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fashion

Moment 41: Treaty of Versailles

A 1973 tête-à-tête among five American and five French designers at the famous palace led to a rethinking of fashion stereotypes.

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Pat Cleveland and Oscar de la Renta.

Photo By Gary Reginald/WWD Archive

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 11/01/2010

Even a charitable cause couldn't dim the inflated egos and patriotic rivalry involved at the 1973 fashion show fund-raiser for the Versailles Restoration Fund. Five French couturiers (Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Emanuel Ungaro and Pierre Cardin) went tête-à-tête with five Americans (Anne Klein, Stephen Burrows, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Halston) at a lavish party held at the court Louis XIV built. Josephine Baker performed for the French, Liza Minnelli for the Americans. And if the French had home-court advantage, not to mention history on their side, their elaborate, old-school production left everyone rethinking the "tacky American" and "French chic" stereotypes. As WWD reported, "The French and American segments were as different as the Château of Versailles and the Seagram Building. The French had two orchestras, four conductors, enough scenery and efforts for four bad operettas at the Opéra Comique. The Americans just brought a tape recorder and no sets but simple backdrops. And the American mannequins knew how to move in the clothes they showed. The French just stood there bewildered while the acts went on around them." American fashion had arrived.

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