THE RUDI GERNREICH BOOK by Peggy...

THE RUDI GERNREICH BOOK by Peggy Moffitt and William Claxton (Rizzoli: $50; 224 pp.) . If you can recall the Kennedy assassinations, then surely you haven't forgotten the topless bathing suit from the same era. Los Angeles' most famous fashion designer, the late Rudi Gernreich, seared his name on history's time line with that garment. The Kabuki-eyed model who wore it to infamy was Peggy Moffitt, and the photographer of record was her husband, William Claxton. This was their most sensational collaboration, but it was only one of hundreds. They were a style triumvirate and best of friends.

If Gernreich's revolutionary designs of the '60s and '70s look as familiar as last month's runway shows, it's because the unusual color combinations, revealing cut-outs, stretch fabrics and hardware closures that he pioneered are still being used. Gernreich broke the European couturiers' stranglehold on the fashion establishment and made clothes for a youthful American customer. And as he was breaking taboos and rules, he managed to direct contemporary fashion in a way that may well take it into the next century.

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