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September 25, 2012

André Leon Talley's Little Black Dress Exhibit at SCAD

By Erin Schumaker | Arts + Culture

André Leon Talley’s Little Black Dress Exhibit at SCAD
Courtesy of Tom Ford

In 1926, Vogue published an illustration of a simple, long-sleeved black sheath designed by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. That single garment grew into the ubiquitous little black dress, and decades later every designer has his or her own variation.

This fall the fashion phenomenon and woman’s best friend makes its way to a museum in “Little Black Dress,” opening September 28 at the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art. André Leon Talley, Vogue contributing editor and a SCAD trustee, curates the exhibit. “It’s a simplistic little thing, but it demands respect on its own,” he says. “The black dress can liberate one. It can set a new style standard or adhere to old standards. It can be rebellious, reckless, elegant or establishment.”

The exhibition includes about 80 dresses, ranging from a silk crêpe de chine number by Madame Grès from 1977 to a black silk faille dress that Carolina Herrera designed for herself this year. Other notable designers featured include Norma Kamali, Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Jacobs, many of whom are Talley’s friends and acquaintances. “Every single dress means something to me,” he says. “But it’s by no means an academic rendering. It’s an emotional narrative of my life through my friends—and the beauty of black dresses that I’ve seen.”

Talley, who took nearly a year to put together the collection, hopes guests will walk away realizing the democratic power the seemingly simple piece of clothing has. “It’s no longer a uniform or a restricted club,” he explains. “It used to be that you wore a single strand of pearls and you were in good taste. Now the interpretation is left to the designer and/or the wearer.” September 28 through January 27, 2013; 601 Turner Blvd.; 912-525-7191; scadmoa.org.