The Legacy of Halston

HALSTON & THE HALSTONETTES BY DUSTIN PITTMAN

“Fashion starts with fashionable people,” stated designer Roy Halston Frowick (1932–1990), known simply as “Halston.” Born in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 23, 1932, to a Norwegian-American accountant and his wife, Halston later dropped his first and last names, preferring the moniker. As a boy, Halston loved to alter and make clothes for his mother and sister. In 1952, Halston moved to Chicago, where he enrolled in night courses at the School of the Art Institute and worked as a window dresser. In 1953, he opened his own hat business. For his wondrous and whimsical hat designs, Halston used all manner of jewels, flowers, and fringe to decorate hoods, bonnets and coifs. Patrons included Kim Novak, Gloria Swanson, Deborah Kerr, and Hedda Hopper.

Halston moved to New York City in late 1957, first working for respected milliner Lilly Daché. Within a year, he was hired to serve as chief milliner for luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman. Halston created the signature pillbox hat that Jackie Kennedy wore to her husband’s presidential inauguration ceremony in 1961, winning his first (of four) Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award for innovation in millinery. In 1968 he left Bergdorf’s to launch his own label, offering a perfect look for the international glitterati of his era. Halston’s line was renowned for sexy yet elegant pieces (perfect for high-strung nights on a disco floor), and included the iconic “ultra suede” shirtdress and the original halter dress—gushed Women’s Wear Daily: “The 1970s belong to Halston.” After two decades of dressing the jet-set, to the chagrin of his adoring family, friends, and fans, Halston was diagnosed with AIDS and passed away at the age of 57 in 1990.

Lesley Frowick, one of Halston’s six nieces and a personal confidante, recently released HALSTON: Inventing American Fashion (Rizzoli), with a foreward by Liza Minnelli (for whom Halston was a personal fashion guru throughout the 1970s and ’80s). The book, the first definitive monograph on the late fashion designer and his legacy, traces Halston’s journey from homespun roots to the pinnacle of urban fame as illustrated through the lens of his early sketches and personal archives, as well as previously concealed Joe Eula and Stephen Sprouse drawings. Halston’s story unfolds through the author’s interviews with Jane Holzer, Marisa Berenson, Joel Schumacher, Hamish Bowles, Harold Koda, and Ralph Pucci, among others, all of whose personal experiences are essential to Halston’s enduring legacy. Highlighting his most important design achievements and his collaborations with luminaries such as Martha Graham, Elsa Peretti, and Hiro, the book presents the untold story of Halston and solidifies his place as a key designer in American fashion.