Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Costume Collection - Women's Dresses

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Dress, 1-Piece - click to enlarge

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Dress, 1-Piece

Catalogue number: CS*312915.001

Date: 1973-1974

Maker: Stephen Burrows

Designer: Stephen Burrows


Evening; multicolored jersey with green predominating; white oval at center front waist; bands of red, rose, blue, and yellow, seamed in intricate design around oval; the yellow extends into the skirt at back; skirt slit; halter neck.


The museum asked the designer/manufacturer directly for this dress so it could be included in a contemporary clothing section in the exhibition Suiting Everyone: The Democratization of Clothing in America, an exhibition on the development of the ready-to-wear industry in America. This particular dress had been shown to buyers in 1973 and was available for sale in stores in the spring of 1974 (the exhibition opened in the fall of 1974).

Stephen Burrows was one of the first African American designers after Ann Lowe to receive name recognition. Born in Newark, New Jersey, he studied at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art and the Fashion Institute of Technology (in New York City). In the 1970s, he was known for his use of stong color and the use of lettuce leaf hems, seen on this dress. As he said in 1972, "I like bright, natural colors, lots of colors. I like sweatery clothes that pull on, move easy and have nothing but useful fastenings like industrial zippers and raincoat snaps; no buttons or little zippers." Winner of numerous awards in the 1970s, his career has had its ups and downs since that time. Fashion historians place him as one of the two or three designers that personify American design in the 1970s. Exhibited in Suiting Everyone: The Democratization of Clothing in America from 1974 to 1979.

Credit: Gift of Stephen Burrows