Only those over the age of forty or those who follow the stylist Rachel Zoe are likely to remember who Roy Halston Frowick (April 23, 1932 – March 26, 1990) is. For those who don’t fall in either of those two categories, he was an American fashion designer whose popularity was at its height in the 1970s and into the early 1980s.
His style epitomized the disco style of the era thinks Studio 54 glamour. His designs featured flowy and easy maxi dresses, jumpsuits, halters, one-shoulder styles, manly tuxedo detailing and plenty of satiny and Ultrasuede fabrics.
Following Anna Wintour’s announcement that this year’s Met fashion exhibition will be an exploration of American design, there’s no better time to immerse yourself in all things Roy Halston Frowick, the master of Studio 54-era Manhattan fashion – known as Halston. The live fast, go big, die hard attitude of the kid who came to New York from Iowa in the 1960s, established an empire, and then dissolved in a haze of cocaine-induced bad business decisions led to one of the most dramatic stories in fashion history.
Halston actually got his start in the fashion world as a milliner (hat maker) and ended up working as the head milliner for Bergdorf Goodman’s for a time. His biggest claim to fame as a milliner came from designing the pillbox hat Jackie Kennedy wore to her husband’s 1961 presidential inauguration.
Halston moved on from the millinery and formed his own fashion line around approximately 1968. In an era when models quietly strolled around a showroom holding numbered placards, Halston had his models strut to music and hold copies of the book “The Valley of the Dolls” a trendsetter from the beginning.
Although considered a small collection, there were only 25 designs in all, his premiere collection was an instant hit and by 1972 Newsweek was already calling him “the best designer in America.” \
He was America’s first big fashion superstar.
1970’s Dressing America
By the height of his popularity, many of the fashionable jet set of the 1970s wore Halston, including; Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Lauren Hutton, Elizabeth Taylor, Angelica Houston, Bill Blass, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg and Princess Grace of Monaco.
Halston’s biggest impact on the fashion world was probably as a result of his branding technique. In a deal that would be considered commonplace today, but was unheard of at the time, Halston partnered with JC Penney to bring his line to a whole new customer and at a very different price point than those designs he created for his luxury customers. Today, it is totally expected for big designers to have off-the-rack lines as well as haute couture and higher-end ready-to-wear. Halston was as an innovator in that concept.
He was also an innovator in adding his name to other products he was the first celebrity named perfume line.
Halston’s line fell away in popularity and was recently re-launched in 2008, however, it has never reached the success of its early years. The Halston Heritage line has seen some success. It features signature archive Halston pieces with an updated easy elegance and a contemporary spin.
Elizabeth Taylor (in 1976, left) and Liza Minelli (in 1979, right) were among Halston’s most loyal customers
Halston Fashion 2021
Signature pieces from the Halston Heritage include Black Crepe Gown with a halter neckline and neckline beading, sexy knife pleats and a belted waist. Classic, but sexy just the same.
Marble Print Dress in yellow and coral with a one-shoulder neckline, tie waist, flutter sleeves and asymmetrical hemline.
Here is some vintage Halston inspiration.
Kate Moss wearing vintage Halston at Cannes in 2016
Finally, if you’d like to learn more about Halston, watch the 2012 movie Ultrasuede