Color to the Max

Stephen Burrows (b. 1943) became one of the first African-American fashion designers to achieve international fame when he participated with four other American designers in a fashion show held at the Palace of Versailles in 1973. The landmark event–chronicled in the 2013 documentary Versailles '73: American Runway Revolution and the new book The Battle of Versailles by Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan–firmly established Seventh Avenue's supremacy over French fashion, and put the emerging young designer on the map, both at home and abroad.


Stephen Burrows
c. 1974
Gift of Jo Holzman

This maxi dress–like another dress by Burrows in the FIDM Museum collection–demonstrates the designer's "absolute disregard for the laws of color," as fashion journalist Bernardine Morris put it.1 Each hue represents a different piece of fabric, which Burrows painstakingly stitched together for a rainbow effect. Bright, polychrome garments of wool jersey and double-knit were hallmarks of his body-conscious styles, inspired by New York's disco scene. 



Here, Burrows upturns notions of proportion as well as color, attaching a modified T-shirt to a maxi skirt. The same dress in a different colorway appeared in Harper's Bazaar in 1974; the price was $32.


1New York Times, 12 August 1970.

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