Sunday, June 28, 2009

La Petite Robe Noire

I have had a long fascination with la petite robe noire (the little black dress). In fact, my very first fashion illustration from age 12 was of a little black dress.

"You can wear black at any hour of day or night, at any age and for any occasion. A little black dress is the most essential thing in any woman's wardrobe. I could write a book about black."
Christian Dior

"Black is both material and colour, shadow and light. It is neither happy nor sad, but bearing and elegance. Perfect and inescapable, it is as irrestable as night."
Christian Lacroix

"You should wear a black dress at all ages. When the little black dress is right, there is nothing else."
Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

I wrote down the above quotes on the exhibition pamphlet from a 2004 display of little black dresses in Toronto. La Petite Robe Noire presented 54 little black dresses from Didier Ludot's private collection of vintage couture and included labels such as Chanel, Lucien Lelong, Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Azzadine Alaia, John Galliano and others.

Of course, when I was in Paris in May, I had to visit Didier Ludot's vintage shops at the Palais Royale. Didier Ludot has an extensive collection of vintage couture, not all of which is black!

Photo credit: Ingrid Mida, 2009

As well, he has a storage facility packed with the most beautiful gowns, some of which he has made available to museums for display. I was quite taken with this lovely pink gown by Dior.

Photo credit: Ingrid Mida, 2009

I have many little black dresses in my closet but one of my favourites is this one from Didier Ludot's private label. It was a prototype dress (made as a sample for production) and was a little too big when I wore it for a dinner in Paris. I basted the side seems on the top and used a ribbon from a Dior gift bag for my belt! (Notice my "purse" on the stool nearby which is actually my toiletry bag!)

If you cannot make it to Paris to visit Didier Ludot's shops at the Palais Royale, you might want to pick up a copy of his Assouline book "The Little Black Dress, Vintage Treasure" (New York, 2001).