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Exhibition National Museum of Scotland

Beyond the Little Black Dress

1 Jul - 29 Oct 2023
10:00 - 17:00 (last entry 16:00)

Special Exhibition Gallery, Level 3

Dress by Gareth Pugh, AW 2013.

© David Eustace.

Dress by Gareth Pugh, AW 2013.

© David Eustace.

This exhibition explored design classics to cutting-edge catwalk creations, Beyond the Little Black Dress deconstructs this iconic garment and examines the radical power of the colour black in fashion.

In 1926 Coco Chanel designed a simple, short black dress. Considered radically modern, it disregarded convention in its design and shade and was hailed by US Vogue as “the frock that all the world will wear.” The little black dress became a wardrobe staple and a blank canvas for future generations to reflect broader political and cultural shifts, challenge social norms around race, gender and sexuality and reflect evolving ideals of beauty and identity.

Discover how the nuances of the colour black have made the little black dress a contradictory garment, from the well-mannered cocktail attire of the early 20th century to the leather and latex worn by members of punk and fetish subcultures.

"A model fashion exhibition: stylish, surprising, sexy..."

The Times

Ticket details

  Weekdays Weekends
Members Free Free
Adult £12* - £13.50 £13* - £14.50
Over 60s £10* - £11.50 £11* - £12.50
Student, Unemployed, Disabled, Young Scot** £7.50* - £9 £8.50* - £10
Under 16s Free Free

Discounts available for groups of 10 or more.

*Book in advance to save. Advanced ticket prices are applicable up to 23:59:59 the day before.

**Valid ID required. Carers of disabled people free.

† Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult.

For all UK school group bookings, request a visit online or contact schools@nms.ac.uk

A century of fashion

Featuring over 60 garments, the exhibition charts a century of fashion through a series of themed, immersive displays. See early 20th century pieces by Chanel, Dior and Jean Muir alongside contemporary looks by designers such as Gareth Pugh, Simone Rocha, Comme des Garçons and ground-breaking Black British designers like Joe Casely-Hayford and Maximilian.

Richard Quinn SS23, Look 1 © Getty Images.

Alexander McQueen show, Autumn Winter 2017, Paris. Image courtesy PixelformulaSipaShuttershock.

Black British designers

The exhibition features Black British designers whose work explores both Blackness in terms of identity and the role the colour black plays in crafting a futuristic, sci-fi aesthetic. Elsewhere, the exhibition considers how perceptions of the colour black differ in a global context, as well as how the intervention of smart technologies is establishing a blueprint for a more sustainable future.

'Hellbound dress', Christopher Kane, Fall Winter 2022. Henri Bergmann aka DJ Henri attends The Fashion Awards 2022 at Royal Albert Hall on December 5, 2022 in London, England. Photo by David M. Benett Dave Benett Getty Images.

Woman's “Ligne Longue” cocktail dressby Christian Dior, Autumn-Winter 1951-52 (K.2018.3.1)

Conservator stitches crown piece made by Richard Quinn to head of mannequin.

Behind the Scenes

Go behind the scenes with our conservation team to uncover how the garments were prepared for display in the exhibition.

Watch the film
Olivier Theyskens AW19 Look 38 On Display In The Spiritual Black Section Of Beyond The Little Black Dress.

Dress You Up: Madonna's Career

Iconic. A cultural mainstay. Capable of reinvention. The Little Black Dress (LBD) has a lot in common with the Queen of Pop.

Read now
Anna Stark (1)

Student Project: Designing in Black

We asked third year textile students at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design to produce sensory sample swatches which responded creatively and practically to the concept of the little black dress. The students talked to us about the project and the work they produced.

Watch the film

Visual exhibition guide

This visual guide is designed to support a visit to the exhibition Beyond the Little Black Dress at the National Museum of Scotland.

Download the Beyond the Little Black Dress exhibition guide as a PDF

Plan your visit to National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street
Edinburgh
EH1 1JF

Map and directions

We want everyone who comes to our museums to enjoy their time with us and make the most of their visit. 

  • There is level access to the Museum via the main doors to the Entrance Hall on Chambers Street and the Tower entrance at the corner of Chambers Street and George IV Bridge. 
  • Lifts are available to all floors and accessible toilets are available on most floors, as well as a Changing Places (U) toilet in the Entrance Hall on Level 0.
  • There is an induction loop in the Auditorium.
  • Guide dogs, hearing dogs and other recognised assistance dogs are admitted.

Find out more about our access information.

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