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National Museum of Scotland exhibition to examine the little black dress

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

A new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland will examine the history and influence of the little black dress.

Beyond the Little Black Dress will open in July 2023 and will bring together more than 60 striking looks from around the world. 

The colour black can be interpreted in many subtle and often contradictory ways. This major show will explore how the colour’s complexities have made the little black dress simultaneously expressive of piety and perversion, as well as respect and rebellion

A simple, short black dress designed by Coco Chanel nearly 100 years ago will be the first LBD visitors will see. Hailed at the time by US Vogue as “the frock that all the world will wear,” the ‘little black dress’ became a wardrobe staple, a symbol of femininity and a byword for chic.

A model wearing a long contemporary black dress as she walks down a catwalk, with white hair and make up but black lipstick
On display at the National Museum of Scotland. ‘Florence’ hood and ‘Spray’ dress by Cimone, Autumn/Winter 2017. © Cimone Ltd, Photo © Rhiannon Adam

Other highlights will include iconic early pieces by Yves Saint Laurent, Dior and Jean Muir, which will be juxtaposed with modern looks by trailblazing contemporary designers and brands like Gareth Pugh, Simone Rocha and Off-White.

The Edinburgh-based museum is an ideal host for the exhibition, as it has an internationally significant fashion and textiles collection that comprises around 50,000 objects. It is one of the largest in the UK. The collection includes textiles dating back to the 14th century and clothing and accessories dating from the 16th century to the present day.

"Few garments are as iconic as the little black dress"

Georgina Ripley, Principal Curator, Modern and Contemporary Design at National Museums Scotland, said "Few garments are as iconic as the little black dress, which has often been held up by the fashion industry as the one piece every woman should have in her wardrobe. It has evolved dramatically in the century since its creation. Displaying classic couture, avant-garde pieces and garments that make a political statement, this exhibition will explore its enduring success."

Beyond the Little Black Dress, sponsored by Baillie Gifford Investment Managers, will open at the National Museum of Scotland on 1 July and will run until 29 October 2023.

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