Monday, May 14, 2012

"The Total Look"

Image by William Claxton of Peggy Moffitt at The Total Look, MOCA, 2012.
There is a fascinating fashion exhibit currently at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Pacific Design Center location in West Hollywood, chronicling the extraordinary collaboration between the designer, his muse, and her husband (the photographer).

The designer in question is Rudi Gernreich, an LA based designer who revolutionized fashion with his innovative take on knits, his development of the tube dress, and his exploration of swimming garments. He boldly explored such concepts as the topless swim-suit and see-through garments, as well as an explosion of color and graphic paterns.

The Total Look at the MOCA, May 2012.

In Peggy Moffitt, he found both model and muse, with her waif-like figure, heavy false eyelashes and  make-up, and her 'five-point' pixie hair-cut, Moffitt was the it-girl of the 1960's, and willing to help Gernreich push the boundaries with his outre designs. She made national headlines in the mid '60's when she posed in Gernreich's topless bikini, known as the 'monokini'.

The Total Look at the MOCA, May 2012.
 The third member of this 20 year long collaboration was Moffitt's husband, the photographer and artist William Claxton, who carefully preserved all of the bold looks in countless photographs and videos.

Through the end of May 2012, this collaboration is on full view at the MOCA. Dozens of designs are on display, showing the excitement of the moment, and the degree of their collaboration. Original Gernreich pieces are on display next to fashion shoots by Claxton of Moffitt wearing the items back in the day.

The Total Look at the MOCA, May 2012.

It is intriguing to see how thoroughly Gernreich designed his looks, from the garment to the headpiece to the shoes and accessories. Clear vinyl dresses contain only three strategically placed polka-dots, or nude body suits feature what appears to be a knitted bikini on top of it, but is actually a one-piece body-suit. Further, it is a pleasure to see how naturally Moffitt embodies the designs, not only wearing them but living them, complete with enormous silk rose earrings or matching one-inch kitten-heels. And then there is Claxton, who painstakingly documents every look for posterity.

It seems a perfectly harmonious collaboration between designer, model/muse, and photographer. Interestingly, after Gernreich's death in 1985, Moffitt retained legal rights to many of his designs and original designs, and continued to promote his work through books and exhibits, including this one at MOCA. When I asked the museum attendant what ever happened to Ms. Moffitt, I was thrilled to learn that she is alive and well, living right here in West Hollywood, and that she had even stopped by the museum a few days before to see the exhibit.

The concept this exhibit really emphasizes is the importance of creative collaboration. Often when we see a beautiful image of a striking woman in a magazine wearing something amazing, it is easy to forget how many artists were involved in bringing this image into existence. Here, 'The Total Look' shows us at least three key players: the designer, the model/muse, and the photographer.

If you are in the LA area, and want to see the exhibit, you had better hurry, as it ends soon.

The Total Look at the MOCA, May 2012.

The exhibit, "The Total Look: The Creative Collaboration between Rudi Gernreich, Peggy Moffitt and William Claxton" is on view now at the Museum Of Contemporary Arts, Pacific Design Center, in West Hollywood through 20 May 2012.

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  1. Fabulous Dahling!

  2. Love this - she's fab!