Sunday, March 24, 2013

Stephen Burrows - When Fashion Danced!

Stephen Burrows, the first African-American designer to achieve international recognition, is the subject of a major exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, sponsored by Target. Aptly named"When Fashion Danced", the show chronicles his rise and highlights his signature "lettuce" edge, red zig-zag stitching, use of fringe and metallic fabrics, bold color-blocking, and slinky, body defining silhouettes. He created danceable designs that were firmly rooted in the glamorous, over-the-top nightlife of the era that were worn by the likes of Lauren Bacall, Cher, Farah Fawcett, Jerry Hall, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, Ethel Scull and Barbara Streisand. One of Jean's most vivid memories of her first trip to Studio 54 was a flock of women on the dance floor all wearing Stephen's dresses, dancing with each other, oblivious to the rest of the world..

To give you a better idea of what the clothes looked like, we've  sprinkled shots taken in the 1970s throughout this posting.  In this 1972 photo by Charles Tracy, Pat Cleveland models one of Stephen's halter-neck evening dresses.

We captured this shot of Stephen Burrows and our friend designer Mary Jaeger at the beginning of the evening.

Photographer Charles Tracy, the man behind the 1970's photos, and model Alva Chin came to the opening. Both appear in the recent documentary Versailles '73 about the ground-breaking fashion show at Versailles featuring Stephen Burrows and 4 other American designers (Halston, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Anne Klein) pitted against 5 of France's biggest designers (Yves St. Laurent, Emanuel Ungaro, Givenchy, Dior and Pierre Cardin). The consensus was that the Americans won hands down, and that the models and the streamlined approached changed runway shows forever after.

Model and writer Barbara Summers also appeared in Versailles '73.  She wrote "Skin Deep: The Story of Black Models in America and Abroad". Barbara is holding the iconic multi-colored souvenir tote bag from the event, designed by Stephen Burrows for Target and signed on the inside of the top.

In this 1972 Charles Tracy photo, model Pat Cleveland vamps it up in a Burrows' jersey skirt and top with signature lettuce finishing.

Pat Cleveland, the model featured above over 40 years ago, still looks fabulous today! She's wearing a  Burrows rainbow dress as she is being interviewed for the Huffington Post. She is also in Versailles '73.

Valerie chatted with Nancy North, one of the models who also appears in Versailles '73 and who worked a lot with Halston in the 1970s. Nancy is wearing an embroidered neckpiece from Elsa Peretti, which she said was made by women in Outer Mongolia.

American designer Anna Sui and her escort also made the scene.

Actress Barbara Carrera (left) and model Karen Bjornson wear Burrows' matte jersey color-block "train" dresses in this 1973 Charles Tracy photograph. The trains were designed with a little fabric ring to fit over the finger -- to swirl when the wearer twirled on the runway or the dance floor. Karen appears in Versailles '73.

One of our favorite designers, Yeohlee Teng, turns the tables on Jean and shoots her. The Malaysian-born designer is known for making clothes for "the Urban Nomad" and is a strong supporter and proponent of keeping manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and particularly in New York's Seventh Avenue. We love her silver hair and gun-metal color palate -- and her socks!

When we met Heather in the museum store and complimented her on her sweater, she told us she used to work for Stephen Burrows and was really enjoying the evening.

Designer Deborah Gregory and model Coco Mitchell smile for the camera. Deborah's business card for her company Cheetahrama is hot pink with leopard edges and flaunts her Fierce Accessories. We ran into this pair again on our walk to the subway at the end of the evening and their energy level was just as high if not higher!

Fashion designer and author Douglas Says (left) and designer Leonard Davis posed in front of the stage at the entrance to the museum.  Davis led a panel discussion at FIT on Versailles '73 that included the director and 8 of the 11 models who participated in the event, including Bethanne Hardison, Alva Chin, Billie Blair, Pat Cleveland and Norma Jean Darden.

What are the odds? Valerie ran into Fran Lebowitz again, and this time Jean was there to take a picture!

We were thrilled to reconnect with the ultimate dandies -- Patrick McDonald and Robert Richards! After a spectacular entrance and our little meet-and-greet, they retreated to the main staircase to check out the entire scene from above, before re-entering the crowd to view the exhibition.  So nice to see men dressing creatively!

Loved the neckwear selections of developer Mati Weiderpass and his friend Don Brunhke.  Mati's vest reminded us of Marimekko.

Sisters Donna Freeman Hughes and Cheryl Hughes were stunners. Check out their website at the FFS.

1974 photo of Pat Cleveland by Charles Tracy captures the vibe of the times.

Jean met fashion director and stylish stylist Steven Styles Cobb. (Say that 3 times rapidly, kiddies). To check out his coverage of the event -- and his photo of Jean -- click here or go to  and click on his coverage of When Fashion Danced!

Our pal Chester (whom we met at Lincoln Center during Fashion Week and keep running into all over town) and his friend (whom we met at the opening of Gudrun's store in Soho), stopped for a photo.  Chester is wearing a vest by their friend (the tall, gorgeous, willowy dark-haired designer who posed with Jean at Gudrun's party, and whose name is Heather!  We're inching toward actually remembering this wonderful designer's name. Someone please enlighten us.  We're old and forgetful.)

We snapped this photo of Sophia Chen looking impossibly chic and loved the effect of the blue lighting at the bottom of the shot.

We met makeup artist Melody Jefferson at the event. She does photo shoots, films, and events.

This young Stephen Burrows fan was working an urban chic look to the max.

How terrific is this man's suit?

And this gent topped off his look with a multi-colored scarf, perfect for the event.

