that would last more than a quarter-century. With the help of women like Suzy Parker, Ann Sainte Marie and Bettina, the most glamorous models of the day, Clarke captured the elegance of the modern woman: young, lively, carefree and seductive.
He also took celebrity portraits: Anna Magnani, Coco Chanel, Sophia Loren and Maria Callas were among his best known subjects. In the 1960′s, Diana Vreeland, the formidable editor of Vogue, sent him to such exotic locations as Syria, Iran, India and Mexico to create exciting fashion layouts. Upon his death in 1996, it was revealed that Henry Clarke had named the Institut Pasteur as universal legatee of his estate. He bequeathed his historical collection of photographs to the Musée de la Mode et du Costume in Paris.
Model Wearing Balenciaga Satin and Lace Evening Gown, 1951
Model in Paisley Dress and Coat by Balenciaga, 1954
Model standing in a courtyard in Olhao, Portugal, wearing a halter and skirt by Brigance, 1952
Model in a reversible striped silk Shantung shirt by Bonnie Cashin, standing on a beach with large wooden boats, 1952
Model Wearing Givenchy Short-Sleeved Dress, 1955
Model in white tulle dress with spangles and stole in the Theater of King Louis XV at Versailles, 1957
Model in Balmain Skirt and Sealskin Cape, 1955
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Two models overlooking water in Palermo wearing bathing suits, both of red, one plaid one checkered with shaggy elfin caps, 1955
Model in Otter Hide Coat with Snow Leopard Lining, 1959
Woman modeling black lace dress with pink sash copied from Balenciaga, with hat and gloves, 1951
Model posed with cigarette, wearing dress by Mollie Parnis and gold & diamond necklace and bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels, 1953
Model wearing a strapless short evening dress: fitted to the hips in a lemon color with lace, baby blue bow, baby blue satin shoes and grey black pancake hat, 1953
ca. 1955, Palermo, Sicily, Italy -Model standing on terrace wearing sharkskin straight yellow skirt with striped jersey shirt over sleeveless orange overcoat.
Model wearing Manguin’s white satin gown, mink stole, and pearls, 1951
Model in White Chignon Cap by Givenchy, 1954
Gilbert Orcel, 1956
Model in Box Hat and Long Gloves, 1955
Ruby and Pearls, 1955
For one of his last collections (he died the next year), Christian Dior made even less concessions to fifties’ austerity with this flamboyant evening dress of patterned silk taffeta. Though our subject looks utterly at ease with the deshabillé shoulders and the early evening glass of wine the sheer weight of the ruby and pearl bracelets vivid necklace of precious tones would have posed certain practical problems.
Model in collarless suit with straight skirt and Persian lamb scarf, both by Balenciaga, leaning against railing, 1955
Model standing in front of lame backdrop, wearing tulle and gold embroidered trapeze dress form Dior, 1958
Boaters, March 1954
The Spring Collections featured ‘boater’ hats in all shapes and sizes, lightweight and elegant for alfresco eating (though only British Vogue’s most soignée readers would have tackled a bistro chair with such confidence). Balmain’s colossal boater came with wheeled rings like a child’s spinning top and was worn as low as the eyebrows.
Christmas Presents, December 1953
Whatever the money spent on it, a Christmas present has to be the most beautiful, the most original or at least the most colourful, considered Vogue. Some, though, like this fabulous diamond necklace by Wartski are dependent on ‘fairy godfathers, oil wells or sheer size of bank balance’. It has certainly entranced its recipient, the more so perhaps when converted cleverly into a tiara.
Gloved model holding a cigarette, wearing a vented, red plaid steamer coat that reveals a long dress of silver and white paillettes; with diamond necklace, earrings and bracelet; being escorted by a gentleman in tuxedo across the Promenade at the New York theatre. Dress and coat by Ben Reig. Jewelry by Harry Winston, 1958
Playclothes of the Western World, May 1962
The clothes may come from places as far apart as Spain or Finland (and they do). As to where they might go: there are no limits. Not in the age of jet travel. Their stamping ground is the Mediterranean (this is the Spanish coast) but you might see them anywhere from Brighton beach to Havana.
Cottons on Holiday: Pretty Sun-Seekers, July 1956
For those possessed of ‘More Taste than Money’, as Vogue discreetly put it, summer glamour could be found inexpensively. Here, for example, perfect for sun worshipping, is a long-sleeved polka-dot cotton shirt and matching bloomers with, as a pièce de resistance, a cummerbund in a contrasting pattern, cinching the outfit at the waist.
