Oh So Disco
If ever there was a time and place in history worth revisiting it’s got to be New York city circa mid to late seventies. Studio 54 to be precise. Home to 700 plus exclusive partygoers who every night celebrated glamour, decadence and excess. Never before or since has night clubbing looked so good.
Bianca Jagger dancing at Studio 54
Disco anthems sang of shallow partying that went on for days and resumed without question the following evening. How fabulous it must have been for those involved, dressing up like their lives depended on it and then parading and sharing the splendour in nights of high-spirited heady fun.
The disco scene’s energising and seductive marriage of New York’s art, music and fashion worlds resulted in an iconic aesthetic of ice cool glamour epitomised in the portraits of photographer Ron Galella.
Dance and fashion fused with the celebrity and art worlds under the refracted lights of glass globes. The door policy is legendary. Beauty, success and celebrity would not always guarantee you entry but it definitely upped your chances. The global and lasting impact of the club lay in its carefully calculated mix of revellers. An amazon of ’70s supermodels including all American golden girl Lauren Hutton, Texan Jerry Hall and ill fated beauty Gia, shook their booty alongside rock icons and artists. The occasional unknown and oddballs added intrigue.
Studio 54 was built on nothing if not self belief. Promoter Steve Rubell and club goers alike embraced the American ideals of thinking big and making a splash. Flamboyance was in vogue, resulting in moments of celluloid history such as Bianca Jagger riding into the famous nightclub astride a white horse. Budgets and self promotion were unhindered allowing for some colossal ego expansion.
Bianca Jagger making an entrance on a white horse
The bold and the beautiful spun and shimmied in show stopping Halston’ and Ozzie Clark creations. Halston created minimal designs in luxurious modern fabrics. Cut was everything. Exquisite draped jersey halter dresses and pant suits allowed the wearers freedom of movement and freedom of expression. Love beads and flower power were out and affluence and prestige were in. Think lustre, think legs and think long, long nights. It was a Bacchanalian era where looking good and feeling good where all that mattered and at the former they succeeded without question. The international lifestyle of the club’s jet setting elite was reflected in exotic fashion accents like Afghan jackets, turbans and the kaftan. The minimalism and simplicity of the form fitting gowns were also offset by bold accessories and outrageous behaviour.
Halston, Bianca, Grace Jones and Andy Warhol at Studio 54
“In every corner you’d see somebody you read about in a paper or a friend or Beautiful People or mad people. Major, major stars. All the social people. You had a blend of society that had never happened before. It was like a movie.” Halston said of the era.
‘The Studio’ as it became known has been richly documented in several films. Chloe Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale donned bored expressions and glitter eye shadow for the sardonic period piece Last Days of Disco. 54, directed by Mark Christopher, covered the lives of the scene’s key figures. Controversial auteur Spike Lee gave us his take in Summer of Sam, a strange film that set a serial killer plot line against the backdrop of disco hungry hedonists.
Chloe Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale in the Last Days of Disco (1998)
Designers and high street stores are all plundering the seventies this summer and disco’s glamourous influence is there too, seducing us back onto the dance floors in billowing voluminous flowing maxi dresses, white tuxedo jackets, funky jumpsuits and ultra high strappy sandals. Today, with the climate of austerity measures and economic uncertainty, a philosophy of dressing to the nines, dancing till you drop, eschewing all and anything mundane and the inevitable understanding: same thing, same time tomorrow, seems worth considering.