BTC: Peggy Moffitt, Muse of Mod

Revelation du jour: as much as I adore all things Ye Olde (read: stained, blanched, sepia-tinted, distressed, Dover-collagey… or just plain black) and will undoubtedly continue to incorporate time-honored neo-Victorian aesthetics into my decor and wardrobe, an internal plate has shifted. Lately I’m finding myself –possibly for the first time since I was a toddler cutting my teeth on primary-colored Legos and rubber balls– infected by an entirely different strain of retro: mod-futurism.

Rest assured, no one’s about to run out and buy some garish, orange one-piece pantsuit (though I’ll freely admit to a burgeoning obsession with the OVALIA “Egg Chair”). What I am doing is poring over every last Peggy Moffitt/Rudi Gernreich photo book I can find. Via FIDM:

Hers is the face that launched a thousand ripples through the fashion world when she wore the world’s first topless bathing suit. “Designer of the future” Rudi Gernreich considered Peggy Moffitt to be his muse and model of choice for his controversial designs. With her Kabuki-inspired face painting, Peggy created her own unique look in the Sixties. Gernreich collaborated with super hair stylist Vidal Sassoon to create Peggy’s trademark hairstyle. He gave her a short helmet haircut, with precise geometric bangs cut right to her eyebrows. She also created her own makeup style with heavy black and white eyeliner and long false eyelashes to exaggerate her huge dark eyes. She took the term “strike a pose” very seriously in front of the camera. She made Gernreich’s clothes all the more extreme with her striking presence.

Peggy Moffitt is an icon and innovator of fashion who didn’t just wear designs, she inspired them. Even super sixties model Twiggy said, “She taught me how much more a model puts in her work than just a pretty face.”

A few of those frocks look hideously dated now, but more often than not, Gernreich’s colorful, daring designs read to me like peals of laughter in a musty tomb. And Moffitt always looks smashing; an updated technicolor incarnation of Lulu Brooks; fearless and versatile. I don’t know that 95% of these pieces are something I would ever want wear, but they sure do make me happy.

Click below for more smile-inducing images of the Muse of Mod after the jump.

*Most of these images (as well as the short film) are by Moffitt’s longtime partner in crime, William Claxton.

17 Responses to “BTC: Peggy Moffitt, Muse of Mod”

  1. Infamous Amos Says:

    I won’t lie, if the hair at 2:54 in that video became the new style, I certainly would not complain. Something about that neon construction paper/sonic the hedgehog kind of look sounds like good times had by all to me.

    The shower curtain dress, on the other hand… not so much.

  2. Alice Says:

    Ah, yes, the noble yet often mocked history of futuristic fashion!

    That outfit third from the bottom–amazing! I can see it as an Edward Gorey illustration, actually…

  3. thievingmagpie Says:

    So glad you found Peggy as your new icon! She’s a fantastic and interesting woman. As a long time part of the mod scene, I was inspired by Peggy for many years. Of course, you can see her in “Blow Up” and “Qui Et Vous, Polly Magoo?”, but did you know there was a children’s book written about her called Pretty, Pretty Peggy Moffit, by William Pene du Bois? It’s very cute. Claxton’s photo of Peggy in the infamous topless swimsuit created a huge controversy, with the Soviet Union denouncing it as “capitalistic decay” and the Vatican saying it “negates moral sense”. Quite an accomplishment for a girl in a swimsuit.

  4. Ana Droid Says:

    *dreamy sigh*

  5. Angeliska Says:

    Wow. I remember finding some of these images of Peggy
    when I was wee and practicing doing her signature eyeliner.
    I learned a lot from both she and Elvira with that tricky white eyeliner-
    you can make big eyes even more enormous! Sadly, I was never so proficient
    with false eyelashes. Also, it’s interesting to see how her style influenced
    goth eyemakeup and style.. I see portents of Siouxsie Sioux there, and with the wild animals, feather headresses and kabuki.. Love it- thank you Mer!

  6. Mer Says:

    Ana, those are scrumptious, thank you! The third one just became my new desktop image.

    Magpie, I’ve seen Blow Up and snippets of Who Are You, Polly Magoo, but I had NO idea she was featured in a children’s book. *scurries off to investigate*

    Alice, she really does look like a Gorey girl, especially in the more tailored designs. It ‘s an apt comparison and makes sense, again owing to Gorey’s deep love of Louise Brooks… Peggy and Lulu both have that sleek, streamlined gamine look. Swoooooon…

  7. Krista Says:

    I’ve never particularly cared for Twiggy and I’ve never delved into the modeling world of the 1960s beyond that and so, this mod goddess you’ve dedicated this entry to is a new and intriguing face. She’s awesome. Her makeup alone blows me away. Thank you, Coilhouse, for continuing to enlighten the likes of me. :-)

    Also, that video has some of the greatest imagery EVER. & I would absolutely wear that cream minidress and the outfit in the last image posted.

