Honestly Halston

Evansville native and legendary fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick
Halston’s sister Sue (Frowick) Watkins wears early 1960s Halston designed hats.

I sat in my kitchen on the phone for hours with Sue Watkins, the younger sister of late American fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick, who is most famously known as Halston. The Halston. The world-famous Halston. The designer who conquered the fashion world in the late 1960s and 1970s and who called Evansville his home, his roots. At the end of the conversation, Sue, who talked to me from her home in California, warned: “This is the third time I have opened up to someone about Halston, and I have been disappointed each time.” Perhaps the best way for me to tell this story is to not tell the story. Halston’s sister should. This is what she wrote.

Testing a memory of 60-plus years is a challenging endeavor, but certain memories don’t fade away easily. (Footnote 1) Evansville holds a great deal of good memories for my family, especially my two older brothers who have, sadly, left this life. I adored all my brothers. Bob (Footnote 2) and Roy (Footnote 3) (Halston) had many good things happen to them during their formative years in Evansville. My younger brother, Don, was the only one of us born in Evansville, but we moved when he was nine years old. Halston was five years older than I was, and during some of those years, that was a significant difference. One of my first memories before Evansville days was when I was just four, and we were visiting our family in Iowa. Halston, 9, made me a hat by covering a straw hat with chicken feathers. (Footnote 4)

We moved to Evansville from Des Moines, Iowa, (Footnote 5) when my dad (Footnote 6) took a job with Goad Equipment Company and later worked as an auditor for Republic Aviation. (Footnote 7) Our first home was on Villa Drive, and it was idyllic for having a family of four children. The neighborhood still has the same qualities I recall when I go back to visit. The homes are meticulously maintained and the mature landscaping shows pride of ownership.

It was in the early 1940s when no one felt threatened in his or her home. Doors were never locked; children could play in the neighborhood without fear and could walk to friends’ homes alone. Fashions for women were dresses, hats, (Footnote 8) gloves, and high heeled shoes when they would go out shopping. Estella Flach and her daughter, Sarah, still live in the same block where we lived. Estella had told me about a white felt hat she wore one day. Halston, 12, asked her how important the hat was to her, and she said he could have it. The next day he brought it back, and she was amazed at how he had changed it into a totally different and attractive design. (Footnote 9)

He would often redo our mother’s hats, and she would proudly wear them. They weren’t all award winners, but to her they were special and deemed worthy of exhibiting. She always encouraged his creativity and would marvel at his talent even at an early age.  He made me a skirt when I was about five, and he also would style my hair. I would complain because it was not always a pleasant experience, and our mother would say, “You should be happy your brother wants to do special things for you. One day it will mean something to you.” Now it does.

When World War II was over, the soldiers came home, and our landlady’s son would need our home. So we moved a couple of times before we ended up on Washington Avenue in 1950.

Bob and Halston started working their first jobs as soda jerks at the Merry-Go-Round. (Footnote 10) Mom, Dad, Don, and I would go often to watch them make our sundaes. Don recalls the fabulous pork tenderloin sandwiches. He also has good memories of Mac’s Barbeque. (Footnote 11) We would also have late night waffle parties at home.


Halston's niece Diana?

Fascinating article about one of my favorite designer's. I have a question though: During the mid 1980s I had a wonderful friend called Diana (Mae?) Camden who lived in Virginia Water, Surrey, England. Her husband was John Camden. A key horsewoman, we would ride each week in Windsor Great Park. She said that Halston was her Uncle. I would love to get in touch with her again. She was always so kind and had a marvellous semse of humor. Any help apreciated it!!

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