Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (French, 18831971)
Black silk net with polychrome sequins
Gift of Mrs. Harrison Williams, Lady Mendl, and Mrs. Ector Munn, 1946 (C.I.46.4.7ac)
The decoration of sequined fireworks on this evening dress, which was worn by Countess Madeleine de Montgomery to Lady Mendl's seventy-fifth birthday party in 1939, is a fitting climax to le beau monde of the 1930s. When Adolf Hitler declared that Germany was at war with Poland in September 1939, the glamorous era of the 1930s came to a close. The fireworks motif, executed in brilliantly colored sequins, takes on additional symbolic meaning since the dress was created and worn immediately prior to the start of World War II. The dress was part of a collection assembled and brought to New York by the donors and their friends and displayed in an exhibition to benefit the French war charities in 1940.