That '70s Show

New Galleria Dallas exhibition takes a fashionable look at an iconic era

Galleria Dallas exhibition takes a fashionable look at an iconic era

Stephen Burrows
A dress by Stephen Burrows Courtesy of Texas Fashion Collection

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was a decade of the fuel crisis, crumbling inner cities, and a stagnant economy. But it was also a time of boundary-pushing music, women’s liberation and dance floors that lit up until dawn.

With its “Night Fever: Fashions from Funk to Disco” exhibition opening September 20, Galleria Dallas takes a deep examination of the “Me” decade through 75 authentic garments and accessories.

“There were so many fab fashion moments,” says curator Ken Weber, who owns the store Vintage Martini. “People pigeonhole it into either hippie or disco, but there’s so much more than that.”

The shopping center’s first fashion show, 2016’s “Decadence: Fashions from the 1920s,” took on the beaded gowns and flowing slip dresses worn by the first generation of women to put aside their corsets. The exhibition, which ran for over a month, was successful enough to spur its organizers to concept “Night Fever.”

“We knew pretty quickly when we saw the success of that one that the Galleria was going to do another,” says Weber. “The Galleria wanted to pick something that would be exciting and visually appealing, but also relevant in today’s fashion world. With designers like Gucci and Marc Jacobs doing the ‘70s like crazy, it made sense.”

Weber spent months gathering pieces from clients, private collectors, vintage shops, and the Texas Fashion Collection from the University of North Texas College of Visual Arts and Design. Uncovering such gems as a 1978 Norma Kamali dress and coat, an Emanuel Ungaro roller disco ensemble, and an “amazing, psychedelic” Pierre Cardin caftan, Weber arranged the show to be a walk-through of the various sartorial moments of the decade — accompanied by a danceable soundtrack.

“Music pushed this decade so fiercely and so many fashion elements are represented by it — funk, disco, bohemian, and hippie," he says. "There’s even some Lawrence Welk and Neil Diamond in there.’’

Weber says he was inspired by the recent touring show “David Bowie Is,” a retrospective of the legendary musician’s legendary career. “Night Fever” follows suit with a “complete sensory experience” in a giant raw space next to Banana Republic on the south end of the first floor. Designed to resemble a New York nightclub with lights and projections, “Night Fever” promises to be “way beyond your normal museum,” Weber says.

One favorite fashion moment is an homage to the historical 1973 “Battle of Versailles” fashion show, which pitted French designers (Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior, and Hubert de Givenchy) against American upstarts (Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Bill Blass, and Anne Klein), an event that put American ready-to-wear and sportswear on the map.

“We’ve got pieces from all the designers and historical footage," Weber says. "It started as a fundraiser and ended up turning into this major competition, and the Americans had it, hands down.”

Weber anticipates “Night Fever,” which is free and runs through November 1, to be enough of a success that the Galleria will mount more fashionable flashbacks.

“We’re already talking about next year," he says. "I think it’d be fun to do ‘80s Dallas and hit up all these fab divas and grab things from their wardrobes. You just know you’d find the most amazing giant ballgowns.”