Fundraising Friday: Chanel’s Little Black Dress

The FIDM Museum is in the final months of a major fundraising campaign to purchase the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, a private collection of 1,200 historic garments and accessories from four centuries. Each Friday, this blog will present an exquisite piece from the Larson collection. Last week's post featured a black mourning gown worn by the 4' 7" Queen Victoria. This week, we bring you a very different kind of little black dress, designed by Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel

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Coco Chanel
c. 1926
Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection

On October 1, 1926, Vogue published a fashion plate of a knee-length, black crêpe de chine day dress paired with a cloche hat and a pearl necklace. "Here is a Ford signed 'Chanel' — the frock that all the world will wear," the magazine declared. This was not Chanel's first little black dress; in 1919, she had produced an entire collection of them. But, by 1926, the style was recognized as a modern wardrobe staple–the Ford of fashion. "Little" did not refer to the garment's size but to its simplicity; Chanel called them "little nothing dresses." This evening version of the little black dress (actually a top and underdress) is entirely covered in black bugle beads. We can easily picture it on a 1920s flapper, yet it is so timeless that it could just as easily be worn today. 

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Chanel is just one of the iconic designers represented in the Larson collection; others include Paquin, Fortuny, Lanvin, Poiret, Lucile, Worth, and Doucet. Helen Larson spent 50 years assembling this who's-who of fashion history; now, it is in danger of being dispersed forever or absorbed into another private collection, inaccessible to students, researchers, and the general public. The FIDM Museum needs your help to save the Larson collection. You can make a contribution of any amount online or by mail. Donations are tax deductible; if your company has a matching gift program, your support will go even further. The FIDM Museum has until the end of 2015 to finish raising the necessary funds, so now is the time to join the campaign and help make fashion history.

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