Does your 1970s fantasy include shimmying until dawn at Studio 54 with Jerry Hall and Pat Cleveland?
If you answer yes, then you should waste no time getting up to the Museum of the City of New York to see Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced, which surveys the work of one of the most innovative designers of the late 1960s and 70s who, not incidentally, is still around and working. Burrows lacked the commercial savvy or backing of bigger names like Halston or Oscar de la Renta. He never had the kind of huge business that made him a household name, but you will recognize the looks that shaped the sexier side of 70s fashion, culminating in the decadent disco scene that the designer embraced as enthusiastically as anyone. What you may be less familiar with are his early years beginning with an independent boutique on Park Avenue South across the street from Max's Kansas City where he made a splash with colorful, psychedelically embellished outfits for men and women that reflected the free spirits of the era that spawned "Hair".
The small but well curated exhibition traces his progress and successes along with subtle but potent technical innovations, but the aspect of his work that remains constant is Burrows' colorful exuberance. This is serious fashion that doesn't take itself too seriously. Think of them as clothes for people who have fun made by someone who knows how to better than anyone. Even though the mannequins are still, what they wear still exudes a playful joy capable of fueling many a party. Rare video footage of Burrows' fashion shows document dizzy vamping models encouraged to spin and smile —a far cry from the slow, glowering trudge that we are so used to seeing on today's runways. It's not for nothing that the entrance features a blown-up photo of Grace Jones, staring down visitors in all her disco queen glory. The carefully chosen soundtrack piping in Sylvester, Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight doesn't hurt either. We could easily have photographed the whole show, but we want you to go and see it for yourself. It's worth a trip out of your way, and on a dreary Thursday afternoon with a staggering number of depressing news stories waiting to be resolved, it easily brought a smile to The Shophound's face. The exhibition runs thorugh most of July, hopefully long enough to inspire a few more decadent Summer parties.
Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced through July 28 at the Museum of the City of New York 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, Upper East Side