Art: The Total Look

The star attraction of The Total Look, the new Cincinnati Art Museum exhibit that features fashion designs of the late Rudi Gernreich, is the one-piece topless bathing suit (or monokini) that he design

click to enlarge The Total Look
The Total Look

The star attraction of The Total Look, the new Cincinnati Art Museum exhibit that features fashion designs of the late Rudi Gernreich, is the one-piece topless bathing suit (or monokini) that he designed for women in 1964. It created as much controversy in its time as an Andy Warhol soup can or The Beatles’ long hair — and is still pretty daring to this day.

According to Cynthia Amneus, the art museum’s curator of fashion arts and textiles (and also chief curator), its notoriety took Gernreich by surprise in 1964. He had never really meant for it to be taken as seriously as it was.

His fame was greatly aided by his stylish, Modish model Peggy Moffitt, who was dynamically photographed wearing his designs by her husband, William Claxton. Indeed, the photo of Moffitt wearing the monokini — it’s in this show — helped make it famous.

Because this traveling exhibit mostly comes from Moffitt’s own collection, and includes photos (and a video) by Claxton, its full title is The Total Look: The Creative Collaboration Between Rudi Gernreich, Peggy Moffitt and William Claxton. 

The Total Look is on display through May 24. More info: cincinnatiartmuseum.org.

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