To his family, he was Roy Halston Frowick, but to millions of high-minded followers of fashion he was simply known as Halston, a name that stood for style and taste.
Now, for the first time, this distinctive American fashion designer gets his due as the Nassau County Museum of Art turns over its entire gallery space for the most comprehensive retrospective of his works ever assembled in one place outside of a fashion runway.
Focusing on his life and art, “Halston Style” is “one of the most ambitious projects the Museum has ever undertaken,” said Karl E. Willers, director of the Nassau County Museum of Art.
This “celebration of Halston and his achievements in fashion,” as Willers describes it, includes many never-before-seen objects from the designer’s personal archives that he left to his niece, Lesley Frowick, who is the guest curator and author of the accompanying catalogue, Halston: Inventing American Fashion.
“This is a story of a self-made man who rose from the amber prairies to the glittering heights of success in Manhattan,” said Frowick in a statement about the show. “Along the way he created a uniquely American definition of chic that remains relevant to this day—one of simplicity made elegant. He was the first superstar American designer.”
Sponsored by “H Halston Exclusively at Lord & Taylor,” this unique exhibition will include more than 60 Halston fashions, juxtaposed with photographs, artwork, illustrations and accessories, as well as a documentary chronicling his breakthrough Versailles 1973 fashion when he rocked the world and knocked Parisian haute couture for a loop. Among the reasons was Halston’s stunning array of beautiful black models, including the iconic Iman, who later would marry David Bowie.
As Halston put it, “You are only as good as the people you dress.”
Among the highlights of the exhibit are Halston’s trademark pillbox hat design, made famous by Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore it to the Inauguration in 1961 when she was First Lady, and also his innovative Ultrasuede shirtdress garment along with his minimalistic jersey dresses. Masterful examples of the designer’s classic gowns are also abundantly on view as well as sketches of his uniforms for the U.S. Olympic team in 1976 and for the Girl Scouts of America. Museum goers will also get to gaze about Liza Minnelli costume designs, snapshots of Studio 54 when it was at its heyday and Polaroids of him with famous models.
“Halston was the premier designer of the disco age,” writes Aria Darcella in Fashion Unfiltered, “whose minimalistic silhouettes and designs defined not only the fashion at the time, but also American fashion’s place in the global style sphere.”
Not bad for a young guy starting out in the hat salon at Bergdorf Goodman who wound up working with Andy Warhol and even renting his place in Montauk. Halston died in 1990, after entrusting his niece with his archives.
“He always kept a magnum of Dom Perignon in his refrigerator,” Frowick told Women’s Wear Daily recently about her famous uncle. “Funnily, he never drank Champagne. It was for his guests.”
Can visitors to “Halston Style” at the Nassau Museum pick out their faves, take them off the rack and wear them home? Most definitely not, unfortunately. But they can dream!
The show opens officially March 25 and runs until July 9. Nassau County Museum of Art is located at One Museum Drive in Roslyn Harbor, just off Northern Boulevard, Route 25A, two traffic lights west of Glen Cove Road. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors (62 and above) and $4 for students and children (4 to12).
Featured photo: Halston, courtesy Nassau County Museum of Art