Forty-seven years later, the dress would be appropriate for today's red-carpet walkers. And like the rest of the dresses on display in the Perelman Building's 1,200-square-foot Costume and Textiles Study Gallery, it's fun to stare at. Especially when I saw the exhibit's second Beene gown, a velvet lamé halter appropriately called the Mercury: I wish I had somewhere to go that required a dash of liquid-silver luxury.
The exhibit starts with 1960 because it opened a decade in which designers started challenging long-standing fashion rules, Haugland explained. Dresses got shorter, slits got deeper. And sportswear started infiltrating formal wear. Fashion was a form of revolution, and the gilded threads that once signified royalty could now be mass-produced thanks to synthetics. Old-school opulence began bleeding into new-school space age.
Considering the possibilities, Haugland did a fantastic job of assembling a selection of themed apparel from yesteryear into a show that reflects today's trends.
There are futuristic pieces, like the pewter gown Italian designer Romeo Gigli fashioned from a crispy synthetic nylon. This voluminous frock from the designer's spring 1990 collection, with its waist-cinching cummerbund, is ethereal.
An aluminum-hued knit halter top and matching pant by Rudi Gernreich, circa 1975, remind me of the dressy jumpsuits popular this spring in evening wear. (In fact, I just bought a halter jumpsuit in cobalt blue myself.)
And a trio of simple yet elaborate gowns designed by Philadelphia-bred Norman Norell clearly inspired many of today's body-conscious, Oscar-worthy looks. Each sequin on these Norells - one silver, one gold, and one boasting a Dynasty-style peplum - was sewn by hand. These mermaid-style gowns, popular in the late 1960s and '70s, were a precursor to the golden-flecked Armani that Cate Blanchett wore to the Oscars in March.
The exhibit also featured knock-'em-dead classic looks. One of my favorites: The Todd Oldham silver-sequined mini that the designer made to look like his bedroom mirror for his fall 1992 runway is pretty eye-catching.
Fans of clothing made of recycled material will find enjoyment in "Silver and Gold," too. A floor-length slip dress from the 1966 collection of Spanish-born designer Paco Rabanne is made from hundreds of silver and black plastic disks.
Also, there's the Cleopatra-style headdress and necklace made from aluminum gears by jewelry designer and theatrical set maker Tom Norton. The 1970 accessories in all of their faux-Egyptian splendor are two of 27 items given to the museum by Norton and his Philadelphia-based sister, fine arts conservator Virginia Norton Naudé.
At some point, Haugland said, she'd like to see a retrospective of Tom Norton's jewelry work in the gallery.
"Glamour and glitter is one thing, but if you look at all the different ways you can work with a sequin, or with a medium like metal, you can appreciate the creativity in the fashion," Haugland said.
Mirror, Mirror: FASHION EXHIBIT
Silver and Gold Fashions Since 1960
10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays, until Oct. 31, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Perelman Building, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave. Tickets: Included in cost of museum admission. 215-763-8100.