Showing posts with label Coco Chanel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coco Chanel. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wearing that Little Black Dress



The answer to the question, "What to wear?"....can't go wrong with the iconic LITTLE BLACK DRESS. Believe it or not, the origins of this  "go to " garment are a fascinating blend of HISTORY, DESIGNER influence and the rise of CINEMA in America.
 
Until the waning of the Edwardian Era, Black was reserved exclusively for the socially complex protocol of women in mourning. Think Queen Victoria, who after the death of The Prince Consort, her beloved Albert, wore nothing but black forevermore.
 
It was, of course the French orphan, Gabrielle, who would change all that. The ubiquitous black and white habits of the nuns in her convent orphanage provided Coco a chance to train her eye. Many women, all shapes and ages, draped in the same fabric. Sewing was taught as a matter of course and it was these two skill sets that came together and changed the world.
 
It was the publication in American Vogue of Chanel's short, black dress, a simple sheath in crepe-de-chine, with long closely fitting sleeves, that spoke to all strata of women and became an instant hit.  Vogue proclaimed, "Here is a Ford signed 'Chanel.' " Because like the Model-T, its very standardization inferred quality - transcended class distinction, was obtainable by most women yet conferred instant style.
 
It's debut however stirred outrage by condemning journalists who hissed, "Feminine fashion of this moment in the 20th century will be baptized 'lop off everything.' " It was precisely the removal of the proffered bust and derriere and the flattening of the belly that killed the heretofore male contrived female fashion.  Only Marilyn, decades later is allowed tummy.....

 
Vogue, in the same publication, went on to describe the little black dress, a "uniform" and thus it has been ever since. The Great Depression only strengthened the black dress's hold as hard to come by textiles made the production of the LBD affordable, while the emergence of women in the workforce during and after WW 2 required a tasteful "uniform" that could, with the addition of blazer, compete in the professional arena with the male uniform of suit and tie.
 
It is hard to exaggerate the virulent push back this deconstructed frock aroused. Two black dresses on display at the Elegance pavilion at the 1925 Expo showed cropped arms and unsculptured design, echoing the sleek new Art Deco Style. It was this brilliant innovation which inspired  Paul Poiret famous put-down, "What has Chanel invented? Poverty de luxe. Formerly women were architectural, like the prows of ships, and very beautiful. Now they resemble little undernourished telegraph clerks."!  But women, it seems, preferred telegraph clerk to ship prow....
 
Madam Chanel arrested at the Ritz, in 1944 as orders from the Committee for Public Morals  proved quite demoralizing. However, she escaped the swastika forehead branding and nude parading other females involved with Germans or suspected of collaboration were forced to suffer. It is whispered The Duke of Westminster and Sir Winston Churchill provided intervention.
 
Still, the great couturier closed her doors at Rue Cambon and fled to Switzerland. The vacuum she left was soon filled by a man, Christian Dior launching the overnight sensation dubbed, "The new Look."
 
Back came the feminine silhouette, albeit, in softer contours. Soft shoulders, wasp waist, perfect cut, finish and  reams of material fed a hunger for sumptuousness for which post war Paris and the world starved. Dior's little black dress, by now as necessary to any collection as the wedding dress, described not a telegraph clerk, but a voluptuous, dangerous woman. Femme-femme whose very femaleness spelled doom, danger or divorce.
 
Hollywood in the fifties fed this image. Dressing "fallen" women in black halter styles- corseting them in stays and girdles, pronouncing their female sexual vulnerability -only to punish and taint - roasting female character on the spit of new sexual conservatism.
 
The sixties, of course changed course and charted new territory. Enter the Mod look, the Mini and Hubert de Givenchy. Givenchy, the designer, whose dress Audrey Hepburn wore in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's   
sealed the fate for all time of the return of the simple little black dress.
 
And Coco was back too, preaching logic in design, what, ces messieurs, (her male competitors), couldn't grasp.  "Ah no, definitely no, men were not meant to dress women. Yet, she felt it was men, for whom women dressed and desired to please.
 
The LITTLE BLACK DRESS and Coco Chanel were back!  Coco held the premier position in the haute couture market for the rest of her life and beyond.
 
This HOLIDAY CELEBRATE, LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH  and FIND your UNIFORM for your next PARTY.
 
The beauty of the LBD is in it's versatility. In the immortal words of the Greatest Couturier;
 
"Fashion is at once both caterpillar and butterfly. Be a caterpillar by day and butterfly by night. Nothing could be more comfortable than a caterpillar and nothing more made for love than a butterfly. There must be dresses that crawl and dresses that fly. The butterfly does not go to market, and the caterpillar does not go to a ball."
 
Depending on accessories, the LBD crawls and flies.
 
Bienvenu a Pink Pig!  Morph into one of our LBD numbers - FLY into the New Year and into the ARMS OF LOVE!                  
 
 
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