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#ItemsMoMA: The Future of the Little Black Dress

New York exhibition

Installation view of Items: Is Fashion Modern?, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 1, 2017-January 28, 2018.

Currently on view at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Little Black Dress is included in Items: Is Fashion Modern? as one of the 111 items that have had a strong impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries—and continue to hold currency today.

The item

“If there ever was a go-to dress that literally fits every occasion, flatters every figure and makes every woman feel effortlessly elegant, it would be the little black dress.

The LBD spans 24 hours of wear, two centuries of fashion and every generation from Z to Boomers. Whether a t-shirt shift or a couture gown, it evokes the most memorable and outspoken women, from Gabrielle Chanel to Beyoncé, Audrey Hepburn to Andreja Pejic. Most importantly, a little black dress will never upstage the women who wears it. It is the blank canvas of fashion that showcases exactly what a woman wants to feature most: her personality.” explains Lisa White, Head of  WGSN Lifestyle & Interiors and The Vision.

What’s coming next

Though certainly ancient in origin, funeral rituals requiring black mourning garments became firmly codified in the West during the Victorian era. With Chanel’s little black dress (LBD) acting as the twentieth-century catalyst, the associations of black and mourning have been partly supplanted by notions of timeless elegance, flexibility, and quintessential fashionability.

MoMA’s Items: Is Fashion Modern? exhibition includes a prototype commission called Little Black (Death) Dress by the designer Pia Interlandi. With all of the classic principles of the LBD—versatility, sophistication, and understated glamour—to form, in the words of the designer, a garment “to carry one from this world to the next, literally created for the grave.”.

Installation view of “Little Black (Death) Dress” by Pia Interlandi, commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, on the occasion of the exhibition Items: Is Fashion Modern?

The dress changes the traditional relationship between wearer and dress: its wearer participates in its creation but never sees herself wearing the final result. Interlandi uses a fabric that is responsive to the touch of the hands of grieving loved ones, turning from black to white through the transfer of body heat. The act is a symbol of the energy embodied in the processes of decomposition and the cycles of mourning, from despair to acceptance.

Detail of “Little Black (Death) Dress” by Pia Interlandi, commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, on the occasion of the exhibition Items: Is Fashion Modern?

Items: Is Fashion Modern?

The exhibition will run until January 28, 2018, at The Museum of Modern Art, with major support by WGSN. Plan your visit here

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