POPISM: Style Transformation Through Warhol’s Sixties

1965: America’s It Girl, Bob Dylan, and Paraphernalia Boutique

Just at the height of gaining national attention for his art, Andy announces his retirement from the art world. Though he wouldn’t leave it entirely, as he dipped his brush into the world of experimental film. Films that mingled with SciFi, experimental themes, and noir. Bob Dylan the enigmatic poet and folk singer, walked around in his winklepickers and eventually visits the Factory to partake in Andy’s Screen Test series. Fashion trends for women were in daily rotations, not restricted to off-days. The “Big Baby Doll” look became very popular among young adult women and teens. A mixture of short A-frame dresses, empire waist dresses, accented with puffy sleeves, or bell sleeves were matched with larger-than-life eyelashes. Boutiques were popping up everywhere establishing New York as a fashion capital alongside London, Paris, and other European cities.

Like Cafรฉ Society, Boutique society became a new way of shopping. Shop keeps or sales girls would be lounging around reading magazines, jamming to whatever was on the radio, or dipping into their drug stash, all the while being a style advisor. It wasn’t about making a sale as it was more about the experience of observing and copping the new designs. Betsey Johnson got her first recognition when she showcased her designs at Paraphernalia and fitted clothes onto Edie Sedgwick. Her Day-Glo-colored mini-skirts became the first youthful hit, followed up by a series of metallic silver separates. Everything was silver.

1966: The Velvet Underground & Nico become Factory family

What the Factory crowd seemed to do well was the transition from one hot trend to another. Just as Andy exited the silk screening period and moved into experimental film, Warhol became entranced by the like-minded musical group the Velvet Underground. They would project film montages while playing live that enhanced the performance to a, most likely, sensory expansive audience. Andy’s crew invited the Velvets to the Factory on numerous occasions and eventually developed a collaborative relationship. Nico was the new girl on the scene, a striking German woman who had just landed in New York from London. As Andy describes her:

“She looked like she could have made the trip over right at the front of a Viking ship, she had that kind of face and body.”

“She had this very strange way of speaking. People described her voice as everything from eery, to bland and smooth, to slow and hollow, to wind in a drainpipe, to an IBM computer with a Garbo accent.”

Andy Warhol on Nico

She was the total Brit-mod package: crisp slacks, double breasted blazer jackets, thick cashmere, and chunky heels with geometric buckles. Though she became more attuned to the ethereal and resurgent renaissance fashions as the decade progressed. As the new “It Girl” she was the anti-superstar. Quiet and stoic. When she spoke it was monotonous, but mystical… a powerful goddess to front the Velvets. With colorful recreations of Warhol film shorts, The Velvet Underground became an artistic sensation both visually and auditorily. With this new performance for the senses, the Velvets and the Factory family took the show on the road to LA, where LSD trips were taken quite seriously…

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