We kept running into and exchanging smiles with this hip guy all evening.

Our friend Sandy Long did not disappoint.  She pulled out all the stops -- blue and pink -- Stephen Burrows' colors -- in maribou no less!

You can see the pink and blue color wash and decorations just above and behind Sandy's friend Russell and his partner.

This is Claire, who writes Claire's Life for Fashion Bomb Daily.  Loved her look. You can see why she also appears in several of the links at the end of this post.

We often run into this gentleman at museum events and he always dresses the part. Loved his shoes.

This 1973 photo of Stephen Burrows and Pat Cleveland really captures the vibe of the times.

This quartet of ladies was having a ball!

Jonathan Bodrick (right) and his friend really "got" our look that evening and gave us oodles of positive reinforcement. Jonathan is founder and CEO of b.o.r.n. (borrowed old refurbished new). His store is located on 125th St. Here's his info or go to: . Who could resist the description: "Vintage and designer clothing for women and men who want the drama of the past living in the world of today."

We love running into Lana Turner. She never fails to wear a fabulous head-to-toe outfit. In the mad crush of people, it was easier to see her hat than anything else. This one is a bubble-like fur felt. You can't see it here, but there is another separate ring on the top of the hat, for a sort of bullseye effect.

We first met this lovely couple, Bill Webb and Eva Kobus-Webb, at the Cecil Beaton event at this same museum. They always look impeccable. She said she had found her hat on the top of a closet and decided to take it out for a spin. We were glad she did.

Don Brunhke introduced us to David Staller, the artistic director and founder of Gingold Theatrical Group which focuses on works by George Bernard Shaw.

These two ladies were sweet enough to take a photo of us together, so we'd have a shot to open the post. The lady on the right even matched her cell phone cover to her jacket!

This duo looked great.  We met the lady on the left in the leopard coat when we first arrived and proceeded to bump into her several times that evening.

Valerie couldn't resist stealing a moment with Grace Jones, one of her all-time faves!

Cheryl Green wore the most amazing dress (hand knit; Alessandro Corsini). Great detail work in the ins and outs of the design, and the little tassels at the bottom. We had to show you both sides. Don't forget to check out the way she's matched the dress with the stockings and the shoes. Shades of pink are very hard to match, so this is masterful!

Adrienne Jones is a professor in the Fashion Design Department at Pratt Institute. LOVE that collar! (And her whole look.)

Beau McCall and Souleo were among the hits of the evening. Beau is wearing a wonderful angled hat from United Nude. (Valerie has one like it, in a different material and color.) If Souleo were to turn around, you'd see his yellow shirt is flirtatiously cut away in the back.

Jean has been known to favor hats with animal ears, so when happenstance brought her together with another wearer of an animal ear hat, it was definitely time for a photo.

Jean gets up close and personal with the reporter from the Huffington Post whose look we adored.

PR whiz Debbie Dickinson and photographer Roxanne Lowit and another gentleman joined us for this shot.

Loved this man's coat. He said it was by Thom Browne, who's always making us look twice and think thrice.

Jean and photographer Rose Hartman check out the scene.

We photographed this man because he was wearing a sequined jacket, and only later did we realize he's also sporting this year's look - the very long dark diaphanous skirt with shorter flirtatious underpinnings just barely visible beneath.

See? Here's what you can do with a shirt and tie with just a little audacity.

Think outside the box! Loved the cowboy hat on the woman on the left, and the jumpsuit on the woman on the right.

This woman made her own marvelous hammered metal necklace, reminiscent of the work of Alexander Calder.  It turns out that she is a friend of jewelry designer Kathleen Nowak Tucci, whose work we modeled for Artful Home.

We got lucky when we were able to photograph this woman's jacket from behind. We never did a shot of the front, but it's equally spectacular.

Mimi Prober is a young fashion designer. Haven't seen crimped hair since the '70s. How refreshing! And how appropriate for her to wear it to this event. Loved the lacy dress on her, too - one of her own designs. (Mimi works with antique lace.)

This woman told us her jacket was by Oscar de la Renta, but the bright, saturated color blocks fit right in with the evening. She also wore multiple transparent lucite neckpieces in contrasting colors.

Loved the chic purple highlights in this woman's hair.

To learn more about Stephen Burrows and see more coverage of the event, click on the links below:

Wall Street Journal:

Rolling Out:

ABC News did a short segment on the opening:

If you have trouble seeing the full screen, click here to open a new window. Then you should be able to see everything.

What we're wearing:

Jean: Ignatius hat; Lilith jumpsuit; Rick Owens t-neck; Creepsville black resin skull necklace and bracelet; vintage bakelite bracelet, earrings and rings;  street vendor cross-body bag; Dansko clogs with platforms customized for the wearer.

Valerie: unlabeled vintage white leather hat (with a replacement vintage feather filling in for the original vintage feather which many years ago had seen better days), black and white cotton print jacket from the fabulous Brigitte (now closed), full length dress by Betsey Johnson (from a thrift shop), costume earrings (from the flea market), layered foam bracelets from Chaos, sneaker/shoes from Sou Sou of Kyoto (from a second hand shop).


  1. It was a pleasure meeting both of you colorful, fashionable dolls, you keep fashion bright...ds

  2. What a wonderful explosion of creativity and colour! Thank you Jean and Valerie, I love your style ethic and your positive outlook on life. Keep up the militant push for we beautiful grey hairs who love style!

  3. Loved being spotted as the "well turned out visitor" in a Norma Komali sleeping bag coat. My jewelry designs were very much in evidence but couldn't compete with the drama of the coat.

    Diana Gabriel