Tuesday, July 19, 2011


In September 1965, the very first Paraphernalia opened in New York on Madison Avenue between 66th and 67th streets. A laboratory and showcase for fresh design talent, Paraphernalia led a new epoch in fashionable New York. Founder Paul Young's take on fashion: "Personally, I've always thought anybody who takes fashion seriously is ridiculous. I mean, they're just clothes. Therefore they should be fun, and nothing about wearing then should be taken seriously." He chose a motley group for his original design team: Betsey Johnson, Deanna Littel, Carol Friedland and Joel Schumacher. Later came Michael Mott, Elisa Stone, and Diana Dew. British designers were also featured in the boutique, such as Mary Quant and Foale & Tuffin. Dresses at Paraphernalia became found objects fashioned from industrial materials, fabrics "you'd spray with Windex, rather than dry-clean," recalled Betsey Johnson. Remarkable ideas were unveiled, such as light-up dresses, gel dresses, dresses with 'LOVE' on the front (the 'O' cut out to reveal the navel), and paper dresses. However, none of Paraphernalia's clothes retailed for more than $99. Said Paul Young: "People would walk into the store dressed in their straight clothes. They'd buy something and put it on. Then and there they'd apply an outrageous make-up, before heading directly to a party. They were buying something to wear tonight and more or less throw away tomorrow. We priced our clothes with that in mind." The shop possessed a unique ambiance - it resembled a minimalist art gallery, streaked in white, silver, and neutral-colored wood, masterminded by architect Ulrich Franzen. Fans of the shop included Penelope Tree, Julie Christie, Marisa Berenson and Twiggy. Perhaps Paraphernalia's most ardent patron, however, was Edie Sedgwick, who was introduced to Betsey Johnson by Andy Warhol and quickly became her fitting model, and wore her designs in Ciao! Manhattan. In the later 60s, many more Paraphernalias opened. By then, most of the original designers had left the flagship store, and Paraphernalia franchise died out in the late 70s.

Opening party, thrown by Andy Warhol:

The Velvet Underground

Betsey Johnson

Betsey's designs

 Linda Ronstadt in Betsey Johnson


Deanna Littel's designs

Light-up dress by Diana Dew

Edie Sedgwick

Elisa Stone's creations

Inside the shop

 Joel Schumacher's "LOVE" dress

Michael Mott's designs

Lost scenes from Ciao! Manhattan

Genevieve  Waite in Joanna

(Photos from Life and New York Magazines, my scans from Boutique and Radical Rags, Joanna screen caps from Get Some Vintage-a-Peel, screen caps by me from Ciao! Manhattan - Lost Footage 1, opening party photos by Nat Finkelstein, and auction photos from Vintage-a-Peel and Augusta Auctions.)


Smashingbird said...

Amazzzzing post. I'd love a piece from here! x

Lizzy said...

This is fascinating thankyou for sharing this! I wish I could've shopped there. p.s love your new header too :)

desparateplea said...

My sister and my dearest friend worked at the Paraphernalia store on Girard Street in La Jolla in the sixties. It was the most awesome place and time, the clothes, the music, the whole thing was so ahead of it's time! I love this place wish it was here again! any photos from anyone from La Jolla in the 60's? thanks!

Anonymous said...

Love, love, love! Thank you!

Unknown said...

My name is Michael S. Mott, the son of the designer, and I must say the clothes are beautiful!

Anonymous said...

I worked there in 1967. It was so much fun.

Unknown said...

where exactly are the Paraphernalia image and Betsy Johnson images from?
Need to know for a book project!
Kindly email me at:


ff said...

Denver store larimer square - anyone? photos? cathy close?

Jazmayeli de Escazu said...

I lived in New York from 1963-67. I made belts from scraps of carpets and carpet binders that I was given by my local carpet shop down the street from me. I was working at the time as an all-night producer on a radio show for 1010 WINS New York so I had time on my hands during the day. Making belts started as a hobby but when several friends bought them, it was suggested I sell them to Paraphernalia. Amazingly, for a short time, they became quite popular.

mads said...

wow Jazmayeli, that's awesome! ^ do you still have any clothes from back then?

ella bay said...

I have recently come across a Betsey Johnson for Paraphernalia dress and am wanting to know if anyone can tell me anything more about it. Thanks!

askdadu2 said...

I have two paraphernalia watches from that store.

CreoleRose said...

I still have a silver lame mini dress, sleeves tight to elbow, with an exaggerated flared bell to the wrist edged in silver lace. Bought on Canal Street in New Orleans at Paraphernalia in 1967, marked Betsey Johnson for Paraphernalia. I've always treasured it--I felt like a mod princess, complete with silver stockings (shot through with metal!), silver shoes, silver handbag and silver bow for my hair. Never again in my life have I felt as special as when I wore that dress!