LACMA relaunches 1973’s ‘LA Flash,’ a photo exhibition of street style

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Decades before street-style blogs clogged the Internet, LACMA was capturing images of L.A.'s most fashionable folks on sidewalks all over town. The photos were featured in the museum’s groundbreaking 1973 fashion exhibition, “LA Flash.”

Created by Mary Hunt Kahlenberg, head of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s costume department from 1968 to 1978, the three-month showcase featured 400 images of L.A. denizens wearing distinctive, stylish dress.

Kahlenberg dispatched five young shutterbugs to Beverly Hills, the beach and even the San Fernando Valley, looking for subjects with personal style, tame or trendy. Potential sartorial stars were spotted on the street and snapped, yielding a raw, candid look at citywide fashion.


On Sept. 6, LACMA is relaunching the revolutionary exhibition for a one-night public viewing. Only this time, there’s a 21st century twist -- visitors are being digitally photographed for a planned street-style blog.

Many of the original images, which have been digitally enhanced for the new showing, could have sprung from the latest issue of Vogue. Ethnic, printed caftans, high-waist jeans and masculine, androgynous accessories are just some of the now-familiar trends captured by LACMA’s lenses.

In one photo, a woman wears a flowing feather in her hair, a look designers such as Carolina Herrera are showing for fall. Another image features an elegant figure draped in a white, wide-leg jumpsuit like those shown on Halston and Preen’s current season catwalks.

And in another, a woman dances in a neon yellow tank top, foreshadowing today’s PYTs clad in similar pieces by American Apparel and Alexander Wang.

Kahlenberg isn’t involved in planning the new exhibition but will attend sporting a street-style appropriate piece by Issey Miyake. She doesn’t want her picture taken.

But the decision isn’t hers to make. Now it’s up to the next generation of style hunters to decide whether the chosen outfit truly represents L.A.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6000. 8 to 11 p.m. Open to the public, tickets