Thursday, February 1, 2018

A window into the world

From one subway car to another. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, February 1, 2018. Cold in New York on the last day of January, with more to come in the new month.

Last night I went up to the Museum of the City of New York for the opening of their latest exhibition, “MOD NEW YORK” about the fashion culture of the 1960s which began with the inauguration of the new President and First Lady in the White, Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy. They brought “youth” with them. This exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York returns to those pivotal and life-changing times with this exhibition of women’s fashion of that time and how it changed and adapted to the changes that came with that decade.

In the January 1, 1965 issue of Vogue editor Diana Vreeland declared a “youthquake” had occurred in American fashion. Vreeland was brilliant at creating a term to acknowledge what she regarded (clearly) as trends. She was referring to the emerging buying power of American youth – “under 24 and over 90 million strong.” That spirit galvanized Seventh Avenue.

Miniskirts and other fashions highlighted young, fit bodies with bright colors and bold patterns. Whereas earlier styles relied up on body-molding undergarments for their shape, textile innovations like vinyl, polyester, knits and even paper made ultra-streamlined silhouettes possible. Also a major influence was the ”British invasion” beginning with the arrival of the Beatles’ in 1964, along with designer Mary Quant, Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy, and hairstylist Vidal Sassoon. They added a high “Mod” accent to the city’s talent. The era’s youthful focus and the British influence extended to retailing spurring a new concept: the boutique. Paraphernalia opened on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 1965, boutiques fused fashion, music, and late night partying to a cross-section of social types, including the artist-celebrity, a personage created by Andy Warhol.
Here are some of scenes they’ve created in this great exhibition:

The inauguration of John F. Kennedy to the Presidency in January 1961 elevated not only a charismatic leader with progressive social and cultural ideas, but also a young and beautiful and chic first lady. Jacqueline Kennedy was the first First Lady in history whose sense of style and comportment inspired a lot of women as well as the designers on Seventh Avenue. That particular sense of style evolved away from the silhouettes of the post-War '40s and '50s in Paris. She was 30 years old when her husband took office. Women got younger following her style which gave “greater ease of movement and paved the way toward a new liberated definition of femininity.”
Norman Norell was one of the few designers whose name and style came closest to the couturiers of Paris. This day ensemble comprising jacket and skirt of wool flannel, with silk blouse was worn by the smartly dressed woman. Lauren Bacall was a big customer; The evening dress of silk embroidered with beads and satin was worn to the inaugural ball in honor of President Kennedy on January 20, 1961. It is a gift of Mrs. William Cahan. The designer Ferdinando Sarmi was called the “master of elegance” by Women’s Wear Daily. Sarmi had his own ready-to-wear business on Fifth Avenue for the woman who could spend up to $3000 for a custom evening gown (roughly $25,000 today).
Sleeveless evening dress with midi overblouse and skirt of linen/silk blend c. 1963. Oleg Cassini, who was Mrs. Kennedy's "Secretary of Style"; Cez and Bez evening dress and belt of Indian flora brocade saris silk, 1963.
Andre Courrèges ensemble, coat of wool flannel and dress of worsted double wool gabardine twill, 1964. Gift of Mrs. Frederick Eberstadt; Chester Weinberg's dress of cotton cloque 1964-65; and Joan "Tiger" Morse's dress of machine-stitched vinyl, c. 1965.
Courrèges Paris Hyperbole, Dress of crinkle-texture vinyl on cotton and spandex ground. C. 1970. Gift of the estate of Laura Johnson; Saint-Laurent’s “Le Smoking” evening ensemble (on the right) comprising wool gabardine and satin tuxedo jacket and trousers. Fall/Winter 1971. Gift of Lauren Bacall. YSL’s ensemble set the template for male-inspired clothes for women, legitimizing trousers for formal and fashionable evening wear.
Below left: Adolfo, suit of tweed wool knit with silk blouse and matching pocket square 1972. Gift of Mrs. Gardner Cowles.

