Review: Little Black Dress at the Fashion and Textiles Museum

By Zoe Craig Last edited 128 months ago
Review: Little Black Dress at the Fashion and Textiles Museum

Fashion as Art, ay. It's all over London at the moment. You can see The Supremes' costumes at the V&A; fashion meets architecture at Somerset House; and Viktor and Rolf's crazy creations are turning heads at the Barbican.

Trouble is, they're all a bit flamboyant and ostentatious for these simpler, sustainable-solution-searching, credit-crunching times.

If only London could offer us something more timeless, ageless, structured, nay, minimalist to soothe our muddled fashionistas' heads...

…like this summer's Little Black Dress Exhibition at the über-cool Fashion and Textiles Museum, tucked away in Bermondsey Street.

This Londonista donned her LBD last night (Hennes, since you ask) to check out the opening of the exhibition devoted to the iconic fashion item; from invention in 1926 when Coco Chanel showcased a simple black jersey dress in American Vogue, to present-day bastardisations, like the rubber number, Squirky by Vin and Omi, worn by Grayson Perry.

Everyone, from Erin O'Connor to Joanna Lumley (a Jean Muir), to 1930s muses, to Victoria Beckham (Julien MacDonald) to Grayson Perry, and many, many more have donated theirs to the show.

Supercool supermodel Erin opened the exhibition last night, splendid in her own LBD, looking intelligent, cool and classy. Everything that Aggy isn't, basically.

This being Zandra Rhodes' gaff, she was around too. Zandra's is the first creation you come to in the show. A brilliant Christian Dior quote from 1954 ("You can wear black at any time. You can wear black at any age. You may wear it on almost any occasion. A little black frock is essential to a woman") sits alongside a late 70s punky, rips-and-pins number by Zandra that's quite different from the carefully preserved vintage couture and modern-day designer dresses which will really impress London's fashionistas.

Different, of course, but the same. Removing colour and print from the exhibition's equation, what really stands out are the gorgeous shapes, the clever cuts, the innovative designs.

And brilliantly, (unlike London's other current art-fashion-shows) you feel you could wear a couple of the pieces on show yourself; have owned and loved something similar (from Top Shop, it's true, but still...); or could, one day, call such a work of art one of your "wardrobe staples."

This show brilliantly highlights the appeal of a fantastic universal(?) piece of clothing that most of us girls, at some time or other, have put on in order to impress, to deceive, to flatter, to make yourself feel better, or simply because nothing else would do.

Of course, if you're Victoria Beckham and are personal friends with Des Igner McFamous, it's going to help, but that doesn't detract from the curiously universal nature of all the beautiful, beautiful dresses on show.

If you've ever sympathized with Holly Golightly (another iconic LBD-wearer) as she stares into the glass window at Tiffany's, while munching thoughtfully on that pastry, you'll love this exhibition.

Little Black Dress at FTM runs from today until 25 August. Opening times 11am-6pm Wednesday to Sunday. Prices: £5 for adults, £3 for students and concessions, free for under 12s.

Picture: oh no! From tiny banquet committee's photostream under the Creative Commons Agreement.

Last Updated 20 June 2008