Three “Socko” Designers: Betsey, Willi and Getty

Oh, to time travel back to this day in 1971! I’m totally grooving on this ad for a three-designer in-store appearance and informal fashion show on this day in 1971 at Franklin Simon, an old Manhattan department store that closed its doors in 1979. On this Monday afternoon from noon to 2 p.m., the store was hosting fashion designers Betsey Johnson, Willi Smith and Getty Miller, the latter of whom I can barely find a drop of information about, for an informal fashion show and meet-and-greet with these “really socko” designers. “We urge you,” the text reads. “These people are the ones who are leading the way—influencing the directions that life is now taking.” Read More »

Happy Birthday, Swimsuit Issue! SI Introduces a New Sport: Modeling

On this day in 1964, Sports Illustrated released it’s very first swimsuit issue. The idea was a bit of a lark, a one-off supplement to keep guys warm (and buying magazines and turning pages) during the cold weeks between football and baseball seasons. (In ye olden days, there were blissfully long months between the major sports seasons, with boxing, tennis and basketball filling in as secondary diversions. Sportswriters could get desperate for copy. For instance, in the month following the first swimsuit issue, SI featured Bridge—the card game—as a cover story.) The 10-year-old magazine had put a swimsuit model on the cover once before in 1955, but the companion feature story presented real-life muckety-mucks palling around their Caribbean vacation homes in sportswear and summer dresses, not pretty models posing in scant swimsuits.

What is surprising about the inaugural swimsuit issue is it actually seems…sporting. Photographer J. Frederick Smith shot model Babette March laughing in the Read More »

OTDIF chats with Designer Betsey Johnson about the Sixties, her Birthday and Wearing Yogurt

Last week, Betsey Johnson was in town at Nordstrom to promote her fall line, a Wild West–themed collection that includes lots of classic Betsey-isms: oversize florals, horizontal stripes and tight tube dresses mixed with bandit babe motifs like pistols and cowboy boots. Largely inspired by Betsey’s past collections, there are also fun ’60s shout-outs to Marilyn Monroe and Andy Warhol, and nods toward crinolines, sweetheart necklines and cropped sweaters.

I was a lucky little fashion reporter indeed to score a few minutes in the green room at Nordstrom with Betsey before the event, where throngs of admirers, young and old, were lined up to meet her. She was looking adorable, smiling from ear to ear and bubbling over with enthusiasm, warmth and fun, fun, fun. Her sweet-but-harried handlers told me I would get to ask five questions, but when I finally got my turn, they told me there would only be time for two. My visions now dashed of a long trip down memory lane to visit her Youthquake years, the Velvet Underground and the glory days of Seventh Avenue, I got right to the point and, to my surprise, got more Betsey than I expected.

On This Day In Fashion: What do you consider the most important date in your life?

Betsey Johnson: I kind of like my birthday, in a way. There’s a good side and a bad side. The good side is that I got to be alive and it’s when Chantal [partner and former model, Chantal Bacon] and I went into business. We did not plan to open on my birthday, but we opened the company officially—the first appointment, the first fashion show—on August 10, 1978, my 36th birthday. And then the downside of that was that the wedding to my last husband [Brian Reynolds]  Read More »

The Merry Widow: Corporate Swag and Hollywood

With every new blockbuster movie premiere comes the inevitable tie-in promotional swag to help market it. There are the action figures, the T-shirts and, of course, the ubiquitous fast-food restaurant cups. But it was way back on this day in 1952, to coincide with MGM’s Technicolor musical production of The Merry Widow, that cups were first introduced to promote a film. Except in this case, it was a pair of cups, and they were padded, attached to a short, strapless corset and featured long, dangling garter belts.

Called a “merry widow” by lingerie giant Warner’s, the sexy black satin and lace number debuted two days after the film’s September 5 release in New York, banking on the fact that the story’s saccharine-style romance and the heady, blithesome spirit of the leading actors—the incomparably beautiful Lana Turner and striking Fernando Lamas—would inspire hoards of starry-eyed female fans to run to the stores in order to duplicate Turner’s character’s brand of now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t, nineteenth-century sexuality.

Throughout the film, Turner cavorts about her boudoir in satin step-ins that generously show off her enviable, endless legs. Although never clad in an actual Warner’s merry widow, the company’s knock-off of Helen Rose’s costume designs Read More »

Fashion Statement: Betsey Johnson

“Girls do not dress for boys. They dress for themselves, and of course, each other. If girls dressed for boys, they’d just walk around naked at all times.” —Betsey Johnson, American fashion designer and former youthquaker, who was born on this day in 1942. Photo: Patrick McMullan from Times Square Gossip. To read more fabulous Fashion Statements, click here.

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