“Reviving the elegance and muted palette of the early 1960s, this wrinkle-free knit suit with its elastic waistband targets and era’s more active, career-oriented woman.” That could also be, often was, that of a successful wife.
Above, right: Halston’s day ensemble comprising coat of double-faced cashmere twill and sheath dress and cardigan of cashmere. C. 1973. Gift of Mrs. Michael Kaiser. The dress is simply cut and sewn from knit yardage, while the cardigan is knitted into its shape.
Cigarette box by Cartier along with a silver and gold cigarette.
Oscar de la Renta. Dress of cotton with polka dots, 1960s, Gift of Mrs. Gardner Cowles. This was Oscar the young designer who had come from Paris and Spain where he was mentored by Cristobal Balenciaga, who was a mentor and/or inspiration for Courrèges, Ungaro, Givenchy, Mila Schön.
Anne Klein started her career in the 1940s designing for petite women. In the 1960s, backed by two Seventh Avenue financiers, Sandy Smith and Gunther Oppenheim, she opened her own label designing what became known as designer sportswear – the jacket, the pants, the skirt, the blouse, smartened up for almost any occasion. It was a huge success and spawned an even greater success in Anne's successor Donna Karan. The Campbell Soup Dress was made of paper made from cotton and cellulose, 1966-67. Offered by Campbell's for $1 and two soup can labels, this dress features Andy Warhol-inspired soup can graphics. Chemise dresses of the mid-1960s functioned as the perfect picture plane to reflect a succession of the era's new art forms, such as Pop and Op Art.
Anne Klein for Mallory retailed by Franklin Simon. Day ensemble comprising coordinating suede coat and houses-tooth wool dress (mid-60s.) Gift of Mrs. Elinore Fishman.
Convertible rain boots, Mary Quant, 1966, "Cinderella" shoes, Beth Levine, c. 1961; Vinyl, Lucite, kidskin; boots, Beth Levine, mid-60s, Stretch metallic nylon.
Truman Capote’s famous Black and White Party was held at the Plaza on November 28, 1966. The guest list of 540 included tycoons, politicians, entertainers, movie stars, socialites, artists, and other luminaries. LIFE magazine hailed it as “the biggest and most glorious bash ever,” and it also marked the “collision of two fashion worlds in 1960s New York: traditionally elegant clothes by veterans such as James Galanos, and avant-garde designs by newcomers like Betsey Johnson.
On the left is a dress designed by Betsey Johnson and Penelope Tree for the ball. The dress launched Tree's career as a Vogue model. Johnson was one of the inaugural designers for the innovative Manhattan boutique Paraphernalia.

Next to her was the dress designed by James Galanos for Isabel Eberstadt who wore the swan mask of coq feathers designed by Bill Cunningham, who at the time was still a milliner.

And the bunny to the right wearing the strapless evening dress of velvet and bunny mask of mink and satin was worn by Candice Bergen who had just made her screen debut in the film version of Mary McCarthy’s “The Group.” Bergen later shared her conflicted emotions about the appropriateness of attending the lavish event while “there was war and deprivation in the world.”
In the center, Evening pajamas of crepe-finished poult-de-soie by Adolfo with jeweled Maltese cross, 1968. Gift of Louise Melhado Grunwald. To the left, James Galanos evening trouser ensemble, c. 1966. The complex patterns of this pantsuit matched with great precision and its oscillating complementary colors transform this garment into an Op Art canvas.
On January 28, 1962, fashion, music, and politics converged in a groundbreaking showcase called Naturally '62. The Original African Coiffure and Fashion Extravaganza Designed to Restore Our Racial Pride & Standards. It was held at Harlem's Purple Manor. Photographer Kwame Brathwaite intiated and planned the event, along with his elder brother Elombe Brath and the organization they co-founded with other like-minded artists in 1956: the African Jazz Art Soceity and Studios (AJASS). The event was a cultural statement about self-pride and embracing one's heritage. The message was clear: "Black is beautiful."
Last night at the MCNY.

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