Roberta Bayley was a 19-year-old freshman at San Francisco State University when she bought a bubble gum pink jersey tank minidress for just over £2 (about $5 at the time) from the catalog of Biba, the London emporium that trafficked in 1930s glamour.
When Ms. Bayley moved to New York City in 1975, the Biba dress came too. She found an apartment on St. Marks Place (rent, $125) and began working the door at CBGB, where her boyfriend, Richard Hell, played Sunday nights with his band, Television.
Blondie, then a fledgling band, played there as well, and the band’s manager, Peter Leeds, offered Ms. Bayley a job in his office as an assistant. “I could see there was a lot of things happening,” said Ms. Bayley, who had been an English literature major before dropping out of college, “so I bought a camera.”
Ms. Bayley would go on to document the burgeoning music scene around her, contributing to the punk canon with images like the Ramones’ first album cover and thousands of photos of Blondie, which she collected in a 2007 book, “Blondie: Unseen 1976-1980.”
Ms. Bayley’s photographic and personal archives have been purchased by the Beinecke Library at Yale, and for months she has been sorting through her files. She came upon a contact sheet of herself in the dress taken by an old boyfriend, and that spurred some memories.
“At some point, I gave the dress to Debbie,” she said. “I think she thought it was a shirt. She always wore it over pink jeans.” Ms. Harry wore it when Blondie performed at a bar called My Father’s Place in Roslyn, N.Y., in 1978.
And then, rather famously, she wore it again when Robert Mapplethorpe made her portrait, the ravishing and now iconic black and white image of Ms. Harry, eyes narrowed at the camera. It was a summer day when she visited his Bond Street loft, and Ms. Bayley came with her.
He served them pink cocaine, Ms. Bayley recalled. To match the dress?
“I think it was just what he had on tap. It was a gesture of hospitality.”
For her part, Ms. Harry doesn’t remember that particular gesture — “I wasn’t a big cocaine fan,” she said — but she remembers the shoot. And she thinks she has the dress still, stored away somewhere.
“I remember that it was very quite warm and very sunny, very bright. You can see I’m really squinting. I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. I was thrilled to be photographed by Mapplethorpe. I knew his work and his reputation. I had a lot of confidence in how the photos would turn out. That was about it.”