The FIDM Museum is based in Los Angeles, so we're fortunate to experience moderate temperatures throughout the year. Given that Los Angelenos can often wear gauzy, lightweight clothing even in December, we sometimes loose track of the fact that summer is a distinct season. But there's something to be said for winter, if for no other reason than when it's over, summer clothing is a welcome change from heavy winter garb. With that in mind, we're welcoming the start of summer (we're a few days late...the summer solstice occurred on June 21) with a few summer dresses from our collection. First up, a red and purple halter dress. Any guesses as to who the designer is? The answer is after the jump.
Silk satin & crepe compound weave
If you're familiar with Bob Mackie's work, you probably know of his glitzy, glam costumes. A native Los Angeleno, Mackie worked as an assistant to studio costume designers Jean Louis and Edith Head before earning his own billing as screen and stage costume designer. Mackie has created glittering sequin and rhinestone encrusted stage and screen costumes for Lucille Ball, Bernadette Peters, Lynda Carter and a host of other actors. He was also the costume designer for the The Carol Burnett Show and The Sonny and Cher Show. In 1982, Mackie capitalized on his fame and started designing ready-to-wear. According to New York Times fashion critic Bernadine Morris, the audience for Mackie's first show was filled with well-known performers, including Diahann Carroll and Mitzi Gaynor. The garments ranged from beaded evening gowns to simple cotton dresses.1
With it's contrasting palette, geometric design and body-skimming fit, this Bob Mackie is reminiscent of Stephen Burrow's yellow wrap dress from the early '70s. Both dresses are constructed of fluid fabrics intended to showcase the body and would have been worn with soft, unstructured undergarments. This type of easy-wearing dress was popular throughout the 1970s, and indicated a move towards greater informality in dress.
Like this lightweight cotton lawn dress, most dresses of the 1920s were in the sleeveless chemise style. With no shaping other than bust darts, this dress demonstrates the dominant silhouette of the 1920s which was often described as youthful or boyish. During the 1920s, women's garments rarely featured waist indentation. Any waist definition, such as a sash or seam, was usually placed below the natural waist, sometimes at the hip. Though the lightweight fabric and refreshingly pale color palette suggest the heat of summer, 1920s sleeveless dresses were often paired with a jacket, tunic or sweater. This 1929 Gabrielle Chanel silk chiffon floral dress and wool coat is an accomplished version of this pairing.
Though roses have been a popular motif for centuries, they were given a new look during the teens and twenties. During this era, they were stylized into flat, geometric roundels like those seen on the dress above. Artist Paul Iribe is credited with developing this modern, Art Deco version of the rose, which was used frequently by Paul Poiret. Poiret's 1913 dress for Denise Poiret, La Rose d'Iribe, features a stemmed variation, with the name of the dress indicating the origin of the stylized rose. The new rose became a decorative staple, appearing in a variety of colors and contexts. Rounded roses featured on this dress were created by machine embroidery. The color palette of pinks, purples and yellow was discussed by Vogue in 1925. These colors were gaining favor, with "rumor predict[ing] popularity for...new members of the mauve, cyclamen, and violine families."2
1 Morris, Bernadine. "Resort Wear: Lighthearted and Colorful" New York Times 10 Aug. 1982: B10.
2 Vogue 15 Feb. 1925: 46.