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Boogie-oogie-oogie: Irvin reviews “Simply Halston”

Get up on the dance floor and boogie til you just can’t boogie no more. No designer symbolizes the 70’s like Halston. Disco dresses, halter tops, beads, and sequins. Lots of Halston red. Niloo Imami-Paydar (IMA Curator of Textile and Fashion Arts) has put together quite a show of pieces from the early 70’s to the early 80’s for Simply Halston. Now this ain’t gonna be no high-brow fashion critique. I was asked for my opinion, and sister, that’s what yer gonna get. These days my idea of fashion is matching my favorite chicken with my favorite vintage shantung silk jacket. (Thanks to Brad Bell for the feathers and silk shot.)

Irvin with his favorite chicken

But Halston, well he had a bit more going on. Bear in mind that like many of us he was a product of the Midwest – born in Iowa and raised in Evansville, Indiana. That’s in southern Indiana for those of you who think the state ends in Bloomington or Brown County. If you remember from my bio I was born and raised in southern Indiana so I have a certain extra amount of pride when one of our own does well in the big world. When you walk in the first thing that you notice is probably color. Lots of red, bright blues and greens, sequins and beads (Mmmmm, pretty, sparkly). Then you probably notice the long graceful forms the ensembles create (They seem to always be ensembles – especially evening ensembles – he did love the night life).

IMA Photo

Click Here to see a Virtual Tour of Simply Halston.

Two visitors while I was there commented on how feminine and graceful they all were. Amazing folding and pleating and outfits cut from a single piece of fabric. Niloo explained it to me when I was lucky enough to have her come in during my second look at the show. I can’t fully retell her words so I won’t try. She understands the fabrics and construction at a level I cannot and I don’t want to misquote her. She did say the outfits look deceptively simple but the construction is quite complicated. Halston was not big on pattern so many pieces are a solid color. Also rarely are buttons or pockets present. One outfit does have buttons. It reminds me of 50’s or 60’s clothes, simple sweater over a simple dress. Very different from the majority of the show. Likewise the ultra-suede day dress and the wool late-day dress. What the hell is a late-day dress? You start the day in your day dress, at some point change into your late-day dress, then for evening you have an ensemble in a subway locker at the nearest stop to Studio 54? It’s beyond me.

My favorite? I really like the one embroidered all over with tiny mirrors. I mean really, you could be a walking disco ball. How could you go wrong? The gold lame disco dress was very nice. It would just be wrong not to mention gold lame. The really simple cashmere numbers, elegant, sexy, and I would think comfortable. Considering so many were designed for night I have to say they also possess a languid quality. They look like a woman could feel very relaxed in them. Not being a woman I could be way off the mark on that one. Also it isn’t in the show, but the iconic pillbox hat of one of my all-time favorite people, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, was his creation.

On a personal note I’m glad the back wall has this huge photo of Halston, Liza, and Bianca. It brought a flood of memories. I hadn’t been in New York long at that time. 19 and I looked 15. I made a fortune in prostitution but when you are young who thinks of their 401K? Liza and I in a corner at Studio 54, me assuring her she would always be “Liza with a Z”. Bianca trying desperately to explain why Mick was so irresistible. I wonder where I put that little gold spoon that someone gave me? Oh well, I never could figure out whether it was for those little jars of jelly you got in gift baskets or what. And everybody, and I do mean EVERYBODY, talking about doing lines. Lines of what? They weren’t all actors. And what was up with those little mirrors in the bathrooms with white powdered soap on them? I just miss the music.

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