Shopping For Fashion History: 1996 Gown By Tom Ford For Gucci

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Tom Ford for Gucci 1996 Gown via 1stDibs.com

Thanks to the digitization of vintage shopping, buyers can snap up a piece of fashion history with a simple click of a mouse. Although scouring through piles of clothes in a vintage store is an age old tradition for many, websites like Etsy and 1stDibs have made it much easier to score high-end designer clothing.

Take this Tom Ford for Gucci gown for example. Not only is it a beautiful piece, but it also is a part of modern fashion history. This gown helped make up one of the sexiest collections of the 1990s, and changed the image of a fashion house for over a decade.

Not An Average Collection

This long jersey gown with a gold belt buckle was a part of an iconic collection for the house of Gucci and initiated a sexier, youthful era in fashion. Gucci was associated as a heritage brand that dressed the nouveau riche throughout the 1970s and 1980s. When Tom Ford joined Gucci as creative director in 1994, he moved away from the signature luggage and gave the brand a sleeker and sensual look.

Ford’s mission came into full force at Gucci’s fall 1996 ready to wear show. Models slithered down the runway in what AnOther Magazine called, “ a tailored, Helmut Newton-esque androgyny; dark-eyed, chignoned beauty; city-slick pinstripes; the red velvet tuxedo for him and her; super skinny belts and dramatically large furs; slinky white jersey gowns with peepholes fastened by smooth golden hardware.” The collection was made up of wearable sportswear, but with clingy fabrics in simple coloring that brought, according to Tim Blanks, “ the notion of the power of sin.” Gender bending, keyholes, and a Halston meets Geinrich aesthetic were all elements that fashion hadn’t seen in years.

Goodbye Grunge, Hello Skin

Fashion in the mid-1990s was moving from oversized grunge sweaters towards sleek minimalist designs. The 1996 Gucci show embraced clean lines, but with a sexual taboo. “ I brought back a certain sexual glamour, which we probably hadn’t seen since the late seventies because of the way that AIDS altered fashion,” Ford has said.

This hedonistic element referenced back to Tom’s Studio 54 days. Documented in the tell-all, “Champagne Supernovas Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and the 90’s Renegades Who Remade Fashion,” by Maureen Callahan, Ford spent countless nights partying and following around Calvin Klein, a designer whose Ford’s sexy aesthetic mirrors. Vogue described the 1996 show as, “the fashion equivalent of a one-night stand at Studio 54,” which wasn’t far off.

The models walked to the tunes of “Killing Me Softly With His Song” by the American hip hop group The Fugees and British pop star Dusty Springfield’s “The Look of Love,” while posing in a spotlight. “I decided to kill the backlighting and put the clothes under a spotlight because I wanted to control the room,” Ford told AnOther Magazine. “That sounds silly, but with a spotlight, you can’t see your friends across the aisle; you can’t wave at people and roll your eyes. You focus on the show.” And even today, eyes are still on this legendary collection.

To see more of Tom Ford’s work for Gucci, check the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection or images of the Tom Ford rooms at the Gucci Museum in Florence.

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