Luminario Ballet dancers Kelly Vittetoe and Audrey Hewko in Rudi Gernreich’s “duotard” costumes for Bella Lewitzky’s Inscape, reconstructed by Diana MacNeil for the production by John Pennington of Pennington Dance Group (photo by Ted Soqui, courtesy the Skirball Cultural Center)

No other fashion designer epitomized the sleek, progressive modernism of 1960s Los Angeles quite like Rudi Gernreich. A Viennese Jew born in 1922, Gernreich fled Austria in 1938 and settled in LA, where he embraced the freedom of his new life, first as a dancer with the Lester Horton Dance Theater, and later as a celebrated designer. His fashions reflected a newfound sexual and social liberation: unisex outfits, flowing caftans, pantsuits for women, and his most memorable piece, the bare-breasted monokini. The exhibition Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich, currently on view at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, showcases his trendsetting clothes, presented on egalitarian flat-footed mannequins.

In conjunction with the show, the Skirball is hosting a performance of choreographer Bella Lewitzky’s 1976 dance piece Inscape. Gernreich designed the decor and stretchy costumes for the work, including conjoined-twin style ensembles that linked dancers at the hip or the head, “making them locked in tumbling, antler-locked combat,” as the New York Times described in 1979. The Skirball’s staging features costumes recreated by Diana MacNeil with dancers from Luminario Ballet, and will be followed by a discussion with Lewitzky Dance Company members John Pennington, Diana MacNeil, and Sean Greene.

When: Sunday, June 23, 6pm (tickets $15; free for members)
Where: Skirball Cultural Center (2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd. Brentwood, Los Angeles)

More info at Skirball Cultural Center.

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.