- Coco Chanel, 1883-1971, French, designer
- House of Chanel, French, design house
Center back length: 96.5 cm (38 inches)
Gift of Ronald and Lillian Dick
It was French designer Christian Dior who first called knee-length dresses worn in early evening “cocktail dresses.” He credited their invention, however, to the American women who flocked to purchase examples by French couture houses including Dior, Balmain, and Chanel, and in donning them saw themselves as radiating sophistication and glamour.
In this Chanel cocktail dress, a structured bodice hides under an elegant lace overdress with flirtatious flounces at the hem. Throughout her career, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel investigated the nuances of the color black, interpreting the little black dress in a variety of materials and textiles. Deft handling of luxurious materials such as alençon lace, as seen in this example, added romanticism to her otherwise streamlined silhouettes.