  8. Shaiyela Says:

    I’d never heard of Peggy! Maybe because I’m not much into researching “futuristic” 60’s fashion beyond Betsey Johnson’s original lines, but at least I’ve seen some of these fashions before (and that’s good enough for my knowledge). Can’t say I’m overly fond of her/them, but they are different!

    If you want a good 60’s icon, look up Edie Sedgwick. She was famous for being a superstar and general fashionplate weirdo then. The trick was that she existed slightly outside and beyond Warhol too…before burning up young, unfortunately (yes, the movie Factory Girl is about her – it’s not very accurate).

  9. Tequila Says:

    For me Peggy will always be the “it” of all things hands down. Fashion has “it girls”, trends, all stars, icons…pretty much weekly it seems but looking at any one of her pics…they could happen right now and still be ahead of the curve. It’s easy to get nostalgic and retro happy for the era…but damned she always looked like she was having a ball…

    While she does not appear too much in Who Are You, Polly Magoo it’s hard not to miss her in 2 key scenes. Love that movie and watch it pretty much weekly cause it’s hilarious and has so much eye candy.

    “Admittedly, some of those frocks look hideously dated now,”

    Really? They still factor in much more interesting to me visually than a lot I see. Maybe not as daring but still enough to inspire…but maybe it’s just the way SHE wore them and my rose colored glasses for her…

    …or that fashion as a whole right now is pretty damn dull save for a handful or two of genuine explorers.

    There was a great blog about her…but it kinda vanished for a bit. Dunno if it ever came back…shame too cause it had some great images I’ve not seen since.

    @Shaiyela…I love Edie (that’s actually her hand holding a drink and cig in my lil icon) but she keeps getting hijacked by everything from hipsters to those wanting to extend their 15min of fame for having known her. Factory Girl was a great example of tabloid heresy at its finest and cheesy formulaic “biographies” many like her get tossed into.

  10. Mer Says:

    “Really? They still factor in much more interesting to me visually than a lot I see. ”

    Rrrreeeeeally? Aaaaaall of them? Terricloth flower petal bikinis included? And the floral print frump frocks? :D

    I love the vast majority, but… no.

    (Granted, they’re still better on the eye than uggs and a miniskirt, but then, so would be a melonballer.)

  11. Tequila Says:

    Hey what do you got against flower petal patterns? :P Ok I’ll give in on the terricloth since it’s the textile of the devil but come on…look at the colors! Still way better than the branding to death of most stuff…then again I’m a guy and don’t actually have to wear this stuff.

    I think I’m mainly judging it as an image over practical daily use though…kinda like clear plastic. Love the look in pics…not so much in the real world.

    I dunno…lets see you try and sport a melonballer THEN we’ll talk ;)

    (I use to wear a pasta strainer as a hat when I was lil kid though…made a good “space man” helmet!)

  12. Mer Says:

    “I dunno‚Ķlets see you try and sport a melonballer”

    Oh, blargh. I was try to make a joke about gouging my own eyes out rather than look at this. FAIL.

  13. LostLigeia Says:

    As far as mod fashion goes, I’ve been fawning over The Horrors lately. Quite a decent band— reminds me of The Birthday Party— and their look is adorably gawth-mod. LOVE.

  14. Shaiyela Says:

    @Tequila: the thing I love about Edie is that she’ll never die. She’s not just an “it” of the moment, she continues to live as an “it” now. People think they can gain their 15 minutes by her, when really it’s the other way around – her moment expands, and nobody remembers the messenger. That’s HER energy. She died in 1971 – how many people are still such a candid focus so long after their death, for not doing much at all while living?

  15. Latemodel Says:

    Now I see where Chris Corner is stealing all his ideas!

  16. CB in NOLA Says:

    The first short I made featured pictures of Peggy in that orange space suit and a close up because they were used as wall decorations for the house we filmed in. It was a pop art spectacle with zebra rugs, Wahol Marilyns and 50 Barbies. That’s right 50! All dressed in various ’60s mod clothes. Really made the movie something special.

  17. Jenifir Says:

    I vaguely remember reading that book(Pretty pretty Peggy Moffitt) when I was really young (early 70’s?) My Mum was married in a Mary Quant mini-dress and had a Vidal Sassoon hair do so I think that it would have appealed to her. I also remember having some paper dolls that may have been inspired by the book. I think I will need to find a copy. I wore those 60’s clothes in the eighties and have played with vintage ever since.