The Simply Halston exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art features a telling collection by a designer steeped in contradictions. Originally from Evansville, and later a mainstay at Studio 54, Halston’s designs feature an inherent tension between minimalist design and pop culture.
The gallery’s dim lights set the stage for a dazzling display of Roy Halston’s finest disco designs. Perhaps most disco noteworthy is a gold little number from 1978. The bias-cut gold tissue lamé gown has a slip neckline that crisscrosses in the back, around the bodice and to the back again, where it ties at the small of the back. Another disco standout is an evening dress from 1981, adorned with mirrors, sequins, glass beads, bugle beads, pearl beads and metallic threads. Made from a single piece of fabric, the dress opens in the front and ties together with a plush black ribbon, draping dramatically to the floor in the back and lightly hugging the back of the wearer’s legs.
From the height of ’70s fashion, the exhibit features a white cashmere jumpsuit with bellbottoms. The thin straps of the halter top contrast to the full-bodied bells of the pant legs. The cashmere is soft and sumptuous, clinging to every curve of the wearer’s body.
But beyond the stages of the disco, Simply Halston highlights the fluid and draped lines, plunging cuts and plush fabrics that are the staples of Halston’s trade. A bold green dress from the ’70s features a soft petal skirt, created from three layers of doubled silk chiffon in a sarong wrap. Again, the frilly dress raises high above the knee in the front and drops to the floor in the back. A sultry red silk chiffon jumpsuit from 1970 features a dramatic one-shoulder bodice and four layers of ruffled chiffon. The fabric angles sharply across the shoulder at a 45 degree angle while the skirt plunges to the floor at the opposite angle, creating a symmetrical and balanced design.
Two dresses made of silk jersey are dramatic and playful — very kitsch inspired. A dress from 1974 features large yellow and white poppies against a single sheath of brilliant green fabric. The graphic print is bold and flamboyant with feminine flair. The seams run along the center front and back of the dress — the fabric rises flirtingly in the front and drops to the floor in the back. Another dress from 1974 in silk jersey mimics Pollock’s “drip technique” as bright colors splash across the fabric as it scoops at the front neckline and plunges into a deep “V” in the back.
Simply Halston is on view in the IMA’s Paul Fashion Gallery through Jan. 4, 2009. For information, go to www.imamuseum.org.