Stephen Burrows (b. 1943) became one of the first African-American fashion designers to achieve international fame when he participated with four other American designers in a fashion show held at the Palace of Versailles in 1973. The landmark event--chronicled in the 2013 documentary Versailles '73: American Runway Revolution and the new book The Battle of Versailles by Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan--firmly established Seventh Avenue's supremacy over French fashion, and put the emerging young designer on the map, both at home and abroad.
Gift of Jo Holzman
This maxi dress--like another dress by Burrows in the FIDM Museum collection--demonstrates the designer's "absolute disregard for the laws of color," as fashion journalist Bernardine Morris put it.1 Each hue represents a different piece of fabric, which Burrows painstakingly stitched together for a rainbow effect. Bright, polychrome garments of wool jersey and double-knit were hallmarks of his body-conscious styles, inspired by New York's disco scene.
Here, Burrows upturns notions of proportion as well as color, attaching a modified T-shirt to a maxi skirt. The same dress in a different colorway appeared in Harper's Bazaar in 1974; the price was $32.
1New York Times, 12 August 1970.