Designer: Emanuel Ungaro (French, born 1933)

Date: 1967

Culture: French

Medium: cotton

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Leonard Holzer, 1970

Accession Number: 1970.89.1a–c


In an evaluation of the Paris lines of 1960, Vogue fashion reporter Jessica Daves noted that they were "designed for very young women who are intensely concentrated on fashion, who expect to 'change the line' with frequency and rapidity, and who are possessed of superb legs and slim, young goddess figures." Although she was speaking specifically of Yves Saint Laurent's work for the House of Dior, her appraisal would prove increasingly cogent to the dominance of the body itself in defining the fashionable silhouette of the 1960s. With the introduction of the miniskirt, the leg was revealed to above the knee. A short shift was the dominant form mid-decade, and hung only on the frame of the body. As fashion's last absolute decree entered its concluding phase, skirts became shorter and shorter until they atrophied into short shorts, or, in the phrase of the day, hot pants.
The body-conscious silhouette is expressed here by Emanuel Ungaro, a haute couture designer who proved quite skilled at adapting streetwear to high fashion. This playsuit with matching leggings is made with elastic fabric that has been hand-appliquéd with white braid. The base fabric provides not a foundation but a revelation of the ideal body, which is in turn the ideal silhouette.
During the 1960s, as skirts became shorter and shorter, they atrophied into short shorts, or, in the phrase of the day, hot pants. In this couture playsuit with matching leggings, the elastic fabric has been hand-appliquéd with white braid. In the youth-impassioned tumult of the time, there was an equivocation between Warhol superstar and couture client. As self-consciously insurrectionist as the political gesture is, the craft of the garment is, like Chanel's "little black dress," traditional.