Date: c. 1920
Material: silk chiffon, silk taffeta, silk satin, glass seed beads, metal snaps
Black silk dress with a drop waist and sash. Decolletage is a sheer fabric decorated with a vertical heiroglyphic style design of glass seed beads. Lined with silk taffeta, and button details (non functional) are silk satin. Dress snaps at left proper, with chiffon outer garment hiding the closures.
Bust: 33 inches
Waist: 33 inches
Shoulders: 16 inches
Sleeve length: 20 inches
Total length: 52 inches
More Information: Prior to October 1926, when Coco Chanel’s Little Black Dress was featured on the front cover of Vogue, black dresses implied death and mourning. Queen Victoria (1819-1901) unintentionally set in place rigid social standards after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861. The social requisite of donning black while grieving could be anywhere between three months to two and half years. As the death toll grew during World War I, followed closely after by the influenza epidemic of 1918, the cultural attitude toward mourning attire shifted. The stringent periods of grieving and the public position of mourning took on a shorter, less overt period of time. Death and mourning were so widespread after World War I and the flu epidemic that black dresses were created in tandem with the fashion movements of the period. This dress is a perfect example bridging the post war and early 1920s change in attitude. The use of beads, netting, ruffles, and sashes create texture without being too ostentatious, but still conforming to the rules of mourning. By 1926, Chanel had normalized black as casual, everyday attire– creating a classic closet staple no matter the style or change in decade.