Betsey Johnson Celebrates 50 Years During New York Fashion Week

You have to be trying really hard not to have a good time at a Betsey Johnson show. One of the most marvelous things about the woman is that she loves to just have pure, unbridled fun and that shows in her clothing and the way she approaches her runway presentations.

This season, Betsey's show, themed "The Curious Case of Betsey Button," was a love letter to her 50 years in the industry. The 54 looks in six collections regressed through time, beginning in the 2000s and ending at Betsey's dancing school as a child. Models joyfully stomped down the runway to tunes from each era, from The Muffs' "Kids in America" to "Wilkommen" from the musical Cabaret, and so much more. They paused on a platform and danced at the end of each each section, when the designer's voice would come over the loudspeaker and read a short, often quite funny, poem about what the era meant to her.

The throwback to the 2000s: flashy, ruffly party dresses and sequin tops with bright multicolored tights, and chunky metal jewelry; the 1990s, Betsey's signature prints like fish and flowers and cherries in bodysuits accessorized with corsets and zany patterned socks with electric-colored high heels; the 1980s, a punk influence with lots of stripes in bold blacks, whites, and reds with touches of plastic and leather, and an occasional menswear influence; the 1970s, with wild patchwork and floral concoctions coupled with purposely silly and cartoonish sweaters; the 1960s, a Warhol influence with more black and white in more polished, mod shapes with splashes of silver; and finally, the 1950s, all featuring what looked like costumes from a girl's dancing school, puffy sleeves, sequined leotards, and all. A fitting end, seeing as the show was dedicated to Betsey's dance teacher, Ann K. Pimm. At the end, Betsey, 73 and bubbly as ever, strode down the runway and performed her signature cartwheel into a split.

As fashion writer Robin Givhan wrote earlier this year, Betsey Johnson has never been like the people who are considered "the fashion elite"—your Ralph Lauren, your Michael Kors, your Carolina Herrera, what have you. But after being awarded the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award at the CFDA awards this year, why would she want to be? It seems the secret to her success is wrapped up in hot pink, crinoline, sequins, leather, and plastic in a warm-hearted, effervescent and, frankly, badass way that has made her so beloved to so many generations. Congratulations to Betsey on 50 marvelous years! Here's to many more covered in glitter, feathers, and whatever else you can dream up.