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Little Black Dress to impress

Calling all style mavens and fashionistas! If you’re looking for some outfit ideas straight from the catwalk, the latest exhibition at North Ayrshire Heritage and Cultural Services could have all the style inspiration you need.

The North Ayrshire Heritage Team and volunteers at Dalgarven Mill Museum of Country Life and Costume have been working in partnership to bring you the latest exhibition at North Ayrshire Heritage Centre in Saltcoats.

Launched earlier this month in celebration of #WorldFashionDay (on Thursday 9 July), the Little Black Dress fashion exhibition, highlights Scotland’s role in influencing the popularity of one of the most iconic catwalk style staples in the fashion world.

The timeless elegance of the ‘LBD’ has become one of the most coveted items in the world of fashion.

As a renowned fashion designer once said, “One is never over-dressed or underdressed with a little black dress,” and the exhibition pays homage to one of the most influential and important garments in fashion history.

The Little Black Dress exhibition is a celebration of that staple garment from the time the phrase was coined in the 1920s until the mini dresses of the 1960s.

Open Monday to Wednesday (9.30am – 1pm) and (2pm – 4.30pm) and the last Saturday of each month, the summer exhibition showcases some stunning costume from the Dalgarven Mill collection, exploring the history and evolution of the Little Black Dress.

Louise Allan, assistant Heritage & Cultural Officer commented: “We are thrilled to be able to share the important legacy of the Little Black Dress via Dalgarven Mill’s important and influential fashion and costume collection.

“The Heritage Team is always delighted to partner with the independent museums in North Ayrshire and beyond, sharing resources, collections and expertise, and this is one of the best collaborations to date, with the Heritage Centre looking like one big fancy party!”

The first ever Little Black Dress was designed by Coco Chanel and was referred to as ‘Chanel’s Ford’. Like Ford’s Model T car, the little black dress was simple and accessible for all social classes.

Louise commented: “In 1926, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel published a picture of her little black dress in Vogue magazine. It was calf length, straight and simply decorated with only a few diagonal lines. Vogue stated that the LBD would become “a sort of uniform for all women of taste”. Chanel’s designs helped disassociate the colour black from mourning and reinvent it as the uniform of the wealthy and fashionable.

“The dresses in our display have come from the amazing costume collection at Dalgarven Mill Museum, which has grown over the years under the management of their Curator, Rob Ferguson.

“Rob and his wife Moira have had an interest in fashion since their time in London in the 1950s, and they now have hundreds of dresses, fashion accessories, gents’ outfits, textiles and more in their fabulous collection.”

The Heritage Team have curated 30 beautiful and iconic examples from fashion history in the display on loan from Dalgarven Mill for visitors to follow the story and evolution of the Little Black Dress.

“One piece we are particularly excited about is a stunning dress created by Murielle of Sauchiehall Street one of Scotland’s most prestigious dressmakers.

“The dress (pictured) – one of my favourites in the collection – was created in 1910 by Muriel Hymans. Muriel was a renowned, up-market dressmaker and retailer in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street and many of the dresses she sold were sourced in Paris by herself or her daughter Miss Esmee Hymans.

“Muriel and her daughter refused to buy more than one of each colour dress, to avoid the embarrassment of a customer wearing the same dress as another fashionista at the same party or function – a true fashion faux pas!”

The collection also features other examples including understated silhouettes to modern day creations inspired by Christian Dior’s iconic ‘New Look’ collection featuring rounded shoulders, cinched waists and very full skirts – a true celebration of ultra-femininity and opulence in women’s fashion.

The beautiful dresses span from the 1920s and 1960s, each with their own story to tell and a member from the Heritage Team will be in attendance if you have any questions or are looking to find out more about the fashion and costume collection.

So, whether you’re looking for some fashion inspiration or if you’re in search of something a little different to do over the summer break, why not pop along to the Heritage Centre for a better look and celebrate this iconic fashion trend?

If you have an interest in the diverse people and places of North Ayrshire and would like to find out more about future Heritage and Culture Team exhibitions, follow the team on social media at:

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