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THE RUDI GERNREICH BOOK

Late 1950s, cut-out maillot.  (photograph Tommy Mitchell Estate)

Gernreich's role as a social commentator began to emerge as early as May 22,1963, when he was quoted in the New York Times:

"There is an element of bad taste here in Southern California that is terribly strong. Slacks that are too tight. Decorated basked bags. Bejeweled eye-glasses.  Cashmere cardigans with mink collars.  Vinyl and gilt mules.  You know-the honky-tonk element. "On the positive side, people everywhere today wear a great deal more color than they used to. California and Italy are responsible. Only a few years back a woman wouldn't be seen dead in New York in an orange dress. Customers from the East and Midwest used to see my combinations of brass and shocking pink and run away. Today, they ask for them."

The year 1963 was when "kooky" entered fashion vocabularies; it was the year of pop furs, such as Gernreich's horsehide; the year of little-girl smocks, Garbo comebacks, and safari suits. It was also the year Gernreich won two more major awards-Sports Illustrated's Sporting Look Award in May and the Coty American Fashion Critics Award in June. The latter citation caused one of the biggest fashion ruckuses in history.

As a protest against Gernreich's win, Norman Norell returned his Coty Hall of Fame Award, telling Women's Wear Daily (June 17, 19631, "It no longer means a thing to me. I can't bear to look at it anymore. Isaw a photograph of a suit of Rudi's and one lapel of the jacket was shawl and the other was notched-Well!" The next day he added to the explanations by telling the New York Herald Tribune, "Too many jury members from Glamour and Seventeen who don't get around to high fashion collections are responsible for the Gernreich vote." Bonwit Teller countered by running a half-page ad with this headline: "Rudi Gernreich, we'd give you the Coty Award all over again!"

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