3.27.2015

i-D | The Battle of Versailles, Things To Learn


In her new book The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History, Robin Givhan (the first writer to win a Pulitzer Prize for fashion criticism) explores a time before Americans were installed at French houses, a time when the American fashion industry took its marching orders from Paris. Department stores paid French brands to knock off their designs and American designers made frequent treks to the City of Lights to see the styles they'd soon incorporate into their own collections.

But when five American designers including Anne Klein, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows and Halston were pitted against their French contemporaries like Marc Bohan of Christian Dior, Hubert Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin and Emanuel Ungaro, in a series of fashion shows that featured the five Frenchmen presenting first, followed by the Americans, that all changed. Though it was expensive and ornate (featuring a pas de deux and live orchestra) the two hour long French portion opening the competition was overshadowed by the snappy, accessible movement of the American designs. And it wasn't just the epic designs that made the night pop: Liza Minnelli opened and closed the American portion as a favor to Halston, while Josephine Baker took to the stage to round out the French half. Here are five things we learned from Givhan's exploration of the most fashionable fight in history:

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