In the second installment of our "Confessions of a Curator" series, Kevin Jones explores a rather scandalous new donation, and the role of censorship and sexuality in fashion. As always, if you have questions for our curatorial team, feel free to get in touch with us by commenting on our posts or sending an email.
June 3, 1964…A day that will live in fashion infamy. Fifty-two years ago Women’s Wear Daily published a photo that sent shockwaves around the globe: model Peggy Moffitt (b. 1940) wearing designer Rudi Gernreich’s (1922-1985) “Monokini.” This topless swimsuit was not new; Rudi had worn a miniature version of it as a child in Vienna, Austria, before immigrating to Los Angeles. When examined off the body there was nothing radical about it: black wool knit with halter ties. But things happen to bodies from childhood to adulthood, especially for girls. Boobs! The fact that Peggy’s breasts were exposed while posing in Rudi’s plagiarized childhood design was too much. And actually, it was not necessarily the breasts that offended, but the erect nipples…which were often obscured or covered by censor’s bars in pictorials.
The early 20th century had already witnessed an abundance of low necklines and body-revealing, bias-cut garments. At the 1939 New York World’s Fair, couturière Alix Grès (1903-1993) dressed a lounging mannequin with half of one of her famed draped silk jersey gowns, leaving the left plaster breast exposed. In 1954, Willy Maywald (1907-1985) photographed a live model wearing the same half-gown with breast and nipple pronounced. But this was artistic installation and fashion photography. If actual breasts for breast’s sake were desired, one had to turn to adult publications such as Playboy, Adam, or dozens of other “blue” mags to get an eyeful. The mainstream press was not the place to look…yet.
By the late 1960s, though, bodices were becoming obsolete: Yves Saint Laurent’s (1936-2008) chiffon blouse barely shaded the bust in 1968, and a decade later Margaux Hemingway (1954-1996) (with sister Mariel (b. 1961)) expected to be exposed at Studio 54 in 1978. In the 1980s, breasts were mainstream. And though his model was completely covered up, Jean Paul Gaultier (b. 1952) still titillated with his “Bombshell Breasts” dress in 1984.
This recent donation illustrates the design world’s continued obsession with the female chest: Franco Moschino’s (1950–1994) crop-top jacket from 1994.
Curator Kevin (we think?!) on a donor visit. Jacket, Franco Moschino, 1994. Gift of Joan Beer Damask & Donald Damask, FIDM Museum. 2016.1250.4
Made of flesh colored velveteen, it has the tactile feeling of peach skin, which makes it very nice to stroke. The pointillist printed pattern appears to stand out in trompe l’oeil mammaries, but, indeed, they are completely flat. Moschino’s visual impact, though, was not lost on television viewers as the approximately DD-cups were prominent features on a T-shirt version of the design when worn by actress Jennifer Saunders (b. 1958) as “Edina Monsoon” in Episode 7 of Absolutely Fabulous that aired on January 27, 1994.
Screenshot of Absolutely Fabulous, Series 2, Episode 7, "Hospital."
We are very happy to accept this “double-breasted” jacket into the FIDM Museum collection…Thank you Joan and Donald!