Sculpted metal dresses by Bernard and François Baschet from the 1966 film “Qui êtes-vous Poly-Maggoo?”
These avant-garde, sculpted metal and aluminum dresses were created by Bernard and François Baschet, and worn in the 1966 William Klein film “Qui êtes-vous Poly-Maggoo?” (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?). The Baschet brothers had a background in creating sound sculptures and musical instruments. Their famous design aesthetic came from folding metal sheets into geometric shapes, which is seen translated in these dresses. One dress particularly reflects the shape of the resonators seen in the Cristal Baschet, which is an instrument the Baschets developed in 1952. The eye-catching Cristal is played with wet fingertips rubbed on glass rods.
Qui êtes-vous Poly-Magoo? took a satirical look at the fashion industry through the eyes of model Polly Maggoo, an American model attempting to navigate the insanity of the high-end Paris fashion world. Maggoo was played by real life model Dorothy McGowan. At the time of filming, McGowan had already appeared on two Harper’s Bazaar covers in portraits shot by Avedon and Hiro. These covers were cleverly edited into the movie. In the scene these dresses are featured, a runway show takes place highlighting designs for the “new age” woman. The styles showcased are an obvious parody of the metallic designs of Paco Rabanne. Though the over-the-top looks used in the film are not very wearable, they do showcase the amazing designs that can come to life when rules are abandoned and music, sculpture and fashion intersect.
The last dress in the sequence is notably modeled by Donyale Luna who was the first ever African-American model to appear in Harper’s Bazaar in April, 1965 and on the cover of British Vogue in 1966. Luna died at age 33 but remains legendary for being the world’s first black supermodel.
I visited three of these Baschet works of art in person at the Paris’ Musee des Arts Decoratifs “Harper’s Bazaar, First In Fashion” exhibition in February, 2020. They now reside in the permanent collection, along with two other Baschet metal dresses at du Centre national des arts plastiques, Inv. FNAC 2852 AB, FNAC 2851 and FNAC 2849 AB.