Whether it be the four tons of diamond dust coating the floors for a New Year’s Eve bash, or the white horse Bianca Jagger rode in, the high-octane aesthetics of Studio 54 have become synonymous with disco, and with New York nightlife writ large. A new exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, “Studio 54: Night Magic,” turns the spotlight on the fashion and beauty mores of the period. “Often we have exhibits about fashion, but we don’t think about the makeup or the hair. But disco had a total look,” said curator Matthew Yokobosky. “It wasn’t just a dress. No one was going out undone.”
Beauty-wise, Studio 54 heralded the move from girl-next-door to disco queen. “Back in 1975, 1976, it would’ve been more of a Farrah Fawcett look; we were still trying to come to grips with natural makeup,” said Yokobosky. “When Disco hit its height, the hairstyles became a lot more free.”
Yokobosky cited Fawcett’s decision to have stylist Harry King free up her then-iconic curl-back, which King called ‘f–ked-up hair.’ “He got into a lot of trouble when he cut off Farrah’s curl-back,” said Yokobosky, “but Farrah wanted that.”
Hair was just one piece of the puzzle, though. A true disco look needed the full-face treatment. “Makeup artists like Sandy Linter were featuring that glistening, sparkly makeup that before, you only saw in a movie. But suddenly, it became every night,” Yokobosky says, citing blues, greens and golds as common colors on the dance floor. “They liked that dusted, mica finish.”
In fact, it was the more recent revival of such colors — by brands like Yves Saint Laurent Beauté and Nars cosmetics — that helped spark Yokobosky’s interest in the era and continued influence such high-octane looks have exerted. “Liza Minelli said, ‘Studio 54 gave us a reason to dress up again.’ And by dress up, it wasn’t putting on a wrap-around skirt, it was shoes and doing hair and looking fabulous,” said Yokobosky.