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The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History
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Flatiron Books 2015
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On November 28, 1973, the world's social elite gathered at the Palace of Versailles for an international fashion show. By the time the curtain came down on the evening's spectacle, history had been made and the industry had been forever transformed. This is that story.
Conceived as a fund-raiser for the restoration of King Louis XIV's palace, in the late fall of 1973, five top American designers faced off against five top French designers in an over-the-top runway extravaganza. An audience filled with celebrities and international jet-setters, including Princess Grace of Monaco, the Duchess of Windsor, Paloma Picasso, and Andy Warhol, were treated to an opulent performance featuring Liza Minnelli, Josephine Baker, and Rudolph Nureyev. What they saw would forever alter the history of fashion.
The Americans at the Battle of Versailles– Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, and Stephen Burrows – showed their work 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. Plagued by in-fighting, outsized egos, shoestring budgets, and innumerable technical difficulties, the American contingent had little chance of meeting the European's exquisite and refined standards. But against all odds, the American energy and the domination by the fearless models (ten of whom, in a groundbreaking move, were African American) sent the audience reeling. By the end of the evening, the Americans had officially taken their place on the world's stage, prompting a major shift in the way race, gender, sexuality, and economics would be treated in fashion for decades to come. As the curtain came down on The Battle of Versailles, American fashion was born; no longer would the world look to Europe to determine the stylistic trends of the day, from here forward, American sensibility and taste would command the world's attention.
Pulitzer-Prize winning fashion journalist Robin Givhan offers a lively and meticulously well-researched account of this unique event. The Battle of Versailles is a sharp, engaging cultural history; this intimate examination of a single moment shows us how the world of fashion as we know it came to be.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
03/17/2015
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781250053855
ASIN:
B00NKB9U7A

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APA Citation (style guide)

Robin Givhan. (2015). The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History. Flatiron Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Robin Givhan. 2015. The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled Into the Spotlight and Made History. Flatiron Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Robin Givhan, The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled Into the Spotlight and Made History. Flatiron Books, 2015.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Robin Givhan. The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled Into the Spotlight and Made History. Flatiron Books, 2015.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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      • bioText: ROBIN GIVHAN is a style and culture critic based in Washington, D.C. She is the former fashion editor of The Washington Post, where she covered the news, trends, and business of the international fashion industry, and she is the former style editor for Time, and The Daily Beast. In 2006 she won the Pulitzer Prize in criticism for her fashion coverage. The Battle of Versailles is her first book.
      • name: Robin Givhan
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fullDescription

On November 28, 1973, the world's social elite gathered at the Palace of Versailles for an international fashion show. By the time the curtain came down on the evening's spectacle, history had been made and the industry had been forever transformed. This is that story.
Conceived as a fund-raiser for the restoration of King Louis XIV's palace, in the late fall of 1973, five top American designers faced off against five top French designers in an over-the-top runway extravaganza. An audience filled with celebrities and international jet-setters, including Princess Grace of Monaco, the Duchess of Windsor, Paloma Picasso, and Andy Warhol, were treated to an opulent performance featuring Liza Minnelli, Josephine Baker, and Rudolph Nureyev. What they saw would forever alter the history of fashion.
The Americans at the Battle of Versailles– Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, and Stephen Burrows – showed their work 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. Plagued by in-fighting, outsized egos, shoestring budgets, and innumerable technical difficulties, the American contingent had little chance of meeting the European's exquisite and refined standards. But against all odds, the American energy and the domination by the fearless models (ten of whom, in a groundbreaking move, were African American) sent the audience reeling. By the end of the evening, the Americans had officially taken their place on the world's stage, prompting a major shift in the way race, gender, sexuality, and economics would be treated in fashion for decades to come. As the curtain came down on The Battle of Versailles, American fashion was born; no longer would the world look to Europe to determine the stylistic trends of the day, from here forward, American sensibility and taste would command the world's attention.
Pulitzer-Prize winning fashion journalist Robin Givhan offers a lively and meticulously well-researched account of this unique event. The Battle of Versailles is a sharp, engaging cultural history; this intimate examination of a single moment shows us how the world of fashion as we know it came to be.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews
      • content:

        "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.... 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."

      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: "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."
      • premium: False
      • source: Diane von Furstenberg
      • content: "It was a big deal when American Fashion went to Versailles...who better than Robin Givhan to tell this captivating story?"
      • premium: False
      • source: Holly Brubach, author of A DEDICATED FOLLOWER OF FASHION
      • content: "Reality TV has nothing on The Battle of Versailles. The year is 1973, and five legendary French couturiers face off against a team of their Seventh Avenue counterparts. There are hissy fits, liveried footmen, a party at Maxim's, and (prefiguring "Spinal Tap") a backdrop mistakenly measured in feet instead of meters. Halston refers to himself in the third person. A motley supporting cast that includes Josephine Baker, Liza Minnelli, Kay Thompson, Rudolf Nureyev, showgirls from the Crazy Horse, and a phalanx of dazzling black American models creates a spectacle, and the gratin of Paris society turns out. In this picturesque account, Robin Givhan weaves together the tectonic social and cultural shifts that set the stage for an epic fashion showdown."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        December 8, 2014
        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.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        December 15, 2014
        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 French-showing Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro and Dior's Marc Bohan-followed 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(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        March 15, 2015

        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 groundbreaking 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 Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from March 15, 2015
        Until the 1970s, fashion happened exclusively in France. Whatever Paris said, women all over the world took heed, writes Pulitzer Prizewinning fashion critic Givhan in this examination of the fascinating day that this dynamic shifted forever. On November 28, 1973, five rising American designersOscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, and Stephen Burrowswere 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.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

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On November 28, 1973, the world's social elite gathered at the Palace of Versailles for an international fashion show. By the time the curtain came down on the evening's spectacle, history had been made and the industry had been forever transformed. This is that story.
Conceived as a fund-raiser for the restoration of King Louis XIV's palace, in the late fall of 1973, five top American designers faced off against five top French designers in an over-the-top runway extravaganza. An audience filled with celebrities and international jet-setters, including Princess Grace of Monaco, the Duchess of Windsor, Paloma Picasso, and Andy Warhol, were treated to an opulent performance featuring Liza Minnelli, Josephine Baker, and Rudolph Nureyev. What they saw would forever alter the history of fashion.
The Americans at the Battle of Versailles– Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, and Stephen Burrows – showed their work against the five French designers...

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      • description: Design / Fashion & Accessories