Review of ‘The Total Look: The Creative Collaboration Between Rudi Gernreich, Peggy Moffitt and William Claxton’ at the Cincinnati Art Museum

March 25, 2015 8:45 PM

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Review of ‘The Total Look: The Creative Collaboration Between Rudi Gernreich, Peggy Moffitt and William Claxton’ at the Cincinnati Art Museum

It was called the “monokini,” but it entered the culture, in 1964, as the “topless swimsuit.” It was not designed to titillate teenage boys but to express feminist freedom—to take the erogenous and make it androgynous. And it came to fame not on the runway but in a head-on photograph that is now immortal: The impossibly stylized model Peggy Moffitt, quiet as a classical nude, wears a black wool tank suit cropped just under the bust, her wet Vidal Sassoon haircut like a crow’s wing in the rain.

Fashion magazines wouldn’t touch the subject, so Women’s Wear Daily ran the photo—a global shock that was denounced by the Vatican. That shot, Ms. Moffitt said in 2012, “took 1/60th of a second to do. Now, imagine having to spend the rest of your life talking about it.” The man who designed the mono...

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