“Fascinating. Lots of political and social history, and the show works for experts, students and shoppers alike.”
Almost every woman has a little black dress in her wardrobe, and this fashion mainstay formed the basis of an exhibition that premiered in Manchester in 2006. At its heart was a showcase of thirty dresses, each one created by one of the UK’s biggest names in fashion, from Paul Smith and Jean Muir to Ben de Lisi and Agent Provocateur. The multimedia exhibition also charted the history of the little black dress, from its conception by Coco Chanel in 1926 to present day designs, and featured some of the most memorable little black dress moments from fashion, film and pop culture.
But it wasn’t solely about fashion. Pollyanna wove in archive footage, photographs, original Betty Boo cartoons, vintage dresses through the decades, and popular culture (from music to film), alongside references to Manchester’s relationship with cotton – and how textiles turned a British town into the largest centre of manufacturing in the world. This emphasis on social and political history meant that Little Black Dress appealed to anyone interested in the broader cultural commentary that the dresses, the centrepiece of the show, opened the door onto. Little Black Dress evolved during its subsequent tour, responding to each new venue, its collections and the local fashion design community.