Summer Pleasures for Sunny Days, June 1960
Entertaining is often a high point of the summer, though not every reader might have the time or inclination to dress herself and her lunch table with such elegant ease. This season’s bare arms made a larger hat almost an imperative (a small hat made one look ‘like a sightseer’). For their table, Hostesses were advised that pale linen and organdie had returned to favour, as well as uncontrived flowers and simple, classic crystal and china.
ca. 1965, Tanzania – Veruschka
posed before Lake Tanganyika, wearing a big ‘barracano’ cover-up, in green, red, white and black, by Emilio Pucci.
Model in Striped Wool Coat by Federico Forquet, 1966
ca. 1967, Palermo, Sicily, Italy – Model Barbara Bach wearing a turquoise dress with matching drawstring shaping a high waist, by Leslie Fay, wide brimmed turquoise hat by Till; stands at the fountain of the baroque Villa Trabia at Sant Maria di Gesu in Sicily.
Model in Jag Niwas, an island palace in the Rajasthan region of India, wearing yellow high-waisted dress of yellow Indian cotton by Rudi Gernreich, 1967
Posed against the walls of the Temple of Warriors in Chichen-Itza, Mexico, model wearing transparent evening chiffon pullover and pants in fuchsia by Adolfo, 1968
Model descending staircase outside of the Marqueza de Santos house in Rio, Brazil, with a young carnival ‘hero’ wearing cloak of many jewels. Model is dressed in chartreuse asymmetrical floor length chiffon dress by Malcolm Starr and Joseph Warner bracelets, 1966
Model standing in the Orecchio di Dionisio – Ear of Dionysius – a high-vaulted groto hewn out of a quarry wall in Syracuse, Sicily, wearing a brightly colored and gaily patterned culotte-shirtdress by Hannae Mori, 1967
Model sitting on desk, in the apartment of Cy Twombly, wearing blue coat with circular pattern and matching hat, by Mila Schoen, 1968
Model at the harbor next to the ship Oriana, greeting someone in the distance, wearing khaki travel suit by Frederick Starke, 1962
Baroness Fiona Thyssen-Bornemisza sporting Cover Girl makeup shades, white coolie hat with cigaline veiling by Anello, 1966
Model in Goreme, Turkey, wearing fly-front yellow linen smock by Hannah Troy, 1962
Chunky Knits, July 1965
As the Melbourne Olympics approached, Vogue flew its team the considerable distance to Australia. In Victoria, the weather is always unpredictable, so Vogue chose an all-year-round combination of colourful chunky-knitted sweaters in pink and lavender (with vivid under-collars), worn stylishly with contrasting slim-tapered slacks. All by Jaeger and perfect, said Vogue, for ‘lounging around at home or indeed abroad’.
Embarking on the French ocean liner, the ‘France’; Madame Abreau ( the American born Mary Sargent Ladd ) wearing a beige suit, tied at the waist in black under a black and white wool checked coat, and Mrs. Dillon Moseley (assistant Paris editor of ‘The Paris Review’ and daughter of C. Douglas Dillon-former ambassador to France and Secretary of the Treasury) wearing grey suit under pink coat, 1962
Model sitting on the top of the colorful tile roof of the Cathedral of Oaxaca, wearing a white lace short cape-like top, revealing the midriff, followed by a wide, white lace dirndly skirt banded at the waist and hem, by Trigere.
Model Barbara Bach straddles tile steps of the Castello San’Nicola outside Palermo, Sicily; wearing a bright red dress with brass buttoned belt and low pockets, by Teal Traina, with broad brimmed red hat by Halston, 1967
Model standing on tile steps beside the stone walls of the Castello San’ Nicola outside Palermo, Italy, wearing a large brimmed red hat with a red chiffon pleated dress, a row of buttons up the front with chin high collar by Junior Sophisticates, 1967
Models in the Rome apartment of Cy Twombly, wearing long white evening suits by Valentino, which are minimally ornated with pearls and lace at the cuffs, the shoes are by Rosetti for Valentino; the man’s suit has a white pajama embroidered waistcoat, and inside the apartment is a Roman marble head, drawings by Twombly, and Rococo chaises, 1968
Actress Raquel Welch wearing a chiffon and gold lame blouson with dyed fox collar and cuffs by Valentino, 1972