Grunwald Gallery exhibition emphasizes Halston’s lasting legacy in fashion

Halston at Grunwald Gallery

“Halston: Line and Legacy” is on display at IU’s Grunwald Gallery of Art through Oct. 3.

Halston dressed socialites and superstars. From the 1960s to 1980s, the iconic designer’s clients included Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli and Princess Grace of Monaco.

And until Oct. 3, Indiana University’s Grunwald Gallery will be wearing Halston, too.

The exhibition “Halston: Line and Legacy” celebrates fashions by one of the most influential American designers of the 20th century.

Roy Halston Frowick (1932-1990) was a former IU student who also studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He started by designing hats in Chicago before trading the heartland for an earned place at the heart of the New York fashion world.

Runway to dance floor

“All designers are exposed to the same aesthetic stimuli, but Halston represented the avant garde cutting edge of fashion, someone who was unafraid of expressing his unique design concepts,” said Kate Rowold, director of the Sage Collection in the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design.

Halston disco ensemble

Kate Rowold will speak on “Dressing Disco: Fashion in the Age of Halston” at 4 p.m. Sept. 8.

“Halston’s fluid silk knits created an air of sensuality for the wearer while sitting, walking and dancing,” she said.

Rowold, a professor of fashion design and history, will speak at 4 p.m. today on the topic of “Dressing Disco: Fashion in the Age of Halston.” Her talk in the Whittenberger Auditorium is one of several special events planned in conjunction with the show.

“Part of the disco scene, particularly at a club like Studio 54, was the opportunity to see and be seen,” Rowold said. “The fire and light provided by the beads and sequins on many of Halston’s evening ensembles made the wearer glow from afar.”

A few of Halston’s flashier designs are part of the exhibition, including three heavily beaded jackets shown suspended from the ceiling, where they sway and sparkle in the light. Also on display is an evening ensemble with a silhouette similar to today’s tunics and leggings. Rowold described these kinds of looks as as his “playful chiffon pajama dressing.”

Sleek and chic

What is perhaps most striking about the Halston show is how well many of his 1970s designs have endured. Clean, sleek lines were his hallmark.

“I think he’s influenced the casual luxury way that we dress today,” said Kelly Richardson, the Sage Collection curator.

Halston blue dress

Socialite Anne H. Bass gave this 1974 two-piece silk jersey dress to the Sage Collection.

“Women wore his clothes because his designs made them feel as fabulous as they looked. It’s clear when you see images of women in his clothing — they’re happy, they’re comfortable and they know they look great,” Richardson said.

“On the hanger, Halston’s designs often don’t look like much, because only with the armature of the female body do his dresses, pantsuits, ensembles and caftans come to life. He never tried to sculpt the female body into exaggerated curves or angles, but celebrated its natural form.”

Rowald added, “Many of Halston’s classic elements never left fashion, for instance his elegant use the cardigan sweater tied around the shoulders for evenings.

“The jumpsuit is a very popular trend today, an item of clothing that was reserved for exercise, parachuting and flight uniforms before Halston rendered it in delicate chiffon or silk charmeuse. And, Ultrasuede, a non-woven polyester product, is visible in a variety of garments right now,” she said.

Most of the gowns and other garments in the show are drawn from IU’s Sage Collection of historic costumes. Several other pieces are on loan from Lesley Frowick, a niece of the designer and the author of the acclaimed 2014 book “Halston: Inventing American Fashion.”

  • Lesley Frowick will deliver the lecture “A Personal Journey with Halston” at 5 p.m. Sept. 11 in Room 102 of the Fine Arts Building. A reception and book signing will follow in the Grunwald Gallery from 6 to 8 p.m. This 2015 Bill Blass Design Seminar Speaker is presented and hosted by the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design and the College of Arts and Sciences. The lecture is named for Blass, another Indiana native.
  • Kelly Richardson will give a talk on the “Halston: Line and Legacy” show at noon on Sept. 18 in the Grunwald Gallery. In it, she will trace Halston’s journey from a Midwestern boy to a Seventh Avenue sensation.
  • Deb Christiansen, an instructor in the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design, will present “Halston: Student Design Challenge” at noon on Sept. 30 in the Grunwald Gallery. Her fashion design students will create ensembles inspired by Halston and his approach to fabric, color and silhouette. The resulting designs will be modeled.

The Grunwald Gallery, which is in the Fine Arts Building, is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Both “Halston: Line and Legacy” and “The Miniature” will remain on display through Oct. 3.

blogHalston portrait (c) Lesley Frowick

Lesley Frowick took this photograph of Halston, her uncle. She will speak at Indiana University Bloomington on Sept. 11 and sign copies of her book “Halston: Inventing American Fashion.”

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