Cover image for The Battle of Versailles : the night American fashion stumbled into the spotlight and made history
Title:
The Battle of Versailles : the night American fashion stumbled into the spotlight and made history
Author:
ISBN:
9781250052902
Edition:
First edition.
Physical Description:
310 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Contents:
In the wings -- French rules -- Copycats and salami -- Four gentlemen and a powerhouse -- Cities in flames -- Apostasy -- Disco balls and divas -- Stephen Burrows's world -- Insecurity and egos -- Muses, marijuana, and mayhem -- Waiting -- One night at Versailles -- Success stories and cautionary tales -- In our own way.
Summary:
"Conceived as a fundraiser for the restoration of King Louis XIV's palace, the world's elite gathered in Versailles' grand theater to view a fashion extravaganza of the best that French and American designers had to offer ... What they saw would forever alter the history of fashion. At the Battle of Versailles five Americans--Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, and Stephen Burrows--faced off against the five French designers considered the best in the world--Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior. Against all odds, the American energy and the domination by their fearless models (ten of whom, in a ground-breaking move, were African-American) sent the audience reeling. By the end of the evening, the Americans had transformed their place on the world stage and sowed the seeds for changing the way race, gender, sexuality, and economics would be treated in fashion for decades to come"--
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Summary

Summary

Conceived as a fundraiser for the restoration of King Louis XIV's palace, the world's elite gathered in Versailles' grand theater to view a fashion extravaganza of the best that French and American designers had to offer, while being entertained by Liza Minnelli and Josephine Baker. What they saw would forever alter the history of fashion.At the Battle of Versailles five Americans-Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, and Stephen Burrows-faced off against the five French designers considered the best in the world-Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior. Against all odds, the American energy and the domination by their fearless models (ten of whom, in a ground-breaking move, were African-American) sent the audience reeling. By the end of the evening, the Americans had transformed their place on the world stage and sowed the seeds for changing the way race, gender, sexuality, and economics would be treated in fashion for decades to come.The in-fighting between ego-inflated designers, the unforeseen obstacles in staging the show on a shoestring, the triumphant win, the vastly different fates of the designers post-show-Robin Givhan's meticulous research brings the event alive and places it firmly in the history of fashion, offering an intimate examination of a single moment that teaches us how the culture of fashion as we now know it came to be.


Author Notes

Robin Givhan is the fashion critic of The Washington Post, where she covers the news, trends, and business of the international fashion industry, and the former style correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. She has also contributed to New York and Vogue, among other magazines. In 2006, she won the Pulitzer Prize in criticism for her fashion coverage. The Battle of Versailles is her first book.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Washington Post fashion critic Givhan uncovers a little-known piece of fashion history: a 1973 show aimed at raising funds for Versailles Palace in France. The Versailles show put five American designers on the map in an era dominated by Parisian haute couture. Givhan provides illuminating insight into the styles of each designer, such as Oscar de la Renta's "ladylike formality," Anne Klein's groundbreaking designs for the modern working woman, Stephen Burrows's colorful palette and signature jersey dresses, Bill Blass's distinctly "American-not New York" sensibility, and Halston's simple tunics and ankle-grazing sweater dresses. In addition to the designers, Givhan introduces fascinating characters such as PR dynamo Eleanor Lambert, creator of New York Fashion Week, and the unprecedented number of African-American models in the Versailles show, including "runway queen" Billie Blair. At the gilded event itself, the French designers' ostentatious display was dwarfed by the raucous American production's "spontaneity, realism, and beautiful imperfection." Givhan paints a captivating portrait of the ethos of the era, from race riots and the Kerner Report to a "cultural... fascination with black identity" and glamorous nights at the disco, with juicy tales about arrogant designers acting out. While candid about the designers' faults, this is largely a glowing tribute to five iconic artists and their legacy in the fashion world. Agent: David Kuhn, Kuhn Projects. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Until the 1970s, fashion happened exclusively in France. Whatever Paris said, women all over the world took heed, writes Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion critic Givhan in this examination of the fascinating day that this dynamic shifted forever. On November 28, 1973, five rising American designers Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, and Stephen Burrows were invited to showcase their work at a grand society gala at the palace of Versailles, sharing the evening's runway with the giants of French haute couture, including Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, and Dior. The night proved to be an extraordinary moment for the fashion world, pitting French tradition and artistry against an American individualism that privileged innovation, creativity, and diversity. As the visiting models, more than half of whom were African American, strutted and stomped down the runway to strains of soul music, the American designers authored a new era of contemporary fashion connected to performance and personality. Givhan's entertaining history captures the high cultural stakes in the budding American fashion industry that led to the fateful showdown and makes a case for the event's continued reverberations in the fashion world. Every reader with an eye to fashion will relish this.--Bosch, Lindsay Copyright 2015 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

