Today's post features a late 1970s Holly's Harp dress. We've reposted this garment today because it is currently on view at The Autry in California's Designing Women, 1896–1986. On view through January 2013, this exhibit focuses on women who have helped shaped California design. In addition to our Holly's Harp evening dress, we also loaned two bathing suits to this exhibition: a Cole of California fringed bikini, and a knit Catalina suit.
Los Angeles based designer Holly Harp (1939-1995) began her fashion career in the late 1960s, designing theatrical, psychedelic clothing for iconic performers such as Janis Joplin and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane. Harp's early designs were in tune with the catch-all aesthetic of late 1960s hippie fashions, and her garments quickly gained a reputation for "being wild and wonderful, feathers and fringe."1 A maxi-dress worn by the singer-songwriter Dory Previn was typical of Harp's aesthetic. Constructed of an old table cloth, green doily and a piece of vintage satin, it was described as a "clothing mosaic."2 In 1968, Harp opened Holly's Harp, a small boutique on the Sunset Strip where she sold both her ready-made and custom-designed garments.
Within a few years, Harp's designs had taken on a very different character. Instead of merely incorporating bits and pieces of the past by using vintage textiles, Harp started designing slinky, overtly sexy dresses and separates that referenced the glamour of Old Hollywood. Using silk textiles such as jersey, crepe and chiffon, Harp created what she called " fantasy-oriented...mood clothes."3 These mood clothes often referenced 1930s evening wear, as in the Holly's Harp bias-cut dress seen here.