A Little Black Dress is a fashion icon and it's one which is closely associated with Gabrielle Coco Chanel. Here, you see her in 1926 little black dress which was referred to in Vogue magazine as a fashion forward, obviously referring to Ford's remark that you get the cars in any color as long as they were black. Now Chanel claim to have invented the little black dress. That's not true but she did help popularize it in part because the style was so much associated with the modern woman of the 1920s and who better epitomized that than Chanel. Still, you should remember that many other designers were doing it then. 1922 Primae had a wildly best selling little black dress called Lagarce which allegedly sold more than a million copies. It's often been said also that Chanel is the one who transformed the black dress from being mourning to being fashion. That too was overly simplistic. It's true that the black dress has been associated with mourning for a long time in the West, black clothing in general. Here, we see a mid 19th century picture of a governess who's sitting alone, wearing black, quite possibly in mourning because why else would she be out there working if she didn't have a family to take care of her. Notice how the other girls are in light bright colors of like happy girlhood and she's in the dark presumably morning black. At that point, black dye was relatively inexpensive so people in general went into mourning. The association with mourning comes from a series of associations, black being night and therefore associated with danger and death. Black also had many long associations in the West with asceticism so that a priest will be wearing black for example. And black became known as the color of respectability. So a lot of people, both poor people like governesses and my favorite writers, poor people like writers were supposed to be wearing black and shop girls etc. That was a color that didn't show dirt, it was hard wearing etc. So it had this kind of impoverished quality to it. But Black also and for a long way back as I'll show you, was associated with sex and power. So that in addition to the idea of death and mourning, it had the association of, well the Devil was the Prince of Darkness so you have all of the sin up there. And then the Dandy was the Black Prince of Elegance. In 1957, Vogue said, black is worldly, elegant, plainly alluring, indispensable. This went back a long way. In the Middle Ages, black was not only seen as a color for elite mourning but also as a very expensive, prestigious, elegant color. Now this woman is not in mourning clearly with the red as part of her ensemble. But many aristocrats would wear black to indicate kind of prestige, sort of dandiacal before the Dandy's existed, a dandiacal elegance which made them stand out among the peacock-colored court hears around them. So, as the famous historian of color, Michel Pastoureau put it, there's always been a good black and a bad black. And he points out this is true as well in African culture with shiny black tends to be the good, elegant, beautiful black and often a dull or a mad or a faded black will be the one which is the sad, the mournful, the poor black. The dye again at this point was very expensive, so black was an extremely prestigious color to wear on clothing. Black also very much had this sense in the 19th century of being an elegant color. So we think of 19th century as all people in mourning black and that Chanel was the first to make elegant fashionable black. Nothing could be further from the truth, black was a color which was seen as being extremely elegant. As La Mode Paris put it in 1885 said, "Of course black which can look very economical can also be on the contrary, very expensive. And yet, the most distinguished dress, the most becoming dress that can be worn by any woman on any occasion is certainly a black dress.". Black dresses were however seen as being unsuitable for young girls. So in one of Edith Wharton's novels, there is a woman who goes to the bed and someone says of her, "What can you expect of someone who was allowed to wear black at her coming out party?" So black had this connotation of sexiness and eroticism. We see it of course in the portrait of Madame X, and you see it as well in novels like Anna Karenina where the black velvet that she wears is contrasted with the ivory of her skin. Furthermore, as Valerie Mendez the fashion historian from Britain points out, black was fashionable long before the 1920s. In particular, she writes the little black dress was born in the early 1900s especially after the death of Edward the 7th in 1909. And then during World War I, black became ubiquitous, of course for mourning but also as a fashion color. So this advertisement from 1918 specifies that black was whether for social or for mourning wear. So it's really around this time in the teens that you get the idea and the expression, the little black dress or the little black frock. Robin Givhan the fashion journalist, points out that a woman in a little black dress is not forced into the role of a peacock rather she looks somewhat mysterious and alluring in and more different subtle dandiacal way. Here, with this Chanel evening dress, you see also the connection of black with evening attire. In fact, there was a wonderful exhibition on black in fashion in Australia which was called Black, From Mourning to Night. Chanel of course emphasized quote, Scheherazade is easy, the little black dress is difficult. And she was reacting against the brilliant colors which were popular in the early 19 teens, all of the reds, and greens, and oranges. And she said they made her feel literally nauseas and she went over to the other extreme to have white, cream, black, and dark navy blue. Black also has long antecedents as a bohemian color, an artistic color. So here you see Martha Graham but also you can find it associated with beatniks, with turtlenecks, with modern dancers. Goes way back, black leather jackets. There are lots of rebellious artistic bohemian blacks, sort of downtown blacks. And then you had also the chic cocktail dresses, the high fashion elegant blacks. So Balenciaga for example shown here was described as creating dresses in Spanish black like a deep night without stars. Or Audrey Hepburn of course famously and various little black dresses. Christian Dior said of black, you can wear black at any age under almost any circumstances. He also pointed out as have many other designers then and subsequently, the black is appealing for designers because once you take away the color you can focus on the silhouette, the texture, and other aspects of the dress, just as you would with line drawing for an artist instead of color. Then, this wonderful Barbie in black always reminds me of a story about Barbara Hutton when they said, for her 5th wedding, the bride wore black and carried a scotch and soda. Punk black became very very important. And black's association with power, again goes right back to the Middle Ages to judges and executioners, it's been associated with crime and deviance. In reservoir dogs, there's a scene where Mr Pink says, why can't we pick out our own color? And Joe said, I tried that once, it don't work. You get four guys fighting over who's going to be Mr. Black. Black is associated with the charisma of deviance as well with the idea of sexualized women. And in politics, you have the black of fascism, the black of anarchy. In the late 1970s, Karl Lagerfeld held a party where the invitations stated, tragic black attire absolutely required. Thousands of people came many in black leather. In the 1980s, the Japanese fashion revolution made black the dominant avant garde color in fashion. Yohji Yamamoto said, the Samurai spirit is black. The Samurai must be able to throw his body into nothingness, the color and image of which is black. Rei Kawakubo put it more simply when she said there are seven shades of black. And of course again, as it always sounded cryptic in fact, a black velvet dress is completely different than a black satin dress, a black linen dress etc. One of the reasons why black is such a powerful color is because there are so many layers of meaning. It's like a palimpsest, everything from elegance, evil, desirability, sexiness, power. And for all these layers of meaning, it means that a designer can create a wide variety of clothes which all of which end up having some of the modernity and allure of the little black dress. In a sense, the little black dress is not a style per se but it's a conceptual fashion. There's entirely versatile, there are many ways to design it. It's modern, it changes but it's always the same and it's always a kind of chic armor. Thank you very much.