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

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Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: (405) 236-3100
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Cost: All Weekend Pass = $20 | All Day Pass = $12

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Telephone: 918-495-6000
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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
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Tulsa, OK  74120
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Telephone: 918-585-1234
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Cost: $22-$25

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1800 S Main St
Broken Arrow, OK  Broken Arrow
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Sponsor: Broken Arrow Community Playhouse
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Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


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Sponsor: Operation Aware of Oklahoma
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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 »

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Show More...
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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...
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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
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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.
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View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
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Cost: FREE

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Sweets & Cream
1114 S Yale Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74112
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Sponsor: Sweets & Cream
Telephone: 918-633-3182
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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+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
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Show More...
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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

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Cost: $10 General Admission / $15 Bistro seating

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621 East 4th St.
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Sponsor: Oklahomans for Equality
Telephone: 918-637-2866
Contact Name: Pat Hobbs
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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+

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
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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

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


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Once again the skies over Muskogee will be glowing with an array of vibrant color as the Oklahoma Festival of Ballooning descends upon historic Hatbox Field August 16 and 17.  The...

Cost: $10 per car

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4000 Border Street
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Sponsor: Muskogee Parks & Recreation
Telephone: 918-504-3255
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Cost: 30

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The Little Gym of SE Tulsa
6556 E 91st St
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Sponsor: The Little Gym
Telephone: 918-492-2626
Contact Name: Scott Kindred
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BROKEN ARROW COMMUNITY PLAYHOUSE Presents “The Wizard of Oz” (R.S.C.1987) By L. Frank Baum With Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg Background Music by...

Cost: $22-$25

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1800 S Main St
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Sponsor: Broken Arrow Community Playhouse
Telephone: 918-258-0077
Contact Name: 74012
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Cost: $1+

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Tulsa, OK


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Contact Name: Jenée Day
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Gathering Place is grilling-up a new barbeque tradition in Tulsa! Riverside Ribfest is a day of grilling, chilling and challenging some of the top BBQ masters in the region! Think your secret rib...

Cost: Free

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2650 S. John Williams Way E.
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Website »

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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

The Kiwanis Club of Tulsa is pleased to present Chili on the Green, the State of Oklahoma Chili Championship. All proceeds from this event go to Kiwanis Key Club Scholarships and Special Olympics...

Cost: Free Entry. Tasting kits are $10 for 1, $15 for 2 and $20 for 4.

Where:
Guthrie Green
111 W Brady
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Kiwanis Club of Tulsa Foundation
Telephone: 918-849-0464
Contact Name: Brian Walker
Website »

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Chili On The Green is the State of Oklahoma Chili Championship sponsored by The Kiwanis Club of Tulsa and sanctioned by the International Chili Society. Chili cooks from across the country will be...

Cost: Admission is Free and Tasting Kits can be purchased: 1 for $10, 2 for $15 and 4

Where:
Guthrie Green
111 E MB Brady Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Kiwanis Club of Oklahoma
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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

Join the Oklahoma Aquarium for its first annual Salsa Festival! Take part in the hottest event of the summer by tasting a diverse selection of salsas from vendors and enjoying the diverse marine...

Cost: General Admission

Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Dr
Jenks, OK  74037
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Telephone: 918-528-1507
Contact Name: Liz
Website »

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Come join us for delicious vegan pastries and beverages at Chimera Cafe, all while taking action #ForTheAnimals! RSVP here as well: https://tinyurl.com/thlchangemakers The Humane League exists...

Cost: Free

Where:
Chimera Cafe
212 North Main (Tulsa Arts District)
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: The Humane League
Contact Name: Dara Homer

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America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
Website »

More information

Once again the skies over Muskogee will be glowing with an array of vibrant color as the Oklahoma Festival of Ballooning descends upon historic Hatbox Field August 16 and 17.  The...

Cost: $10 per car

Where:
Hatbox Field
4000 Border Street
Muskogee, OK  74403
View map »


Sponsor: Muskogee Parks & Recreation
Telephone: 918-504-3255
Contact Name: Carol Matza
Website »

More information

BROKEN ARROW COMMUNITY PLAYHOUSE Presents “The Wizard of Oz” (R.S.C.1987) By L. Frank Baum With Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg Background Music by...

Cost: $22-$25

Where:
Broken Arrow Community Playhouse
1800 S Main St
Broken Arrow, OK  Broken Arrow
View map »


Sponsor: Broken Arrow Community Playhouse
Telephone: 918-258-0077
Contact Name: 74012
Website »

More information

Offbeat: Crazy and Hilarious Stories from the People that Lived Them Presented by Story Club of Tulsa and Blue Whale Comedy Festival Ready for some wild and crazy stories told by the funniest...

Cost: https://www.storyclubtulsa.com/

Where:
Duet Jazz Club
108 N. DETROIT AVENUE
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Story Club of Tulsa
Telephone: 918-596-2008
Contact Name: Ryan Howell
Website »

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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+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


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

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Broken Arrow, OK
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