When several dozen '60s dresses were unearthed for a retrospective show at South Coast Plaza, finding models who could squeeze into the stuff turned out to be a battle unto itself.
"Models now are 5-9 for the most part--big girls," said show producer Barbara Trister, who claims she went through 50 models just to find 19 who could approximate the 5-feet, 8-inch skinny build of a typical '60s clotheshorse.
Even so, some attending the recent '60s designer show celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Newport Harbor Art Museum and the 20th anniversary of South Coast Plaza noticed that today's models seem to come from heartier stock.
Benefit for Building Fund
"Figures sure have changed," whispered one guest at the $250-per-person dinner in the mall's Crystal Court, a benefit for the museum building fund.
This was the first time the 66 outfits, borrowed from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising's fashion library, had been assembled for a public show. It also was many a model's first exposure to the vivid pink-and-red geometric minis of Rudi Gernreich, the white go-go boots of Courreges, and the short, '60s styles of Christian Dior, Bonnie Cashin, Bill Blass and others.
"I sort of remember bits and pieces of the '60s. I remember my mother getting dressed," said model Linda Strugar as she watched an Aida Grey makeup artist apply short Peggy Moffitt wigs, bouffant Jackie Kennedy wigs and heavy makeup to models.
"It was almost a vampire makeup," said makeup artist Connie Sampere of West Hollywood, painting Twiggy lashes on one model. "You'll see these models from across the street, their eyes will stand out so much."
FIDM's Justine Mandelbaum, backstage before the show, said the fittings a few days earlier had given her "a funny feeling--like spending two days in the '60s."
Exchanged '60s Stories
That eeriness did not escape some of the older models, who exchanged '60s stories while waiting for the show to begin.
Kathy Naples, sitting cross legged on the floor, said she was a fifth-grader at a private Catholic school when she saw "A Hard Day's Night," the Beatles movie, and decided to emulate the ratty hair style of the notorious rock groupie, Patti Boyd.
"The nuns sent me home," Naples recalls.
Hosted by Town & Country magazine and sponsored by Cadillac Motor Car, the show ended with designer Karl Lagerfeld's tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Detroit car maker: a group of black linen dresses with sequined bodices mimicking the bumpers, fins and fenders of classic Cadillacs.