The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History

Robin Givhan. Flatiron, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-05290-2
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.)
Reviewed on: 12/08/2014
Release date: 03/17/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-250-05385-5
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-250-06232-1
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