A few weeks ago, I watched the documentary Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston on Netflix. While the film itself is OK–the director is just awful, I could not help but get swept up in the total glamour of Halston, as well as New York in the 70’s.
Halston was one of the first American designers that Europe began to take seriously. He invented the shirtwaist dress, eschewing the more structured, stuffy outfits women were wearing (think of the suits women in the 60’s used to wear), eventually leading the way for DVF to debut her iconic wrap dress that still remains her signature today.
An Ultrasuede Halston shirtwaist dress.
Image courtesy of metmuseum.org
Halston grew up in Iowa, heading to IU for college then studying at the Art Institute right here in Chi-town. He began his fashion career as a milliner, creating Jackie O’s infamous pillbox hat. Soon, he moved on to clothes.
Jackie in Halston Image courtesy of http://peggyoberlininteriors.com/blog
Already having created a name for himself among the social set, Halston quickly became the go-to for dressing celebs and the upper crust of New York. He soon became the toast of the town, known for his entourage of beautiful women (Halstonettes) that included Angelica Huston and Pat Cleveland, hanging out at Studio 54 with Liza Minelli, Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, the Jaggers, the list goes on.
NYE 1978 at Studio 54. Halston (second on left) with Biana Jagger, Liza, Andy Photo c/o: http://www.lilyandlamb.com
Halston expanded his empire into fragrances (complete with Elsa Peretti designed bottles), accessories, and even carpeting. Eventually he even did a collection for JC Penney, making him the first designer to partner with a store to create an affordable line for the masses.
Sadly, Halston got caught up in the party lifestyle, which eventually led to his demise, a common aftermath of the NYC party scene in the late 70’s. While I believe the mega-glamour of this time is unfortunately a thing of the past, you can still channel the effortlessly chic Halston look today. An homage to one of the greatest American fashion designers, and a cheers to an era of excess.
Don’t be surprised if you see me making an entrance at someone’s wedding in this getup.