1970s Evening Dresses
Halston Kaftan For Sale on 1stDibs
How Much is a Halston Kaftan?
Halston Biography and Important Works
Recognized for the understated but wholly glamorous fashions he introduced in the 1970s, and revered today for his vintage dresses, sunglasses, handbags and other enduring designs, Roy Halston Frowick defined the spare, body-conscious style of the so-called Studio 54 era. In doing so, he became a legend himself, known simply as Halston, a lean moniker that represented the visionary minimalist ideals he would inject into the world of fashion.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa — but raised in Evansville, Indiana — Halston moved to Chicago in 1952, where he worked as a window dresser by day and studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at night. In the late 1950s, he moved to New York City. As the hat designer for Bergdorf Goodman, he had his first encounter with fame in 1961 when Jackie Kennedy wore a pillbox hat he designed to President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Less than a decade later, after hats fell out of fashion and sales plummeted, Halston launched his own ready-to-wear line and opened a Madison Avenue boutique.
One of Halston’s early successes was the sexy Ultrasuede shirtdress, an unassuming adaptation of a man’s oxford shirt introduced in 1972 that became a fashion staple for the well-dressed woman. Named for a washable synthetic fabric that evokes the feel of suede — Halston is said to have previously seen innovative designer Issey Miyake wearing the material — the Ultrasuede shirtdress was cut to complement many figures with buttons that began at the breastbone rather than at the garment’s structured neckline. In one season, 60,000 were sold. Ultrasuede became a Halston signature, and he would use the fabric in coats, luggage and other items.
But it was his seductively simple nightlife designs that made Halston an international name. Often cut on the bias or sewn with single seams, his garments were constructed to flatter the female form like no evening gowns that had come before, popularizing such styles as the halter dress. “Halston brought a spark of the divine to everything he did,” said model Pat Cleveland during an interview about the 2021 Netflix series based on his life.
And, for a while, the designer was as ubiquitous in the clubs as his designs. “For two decades, [Halston] was the king of New York nightlife,” wrote Steven Gaines in Vanity Fair. He was a regular at Studio 54, partying with the likes of Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli and his Halstonettes, his coterie of glamorous models and muses that included Elsa Peretti. The close friend and collaborator of Halston’s transformed diamond jewelry for Tiffany & Co. after signing a contract with the storied American luxury house in 1974.
Halston won four Coty American Fashion Critics' Awards over the course of his career. In 1973, he sold his company to Norton Simon, and in the early 1980s, it switched ownership again. By 1984, neither his name nor his company were his own. Halston continued to work, however. He collaborated with close friend and legendary choreographer Martha Graham, designing critically acclaimed costumes for her, including for her dance work Persephone in 1987. Halston died of complications from AIDS in 1990.
Finding the Right Day Dresses for You
Luxurious and versatile, designer day dresses are as well suited to tea at an upscale hotel as they are to your next garden or rooftop party.
Today’s featherlight unisex day dresses — as well as the vibrant vintage day dresses of the 1950s and ’60s — look quite different from the heavy, fabric-rich de rigueur garments of the Victorian era. In the late 19th century, a woman of a certain standing might have multiple dresses to wear throughout the day: specifically, one or two for the daytime and one for the evening. For example, a long-sleeve silk dress with a prominently flared back and a round collar of gold beaded lace that hugs the neck would be suitable for stepping out during the day, while a velvet gown trimmed in silk embroidery but overall comparatively informal in appearance would be worn for afternoon tea at home. At night, a silk velvet evening dress could feature natural world motifs such as butterflies (a characteristic of Art Nouveau design) and have short sleeves adorned with lace and ruffles and a scooped neckline — the perfect attire for the theater.
During the 1920s, after all the chores were done, a woman would change from her housework clothing into a more fashionable day dress to run her errands or socialize. Some 1920s day dresses were brightly colored and featured bold patterns — a cotton dress with a dazzling floral print, perhaps, or, in the case of the more venturesome Art Deco apparel sold in high-end couture fashion boutiques of the era, semi-sheer silk garments embellished with three-dimensional beadwork or rich metallic gold lamé.
Today, a closet full of casual vintage day dresses is a must-have. Whether you opt for black, crimson or beige, day dresses bring an element of glamour to your next appointment, and in the summer, who doesn’t love a wonderfully simple, lightweight day dress cut in cotton and linen?
Because different fashion designers of every decade have offered their own take on the widely loved day dress, you’ll be able to find a variety of vintage and designer day dresses on 1stDibs. Search by creator to find enduring designs by the likes of Emilio Pucci, Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior, or browse by period to uncover a scintillating collection of cotton and satin patterned dresses of the 1950s and ’60s.