A friend of mine alerted me to the last viewing days of the YVES SAINT LAURENT + HALSTON: FASHIONING THE 70S presentation currently being held at The Museum at FIT. It is a show that focuses on the two iconic designers's creations specific to that decade. I had been wavering whether or not to attend, but when I asked his personal opinion he described the collection as "full of life and love". Well, I certainly couldn't pass that up! I'm so glad I made the trip as his description was accurate.
Housed in the basement of the museum, the exhibit takes place in a large room with an all glossy white interior. Some of the models were placed on large pedestals whilst others were contained in partial plexiglass rooms. The mannequins were grouped in twos, one dressed in Halston, one in Laurent. The exhibition was further divided into themes such as exoticism and menswear. Side by side, the outfits eerily mirrored each other. It was absolutely mesmerizing to see how these two designers with different backgrounds, different cultural references (one French, one American), and in different places created designs that paralleled each other during the 1970's. Was it coincidence? Do great minds really think alike?
The pieces all seemed to be quintessentially seventies attire; lots of jersey, jumpsuits, and halter tops. Let's not forget, this was also the decade of disco, so there was a healthy dose of sequins, ruffles, and gold lamé. It definitely appears that Halston and Laurent were all about flow-y pieces. Most of the looks were draped allowing for easy movement. I did notice a lack of any body conscience looks.
I am always so pleasantly surprised when I'm viewing vintage clothing and find it extremely modern. It is very clear that the work of Laurent and Halston continue to be inspirational for the designers of today. The exhibition was all tied together with a feature wall displaying a dual timeline of both designers' careers from 1952 to 1984 and not one, but two spinning disco balls. There was, however, no music.
Noticeably absent from the collection were shoes and there were very little accessories. It prompted me to think about what the complete look was like. What kind of jewelry did the women wear and how did they style their hair? Having not been born yet, I have to rely on pictures and exhibits like these. So decided to ask someone who lived through the 70's and who had a first hand experience with the fashion and could paint a complete picture. My mother.
I gave her a call to quiz her about her past wardrobe choices. As expected there were bell bottoms and chunky heels. Jumpsuits and blouses with long, billowy sleeves. She was partial to pastels, empire dresses and a line skirts. My mother happens to be petite and recalls having several pieces custom made and personalized. (Think embroidered initials!) I asked her specifically about Halston and Laurent. She remembers Halston's designs, but not Laurent. Funnily enough, she did mention she favored geometric print dresses that featured blocks of color. No doubt a reference to Laurent's 1965 Mondrian Collection. I inquired about her hairstyle. Her chosen look, a large afro a la Angela Davis.
Accessories included big loop earrings, bangle bracelets, and wide rim floppy hats. Fashion is often a topic of discussion between us and she is constantly remarking how she's seen and worn most of these styles before. Oh, and she says there was polyester. Lots of polyester.
Unfortunately for me, my mom didn't save these things. She travelled extensively during the 70's and as a result, her wardrobe got lost in the fray. I am deeply saddened by the possible treasure trove of a wardrobe that could have been. After a long talk about trends and popular styles from her youth, the one thing she stressed the most is that she simply wore and purchased whatever she liked the most. A sentiment we should all practice.