Reflections on the Little Black Dress Exhibit in St. Louis

I’ve been so excited about the opening of the Missouri History Museum‘s latest exhibit—Little Black Dress: From Mourning to Night. The exhibit is now open and will run through September 5, 2016. I went early and I already want to return with all of my girlfriends. Why? I was so blown away by the dresses and stories of the women who wore them. I was particularly intrigued by all the information I took away from the little black dress exhibit.

In today’s post, I’m recapping four of my most memorable takeaways from the little black dress exhibit.

1. While black remains a popular choice for mourning at funerals today, I learned that during the Victorian era, how a woman mourned was guided by strict social norms; and her attire, particularly the style of black dress she had to wear, was a huge part of that. For example, a woman who lost her husband was expected to wear dull black crepe dresses for about a year and a day. Say what? If you visit the exhibit, definitely give yourself time to absorb all the details in this section. Be sure to look out for the jewelry made with human hair too.

2. The shade of black you wore in the early 1900’s was quite symbolic. Women in mourning wore dull black dresses. Women who worked outside of the home also wore dull black. Women with wealth, however, sported deep and luxe-looking black. Their black dresses boasted elaborate designs to reflect their riches.

3. Wars had a major impact on the normalization of wearing black for women. Black dresses essentially became little black dresses during World War I when so many women lost loved ones and hence wore black everyday. During the Post World War II baby boom, black maternity dresses grew extremely popular.

4. St. Louis was a fashion mecca and could be again. I felt like I was in heaven browsing the selections by Chanel, Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta, and Halston in the exhibit. But, I was equally thrilled to explore the creations by St. Louis designers throughout history, including current designer Michael Drummond.

I enjoyed this exhibit much more than I could’ve even imagined and I know you would too. So, round up your girlfriends and stop by the Missouri History Museum. It’s FREE. Did I mention that it’s FREE?

Cease the opportunity to actually be a part of the interactive portion of the exhibit as well. By simply using the hashtag #LBDProject, tag an image on Facebook or Instagram of you rocking your favorite LBD, and you just might see yourself in the exhibit. How cool is that!?!


All images by Emily Wiseman Photography

This post is sponsored by the Missouri History Museum. I was selected for the opportunity as a member of the Midwest Influencer Network. As always, all of the opinions and ideas are my own.


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  1. April 15, 2016 / 3:41 pm

    Greetings! There's a great article in Racked that discussed how black was a controversial color waaaayyyy back in the day. Women that wore black were in mourning, but they were available (since their husbands had died) AND sexually experienced. Web address for article here:

    • April 15, 2016 / 6:17 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing that article, Jennifer. I'm going to read it right now.