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Palm Springs' Modernism Week throws a fashion show

February 24, 2010 | 11:15 am

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Less than 48 hours after wrapping New York Fashion Week at the Bryant Park tents, taking in Tommy Hilfiger's fall/winter 2010 "preppy with a pop" men's and women's runway collection -- a retrofitting of the brand's prepster heritage circa 1985 -- I found myself taking in another fashion show heavy that mined the past.

But unlike most of the fashion flock -- who had winged their way to London for that city's Fashion Week (Feb. 19-24), I was sitting in a basement ballroom of the Hotel Zozo in Palm Springs taking in the inaugural Modernism Week vintage fashion show.

The show was made up of approximately 50 vintage looks (mostly women's, with a handful of men's) spanning the period from 1945 to 1970 and shown in chronological order, beginning with a navy blue woman's suit accompanied by the song "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and ending with a white wedding gown shown to the strains of  "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In."

All of the clothes -- some never worn and with original price tags still fluttering -- were provided by Palm Springs vintage clothing dealer Marc Joseph and were for sale afterward, with 20% of the proceeds donated to Modernism Week. They were accessorized with period-appropriate jewelry by local vintage jewelry dealer Matt Burkholz (whose DSC08248strong suit is Bakelite pieces).

Looks ranged from casual workwear outfits such as women's Levi's Western shirts and pants ($250 each), and a men's lettermen's sweater (above right, $80) to an exquisite one-of-a-kind Mainbocher couture gown in a floral pattern with individually set rhinestones paired with a pink satin opera coat (both at above left, $900 and $450 respectively).

Memorable pieces included a psychedelic print dress by Mr. Blackwell, a Dior turquoise jacket and Pucci skirt ($225 and $450 respectively, pictured at left), and the penultimate piece of the show, a clear acrylic skirt and vest circa 1970 (with the addition of a gold metallic bra underneath in the interest of modesty).

There were some hiccups in the run of show -- tiny things such as false starts, models with the wrong accessories and a run of show that dragged on (partly because it played out on three separate raised platforms instead of a single runway), but those were minor blips in a showcase that managed to give real life and a sense of wearability to pieces too often seen hanging lifeless in a boutique.

I'll spare you the confluence of events that precipitated my mostly accidental attendance (it's a murky tale involving Airstream trailers, Shag, Frank Sinatra's Twin Palms estate and a Cadillac full of women), but if the event returns during the city's annual Modernism Week, as organizers hope it will, I (and presumably my co-pilots) will be making a point of penciling it into our busy schedules.

-- Adam Tschorn

Photos: The inaugural Modernism Week vintage fashion show, which took place Saturday in the grand ballroom at the Hotel Zoso in Palm Springs, included a vintage Mainbocher couture gown (top left), a lettermen's jacket (top right) and an ensemble that paired a Dior jacket and Pucci skirt (below). Credit: Gregg Felsen.

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