Who wears short-shorts? Doris Duke did, apparently, in her 50s no less, and her enviable, seemingly endless gams likely looked amazing in the sequin red, black and white harlequin-patten pair in the new exhibit at the late heiress’ Rough Point mansion. No Rules: The Personal Style of Doris Duke, opening Thursday (April 10) is the second fashion-focused exhibit at the Bellevue Avenue mansion in recent years. I was grateful to get a sneak peek of all the amazing pieces over the weekend and they are as diverse as the designers.
“She was ahead of her times in many ways, including fashion,” explained curator Kristen Costa, who revealed Miss Duke’s 5’10” model-esque frame was so lithe it was challenging finding mannequins trim enough to fit some of the clothing. “Doris Duke realized fashion was something to have fun with.”
Each of the nearly 40 pieces in the collection are a peek into the socialite-cum-philanthropist’s global point of view. A stunning button-up, kimono-style gown in metallic green, purple, gold and silver opens the exhibit making quite an impression. Pieces highlighted in this gallery include an embroidered Balenciaga bolero caplet, billowy striped harem pants (a nod to Miss Duke’s travels to the Middle East, as are the Taj of India flats), a Givenchy Nouvelle Boutique (ready to wear line) leather snakeskin-print jacket with denim sleeves, Leslie Hamel studded jeans (worn at Rough Point in Miss Duke through her last years there), a yellow sequin Bill Blass jacket with black trim (and iconic BB detail) and a completely covet-able floor-length sequin Valentino skirt—in leopard print.
Complete ensembles and accessories are the heart of the second gallery. The amazing staff at the Newport Restoration Foundation, the non-profit Miss Duke founded which operates the home, was aflutter over an over-the-top outfit that was one of the last to be displayed. The metallic gold body suit, complete with a black tulle-like completely sheer over “cost” embellished with silver and gold is a site to behold. The piece would certainly give a Lady Gaga run for her money.
Other stunning pieces include a colorful Saint Laurent Rive Gauche outfit, a black gown with gold studs Ms. Duke to the Costume Exhibition Ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1981, a woolen red coat Kate Middleton would be a perfect fit for today, an emerald green tunic with matching cigarette pants made from Italian silk by Irene Galitzine and an iridescent Halston pant suit. (Miss Duke loved that ensemble so much she also had one made in black. She was front row fixture at Halston shows alongside other fashion icons of the day including Carol Channing, Liza Minnelli, Martha Graham and D. D. Ryan—an editor at Harper’s Bazaar.)
That’s just a snapshot. See the exhibit for yourself to truly experience a global fashion collection worn by one of Newport’s, and the world’s, most intriguing women.
No Rules: The Personal Style of Doris Duke, opens at Rough Point April 10 and continues through Nov. 9, 2014. For more details, CLICK HERE.