The North Ayrshire Heritage Team and volunteers at Dalgarven Mill Museum of Country Life and Costume worked in partnership to bring this exhibition to North Ayrshire Heritage Centre in Saltcoats.

The Little Black Dress exhibition was a celebration of that staple garment from the time the phrase was coined in the 1920s until the mini dresses of the 1960s. Follow the story of the evolution of the LBD and see some beautiful and iconic examples with over 30 dresses in our display.

One of the many fine dresses in the exhibition

The first 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.

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 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!