Thursday, January 18, 2024

Who 'Invented' the Little Black Dress? --- Days 13/10,11 & 12

Walks: Hood, de Young Museum (Fashioning San Francisco Exhibition) - both days

Distances: 3 miles 2 miles, 4 miles

Jean Patou (French, 1887-1938), House of Patou (estab. 1914), Afternoon Dress ca 1926, silk crepe
 Worn in San Francisco by Imogen Abbott Mendoza (American, 1894-1989) 

If you were like Ciwt, you guessed Coco Chanel as the 'inventor' of the little black dress. But she learned differently at yesterday's Press Preview of the de Young's Fashioning San Francisco exhibition. Turns out the French Houses of Premet and Patou designed the earliest versions: calf length, straight, easy to move in, very little adornment. Some of the dress's immediate popularity was related to ease of wear and resonance with the style demands the early 1900's.  Women were increasingly out of the home with many in the work force.  They needed affordable, easy to wear garments. In addition World War I began in 1914 and widows were expected to wear black, the color of mourning, for four years.  Added to all this, the little black dress could be and was styled in numerous becoming ways. Ie, women looked good in it and enjoyed wearing it.

We weren't entirely wrong about our Coco Chanel guess though.  In 1926 Chanel made a landmark contribution to the black dress by publishing a picture of a short, simple black dress in a 1926 American Vogue. In the issue the highly influential and widely read Vogue called the dress "Chanel's Ford" because it was simple and accessible for women of all social classes.  And many sources do credit her with being the inventor of the dress.

PS   If Ciwt had been shopping for a little black dress in the 1920's, she might have at least tried on this elegant version:  

Louise Boulinger (Fr. 1878 - 1950, active 1923-1939), American Copy of Louise Boulanger Evening Ensemble, silk crepe with glass rhinestones 



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