The little black dress and me

Connie Cronley's little black dress.



Once upon a time, I thought the epitome of elegance and glamour was a little black dress.

Know what? I still do. I learned about adult fashion as a skinny little girl in pink-framed glasses in a small Oklahoma town. This was the 1950s and ’60s and I was a little female Mr. Peepers at the movies. I saw the glamorous Lana Turner, sultry Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor as a woman of the evening in “Butterfield 8.” Naughty Rita Hayworth stripped off long black gloves singing "Put the Blame on Mame." Anita Ekberg was joyful abandon in “La Dolce Vita.” Audrey Hepburn gave cool elegance to the long, black dress in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” although that is not what Truman Capote had in mind when he wrote the novella (he hated the movie and Hepburn in the part; he wanted Marilyn Monroe for the role of Holly Golightly).

When I was being imprinted by fashion etiquette, we had a sharp sense of occasion. We honored it by dressing for parties and special events.

I fantasized that I would escape that small Oklahoma town and sit in a New York bar wearing a little black dress, smoking a cigarette in a long holder and drinking something in a stemmed glass. I actually did that, minus the cigarette holder, and as much fun as it was, it was not a highlight of my life.

From the late 1970s to the early ’90s, I was general manager of a ballet company, a job that involved dressy occasions, opening nights and New York premieres. To me, that meant a little black dress.

Eventually, it meant a lot of little black dresses — different silhouettes, hemlines, necklines and fabrics.

The versatile little black dresses and I traveled. In Las Vegas so late one night it was morning, I was among a party in a private, posh restaurant atop a casino. At another table sat Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. So quickly I could have imagined it, I saw Sinatra lean forward and take a closer look at me. I was thin and had short, short blond hair. He must have wondered if I was Mia Farrow. I was not Mia Farrow, of course, and he lost interest in a nanosecond. I was, however, wearing a little black dress and pearls.

That is what I wore to a Broadway show in New York, only to discover that most everyone else was wearing jeans and flip-flops. “It’s the decline of Western civilization,” I said.

I wore a strapless, slinky black dress to a ballet ball one year and Brad Bradstreet asked me to dance. Brad was a distinguished gentleman in his tuxedo and 40 years my senior.

“Brad,” I said, “it’s a fast dance. I can’t dance to that music in this dress.”

“Darlin’,” he said, “in that dress, you can do anything you want to.”

To learn the power of the little black dress, read “Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X” by Deborah Davis. It is the dual biography of the painter and the model, and the scandal that rocked the 1884 Paris Salon when the famous portrait was first displayed. Her reputation was shattered forever and he had to flee the country.

Will the Tulsa exhibit featuring art inspired by these little black dresses be equally shocking? Probably not, but in putting this show together, we discovered that there is no such thing as a simple little black dress. Add imagination and the individuality of the woman wearing it and the possibilities are endless. Like women ourselves.
stripped off long black gloves singing “Put the Blame on Mame.” 

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August 2019

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
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Telephone: (405) 236-3100
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Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

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Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Telephone: 918-585-1234
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Cost: $10

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Cost: $22-$25

Where:
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Sponsor: Broken Arrow Community Playhouse
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Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


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Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
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Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Stow's Office Furniture
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Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

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Cost: $400 per team

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LaFortune Park Golf Course
5501 S Yale Avenue
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View map »

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

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Cost: $52.00

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Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

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Tulsa, OK


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Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Maker Faire Tulsa is an award-winning, family-friendly event celebrating technology, education, science, arts, crafts, engineering, food, sustainability, and making of all kinds. The 7th...

Cost: Free

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Central Park Hall at Expo Square
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Sponsor: Fab Lab Tulsa
Telephone: 918-779-6025
Contact Name: Nathan Pritchett
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Cost: FREE

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4145 East 21st Street
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Cost: Free

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1502 E. 11th St.
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Telephone: 918-586-2455
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Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

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Cost: 59.95

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420 W Albany St.
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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DIVAS JUMP THE POND - THE BRITISH INVASION!! DIVAS 4 H.O.P.E. features live music from Tulsa’s diverse local artists along with cocktails, dinner, and one-of-a-kind live and silent auction...

Cost: $15,000 - $250

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Assembly Hall - Cox Business Center
100 Civic Center
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Sponsor: Health Outreach Prevention Education, Inc.
Telephone: 918-688-5022
Contact Name: Kathy L Williams
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Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

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