THE BATTLE OF VERSAILLES: The Night American Fashion Stumbled Into the Spotlight and Made History, by Robin Givhan. (Flatiron, $17.99.) In 1973, to raise the necessary funds for the French government to renovate Versailles, five French and five American designers competed in a runway show at the palace. The Americans - including Bill Blass, Anne Klein and Oscar de la Renta - handily outshone their French counterparts, and Givhan, The Washington Post's Pulitzer-winning fashion critic, explores the ramifications of their conquest in absorbing detail. THE POSER, by Jacob Rubin. (Penguin, $16.) Giovanni Bernini, the narrator of this debut novel, is a skilled impressionist who can seamlessly assume the identities of the people around him. His story, which our reviewer, Kevin Brockmeier, said "exists just this side of the border separating our reality from a much odder one," is divided into sections for the three principal characters Giovanni mimics over the course of this tale: his employer, his psychiatrist and his manager. THE JOB: True Tales From the Life of a New York City Cop, by Steve Osborne. (Anchor, $15.) After a 20-year career with the police, Osborne has collected a trove of anecdotes ranging from the absurd to the heartbreaking. His material, paired with what our reviewer, Sarah L. Courteau, called a "macabre sense of humor people in adrenaline-jacked jobs often develop," makes for engaging reading, whether he's describing his rookie missteps or solemn 9/11 memories. PARIS RED, by Maureen Gibbon. (Norton, $15.95.) The heroine of Gibbon's novel is 17-year-old Victorine Meurent, the real-life muse (and mistress) to Édouard Manet. While sustaining his creativity, Victorine nurtures her own artistic ambition. The novel traces her development into a painter in her own right, and lends a voice to a woman who has been seen chiefly through one man's perspective. A CHOSEN EXILE: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, by Allyson Hobbs. (Harvard University, $16.95.) People who chose to "pass" were intentionally clandestine and left few clues of their histories, but here, Hobbs, a historian at Stanford, delves into the fraught history of African-Americans who passed as white in the 19th and 20th centuries, with a focus on the black families and identities that were left behind. THE DISCREET HERO, by Mario Vargas Llosa. Translated by Edith Grossman. (Picador, $17.) The two men at the heart of this story resist extortion and try to eke out honorable lives in a prosperous, if privileged and stratified, Peru. Vargas Llosa, a Nobel laureate, revisits characters from his earlier novels in this optimistic moral fable. ROOSEVELT AND STALIN: Portrait of a Partnership, by Susan Butler. (Vintage, $20.) Butler presents a history of the unlikely relationship between the two leaders who, despite their sharply divergent political philosophies, forged a mutually beneficial alliance during World War II.


Kirkus Review

On Nov. 28, 1973, Parisian haute couture faced off against the upstart American designers, and the Americans blew them away. In her debut book, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post fashion critic Givhan delivers a delightful, encyclopedic exploration of the players and leaders in the field. The differences between the Paris world of fashion, with its strict rules of handmade quality and personal fit, and that of the ready-to-wear American, were hard and fast. In France, the term "haute couture" is a legally protected designation, and the established houses dictate every aspect of fashion. In America, it was the department stores determining the latest looks. Enter Eleanor Lambert (1903-2003), whose work establishing American fashion changed an entire industry. She was public relations representative for all the best designers, and she established New York's first fashion week, in 1943, as well as the Council of Fashion Designers of America. It was at a lunch with the curator of Versailles that the idea of a fashion fundraiser was born. Though it was never meant to be a competition, five American and five French designers came together that November evening, and the American style of design and show was established. The Frenchshowing Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro and Dior's Marc Bohanfollowed their established style of exhibition. The wealthy onlookers took notice when the American sportswear designer Anne Klein (whom nobody wanted there) showed off her models with snappy movements and attitudes. Excitement built with the black models, who really made the show. African-themed outfits by Stephen Burrows were free, whirling and vital. Halston, Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta also showed well, and the world of fashion never looked back. These days, writes the author, fashion "feeds a constant cultural conversation with intermittent spikes of media saturation and personal punditry." Readers need not be fashion mavens to enjoy this entertaining episode of history, enhanced by Givhan's effortless ability to illustrate the models and designers (particularly Lambert) who changed how we dress. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

Written in an entertaining yet informative style by Washington Post fashion critic Givhan, this book sheds light on the American and French fashion industries of the late 20th century and -contextualizes them in the broader historical moment of the period. In 1973, five American and five French designers showed their clothing in the grand theater at the Palace of Versailles in a benefit show to raise money for badly needed restoration of the chateau. Americans Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, and -Stephen Burrows exhibited alongside French artists Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Marc Bohan for Christian Dior, and Emanuel Ungaro. This event turned out to be ground-breaking for the Americans. Their presentations displayed an energy and showmanship that was fresh and foreshadowed the shift to and commercial success of ready-to-wear and sportswear that would develop in the decades that followed. In addition, the show reflected racial changes that were occurring in U.S. society, as ten of the three dozen professional models who displayed the American clothes were black. VERDICT A strong work to be enjoyed by 20th-century fashion history buffs. © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
Introduction: In the Wingsp. 3
1 French Rulesp. 9
2 Copycats and Salamip. 23
3 Four Gentlemen and a Powerhousep. 35
4 Cities in Flamesp. 59
5 Apostasyp. 69
6 Disco Balls and Divasp. 99
7 Stephen Burrows's Worldp. 109
8 Insecurity and Egosp. 123
9 Muses, Marijuana, and Mayhemp. 137
10 Waitingp. 173
11 One Night at Versaillesp. 197
12 Success Stories and Cautionary Talesp. 221
Epilogue: In Our Own Wayp. 267
Acknowledgmentsp. 277
Notesp. 279
Indexp. 295