Sunday, June 25, 2017

Halston, Fashion Designer

I was looking for something to do yesterday so I rode my motorcycle to the Nassau County Museum of Art which has an in-depth retrospective on the life and work of famed fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick. Halston became so famous last century that he went by a single name (his middle), like Cher and Madonna.

What interests me about Halston is not his fashion designs but his role in society. In the Seventies, he was a celebrity who hung out at Studio 54 with close friends Liza Minelli, Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol. Even more significant, in the Eighties he was the first haute couture designer to launch a line of low-priced clothes in a discount store (JC Penneys). That experiment was a failure but led to later efforts in the same direction by other designers. The clothing line he sold at JC Penneys, called Halston III, was attractive but prompted high-end stores like Bergdorf Goodman to drop him, fearing Halston's association with lower-class retailers would ruin their own elitist reputation.

Halston started out as a young gay boy in the Midwest whose seamstress mother taught him how to sew hats. He gathered attention for his creative hats which allowed him to move into the fashion industry. The pinnacle of his success was designing hats for Jackie Kennedy (Onassis) who wore his famous Pillbox Hat at JFK's 1961 inauguration.

Women stopped wearing hats in the Sixties so Halston moved to designing clothes. His designs were simple and elegant. There are several on display in these photos. The last two pictures show the inexpensive clothes he designed for JC Penney -- which appeal to me. Despite their low cost, they possess subtle style.

Halston was also known for being one of the first celebrities to license his name for other products (e.g., perfume). He is often associated with the synthetic fabric Ultrasuede.

Halston's longest relationship (16 years) was with a man who was working as a male prostitute. Halston died in 1990 from AIDS.

Do you recognize his name? What do you think of his designs?


  1. He designed for women who wanted that unmistakable feminine look and feel. If you had the right curves he was a designer for you.

  2. Oh my gosh, that purple crinoline dress!!! And that black ensemble with the cape!! I've never found any Halston III in the wild, but I have seen some dresses pop up on Etsy.

  3. I really like his feminine body accentuating looks.

    I would have loved to have gone to this! Thanks for sharing.


  4. I had a Halston dress once :)

  5. I only knew bits of this and am glad to know of his history, even though it is punctuated by sadness. I do remember loving his very expensive clothing, and then also his JC Penney clothes, and too, buying some pieces at TJ Maxx. At the forefront it so many ways.
    I knew one of the manufactures who sold one of his licensed lines, once upon a time...
    That exhibit is wonderful, the purple tulle and fern green jumpsuit stand out!
    xx, Elle

  6. I love Halston. His designs are beautiful. I have one of his mid-70s ultrasuede shirt dresses but it doesn't fit - maybe ladies then had smaller biceps. My aunt used to wear his cologne so he always reminds me of her.
    Can you imagine the nights at Studio 54 with him and his entourage? Wild times!

  7. I love Halston, the 70's Disco vibe...

  8. As that fellow Long Island guy from Hicksville sang "They were all impressed with your Halston dress and the people that you knew at Elaine's"..."Yes you had to be a big shot...didn't you."
    Great dresses and looks like a good exhibit.

  9. I think his designs are beautiful. I had no idea he did a line for JC Penney's. He really did pave the way for designer collaborations. Looks like an amazing exhibit.

  10. I don't recognize his name, but tbh I'm actually fashion history ignorant. I'm not even that knowledgeable about current stuff.

    But it's interesting to read about his line for jcpenny especially since it's a Thing for big brands to create lines for companies like target now (see McQ, missoni, and more).

    That said I need that last coat! Gorgeous

  11. Oh, I love Halston's stuff - it's so classic and beautifully made. It's not terribly MY style, but I do admire it. I love going to fashion exhibits like this - it helps me learn about clothes and style.

  12. I've heard the name but I don't think I could identify his work.

  13. I love learning new things Ally, I did not know much about Halston. While I am familiar with the brand I did not know any of this !

  14. Lovely outfits and wonderful information. Thank you.

  15. Your blog was very beautiful. It give so many ideas of Fashion, I can learn through your blog which is very helpful for me in career.
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