April 13, 2013

When Fashion Danced: Stephen Burrows

“Clothes should be fun and easy to move in. To me, they’re like toys for adults to play with.” So said fashion designer Stephen Burrows, whose dance-ready designs are memorialized in an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. Aptly titled When Fashion Danced, the collection of videos, sketches and garments brings Burrows’ innovative design aesthetic, originally a fixture of the 70’s-era New York City disco scene, to a modern-day audience.

Below a ceiling draped with tissue-thin white fabric that evokes Burrows’ featherweight dresses, the stark white room provides ample contrast with the designer’s psychedelic color schemes and eye-catching metallic fabrics. The space categorizes the archival pieces by design signature, from silhouette, which focuses on his penchant for bias-cut draped designs that were enlivened by movement, to his use of decorative red zig-zag stitching and “lettuce hem,” originally the accidental product of a design assistant. Burrows learned the rules of fashion design only to break them, setting a precedent for leagues of avant-garde designers to come: “When they told me...that everything had to be on the straight or seams couldn’t be crooked, I just did it my way.”

Worn by the likes of Farrah Fawcett and Diana Ross, Burrows was a designer deeply embedded in the emerging counterculture of his time, an era of personal and sexual freedom that called for an exciting new way of dress. His exuberant clothing reflected the enthusiasm of a liberated culture that thrived in the increasingly over-the-top nightlife scene. The exhibition stimulates nostalgia for a time devoid of inhibitions, in which women donned Burrows’ gossamer chiffon dresses and draped metallic tops, and their garments twirled and flowed as they danced the night away.

"When Fashion Danced" is on display now at the Museum of the City of New York through July 28, 2013. 
Visit mcny.org for more information.