Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (French, 18831971)
Silk, wool, metal
Purchase, The New–York Historical Society by Exchange Fund, 1984 (1984.28a–c)
This ensemble represents the "little black dress," one of Chanel's most popular and enduring contributions to women's fashion. In all of its layered details, a simple material, wool jersey, becomes elegant through superior tailoring technique. Couture details such as seam binding, carefully arranged pleats, the finely finished hem of the skirt, and hand-sewn belt make this ensemble an example of Chanel's characteristic poverty de luxe, an expensive interpretation of a simple design made of modest materials. Chanel appropriated tailoring details from riding habits, men's wear, and service uniforms in her quest to reduce and refine women's clothing to its simplest and most elegant.