Visual Arts

Prints of Pop

Walking through "Emilio Pucci," the fashion exhibition at Phoenix Art Museum, is like going back in time.

The bikinis, gowns and mini-dresses covered in the Italian designer's singular geometric patterns and acid-bright colors are relics of an age when it was okay to call a flight attendant a stewardess, when James Bond movies were edgy instead of kitschy, when Jackie O. and Jacqueline Susann were A-listers.

The exhibition traces Pucci's career from the 1950s to the 1970s. The pieces have been well-chosen, because there, in the clothes, you can see the cultural moment that was the 1960s explode.

A pair of Pucci pieces from the late 1950s set the stage for the revolution. A blouse and a dress sport soft-edged floral patterns of muted blue, green and purple. Other than the hemline that, by Eisenhower-era standards, is scandalously short, the items are subdued.

Cut to the next piece in the exhibition, a scarf from the early 1960s. It's a riot of unapologetically bright violets and turquoises, with Pucci's signature hard-edge geometric pattern. It's mod, man. It's also fashion as historical narrative. Feminism, civil rights and the sexual revolution were all percolating just beneath the surface of mainstream America in the early 1960s. Pucci's clothes reflected the new feeling of freedom.

Other standouts in the show:

• A stewardess uniform Pucci designed for now-defunct Braniff Airlines in 1965. The mini-dress hits so high on the thigh it might make Paris Hilton blush.

• A floor-length cape owned by Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright, who was a big Pucci fan. Where, other than a Lord of the Rings fan convention, does one wear a floor-length cape?

• A trio of bikinis that are oh-so-Ursula Andress in Dr. No.

Check this one out. It will make you sorry you missed the swingin' '60s.

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Leanne Potts