I promised that I would show you pictures of the Arnold Scaasi exhibit, so here they are. The exhibit was small, all in one room, but quite rich in terms of its range and the outfits themselves. You could spend an hour wandering around that room, looking at all the details.
These are clothes as clothes, not clothes as art. For that, you’re going to have to wait for Alexander McQueen. So I’m going to critique them as just that – clothes one might actually wear (or not).
The first section of the exhibit focused on the 1960s. You can see the 1960s silhouette in the following dresses. I like that the red velvet cape has a silver lining that echoes the fabric of the dress, and the silver dress has a red velvet bow that echoes the cape. You could be a sorceress in this dress. You would certainly cast a spell.
The polka-dot dress feels so contemporary. This is still the early 1960s, which was influenced by Christian Dior’s New Look. The waist was still at the waist, and skirts were still pouffy. This isn’t my style (there’s no magic in it), but I like the dress.
I liked the details on several of these outfits, like the pink bow on the suit. In any suit like this, I think we’re seeing the influence of Coco Chanel. It’s still the Chanel suit silhouette. I would wear something like this, if it weren’t so heavily beaded.
The short black dress was worn by Natalie Wood. Here we get to the late 1960s silhouette, where you start to lose the waist. You could wear a dress like this to a party (I wouldn’t), but it starts to feel retro, whereas the earlier dresses feel more contemporary.
One thing that startled me about the exhibit was the mix of fabrics and other materials. Many of the dresses mixed silk and synthetics. The beading on the turquoise and coral dress below is coral – and plastic. The silhouette on the coral suit is still Chanel.
Here we transition from the 1960s to the 1970s. The dress on the left is late 1960s, the dress on the right is already 1970s. Most of the 1970s outfits were made specifically for Barbara Streisand, and you can see that they represent a different way of thinking about the female body. It’s no longer a woman’s body. It’s a pretty boy’s. Slender, without an obvious waist. An Empire silhouette, with pants rather than skirts (although that may have been Streisand’s individual preference.) Honestly? I don’t know who these would actually look good on. They certainly didn’t look good on Streisand.
I do like the long white wool coat with fur collar, hat, and muff (although I don’t wear fur). It’s very Dr. Zhivago. The black mesh outfit was the one Streisand wore to accept an Academy Award. Under the lights, it looked see-through (although it wasn’t). Which was scandalous at the time, although nowadays we think of it as rather ordinary, don’t we? We expect wardrobe malfunctions. Bell bottoms: seriously, Scaasi?
You can see the Empire silhouette here – Empire silhouette jumpsuits, which are so 1970s. As is that particular peachy pink, which does not look good on any skin tone. I do like the detailing, though. It looks almost Egyptian.
Oh yes, the strange 1970s lightning-pattern outfit! Obviously created for Streisand in her incarnation as a space alien. Scaasi, what were you thinking? And here we transition to the 1980s, which is the silhouette I grew up with, in the dress covered with black, white, and silver leaves. It’s difficult for any woman to look attractive in a dress that fussy.
Didn’t quite a lot of us wear a variation of this dress to prom? Scaasi’s is the high-end version, but it’s no more attractive for its expensiveness. It looks more dated, to me, than the polka-dot dress at the beginning of the exhibit. And why would anyone bring back the bustle?
But this was a beautiful dress! A Snow Queen dress. I would wear this dress in a heartbeat. Anywhere. To the opera, to do dishes. The mix of gauzy white fabric, silver embroidery, and luxurious fur make it magical. You could walk through an enchanted forest in this dress. I want one just like it (with fake fur). It looks simple, without being simple at all.
I liked this dress too. It’s a bit over the top, with its feathers and fabric roses and silver embroidery and fur. But still, it’s a Queen of the Birds sort of dress. It’s dramatic, unusual, and lovely. It just needs something around the shoulders. Or maybe a crown.
And here we come to everything that was wrong with the 1980s. The black and hot pink dress! What were you thinking, Scaasi? It’s not even appropriate for prom. And the shoulders! No one should ever wear puffed shoulders. Chanel taught us not to wear puffed shoulders. Listen to Chanel, my sisters! And banish puffed shoulders from your closets forever. On the other hand, the suit on the right is quite nice.
What ordinary dresses Scaasi designed in the 1980s! Or is it that I grew up seeing the knock-offs of these dresses? But there is absolutely nothing distinctive about these.
Or these. And the colors. Yuck! Like wearing scoops of sorbet.
And with the Watermelon Dress, we come to a silhouette that is attractive on no one (except perhaps a few select supermodels). And the blue dress with the white lace appliques is just blah.
So what lessons can we learn from the Scaasi exhibit, my sisters?
1. Dresses from the 1960s can still look fresh and fabulous.
2. The 1970s were a regrettable decade. And let’s just pretend that the 1980s never existed.
3. Chanel was always right about fashion. (Other things, not so much. Like collaborating with the enemy in World War II. But the woman knew what looked good on other women.)
4. If you get a chance to look like the Snow Queen, go for it. Don’t even think twice.
Years ago, the Corcoran had an exhibit of Jacqueline Kennedy’s dresses. Most of them would look absolutely perfect today. And the construction! You never saw such well-made clothing.
Your comments about the 80s made me laugh. I did indeed wear a similar dress to the prom. The ruffles were all on one side, with a straight silhouette on the other. There was also a giant bow on the ruffled side of the waist, which I cut off. The top was strapless. It was not me. I also had a horrible hot pink trapeze dress, which was quite possibly the worst dress I’ve ever owned. It’s hard to get over the 80s.
I agree with all of your opinions. 🙂
What a great post! I love both the pictures and the commentary. 😉