Posts in the Objects category

The House of Dior launched a successful boutique line 1947, and although its offerings were much more accessible than couture, they were by no means inexpensive. In order to reach a wider audience, in 1967 the company opened a new, lower-priced boutique called Miss Dior. The store’s opening was hinted at in Women’s Wear Daily two years earlier, when Thelma Sweetinburgh reported, “There are plans ahead for the House of Dior to dress ‘Les Jeunes Filles’ in a special ground floor boutique.”

Miss Dior dress-2
Philippe Guibourgé designed the Miss Dior clothing, which initially comprised sixty-eight styles of dresses, coats, and suits, in addition to a full range of separates and accessories. These designs were well-priced, resolutely practical, and casual: not a single formal evening dress was to be found. The House of Dior had purchased a factory in which the garments were made, ensuring that they were of better quality than many other ready-to-wear offerings being manufactured in France.

The pride that Dior took in its new venture is best evidenced by a shirtdress dating to 1967, also featured in Elle, made from red and blue silk emblazoned with the words “Miss Dior” in an allover pattern. This early example of branding speaks to the importance of a consumer’s ability to “buy in” to a luxury brand at relatively little cost – a concept that would become more fully developed during the next decade and beyond.

Miss Dior dress
(Philippe Guibourgé)
Gift of Mrs. Walter Eytan
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.
Emanuel Ungaro coatEmanuel Ungaro worked for Cristóbal Balenciaga and André Courrèges before starting his own label in 1965. Women’s Wear Daily was first to report on the new couture house, later providing the designer’s contact information to French and British journalists. The newspaper emphatically stated that although Ungaro was designing couture, he was certain to “defy labels,” and speculated that he would be “the force to cement the weaker forces tearing Paris apart.”

Some of Ungaro’s most compelling creations were made in collaboration with textile designer Sonia Knapp. Although Knapp was an established textile designer, she had never made couture fabrics prior to working with Ungaro. She quickly rose to the challenge, and her colorful, fluid designs – which often conveyed her interest in Abstract Expressionism – were said to “wake Ungaro up.”

Emanuel Ungaro coat-detail
The soft lines of the fabric Knapp designed for this coat echo its curved lapels and rounded patch pockets, while simultaneously contrasting the coat’s hard-edged, A-line silhouette. The garment’s immaculate construction – best exemplified by the perfectly-matched fabric – demonstrates that there remained a place for couture craftsmanship within 1960s fashion. Yet Ungaro also understood the increasing importance of ready-to-wear: in 1967, he launched a readymade line called “Emanuel Ungaro Parallèle.” The label’s offerings allowed Ungaro to design in a relaxed and lighthearted matter.

Emanuel Ungaro coat
(Fabric by Sonia Knapp)
Gift of Rodman A. Heeren
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.
Chloé by Karl LagerfeldGaby Aghion founded the label Chloé shortly after she arrived in Paris in 1952. Aghion’s goal was to provide women with clothing that was easily accessible and modern, yet of a much higher quality than typical French ready-to-wear fashion. Aghion’s designs were sold off-the-rack at several boutiques that she herself frequented, but a seamstress trained in haute couture techniques had made them, ensuring that the garments were high quality.

At the encouragement of Maïme Arodin, editor of the influential fashion magazine Jardin des modes, Aghion relinquished her role as the label’s sole designer and began to recruit a number of new talents to carry Chloé forward. These designers included Christiane Bailly, Maxime de la Falaise, Graziella Fontana, Tan Giudicelli, Gérard Pipart, and Michèle Rosier. Of Aghion’s many successful hires, none gained more recognition than Karl Lagerfeld, who began working for the label in 1964. His sense of fantasy and exuberance, as well as his creative reinterpretations of historic styles, soon came to characterize the Chloé brand. His impact was such that he was frequently distinguished as the creator of a certain garment in a way that the other Chloé designers were not (the credit line “Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé” appeared in Vogue Paris as early as 1965).

Chloé by Karl Lagerfeld, “Astoria” dress
Gift of Melanie Miller

This is Lagerfeld’s 1967 “Astoria” dress, which took inspiration from Thomas Malory’s book Le Morte d’Arthur, illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley in 1893. The full-length, high-necked, and long-sleeved design stood out in a period of micro-mini, body-revealing styles, but Lagerfeld’s unique design sensibility is even more evident in the floral motifs hand-painted by Nicole Lefort. The expanse of ivory silk crepe used to make the dress acted as a canvas for an array of colorful, stylized flowers that swirl around the entire garment – so precisely rendered that they look screen-printed, rather than hand-painted. Chloé’s ready-to-wear revolution had truly come into its own.

Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.

Yves Saint Laurent’s Vinyl Raincoat

Yves Saint Laurent launched his ready-to-wear line and corresponding boutique, both called Rive Gauche, in 1966. Translating to “Left Bank,” the name Rive Gauche indicated the boutique’s location in relation to the Seine river, a part of Paris with a large student population that was known for its Bohemian sensibility. Rive Gauche centered strictly on mass-produced, ready-to-wear clothing, and as such, one might imagine that its offerings were designed to be affordable. Saint Laurent himself proclaimed that Rive Gauche fashions were designed for young women “from 15 to … still young at heart,” but his prices were in fact better suited to wealthier – and somewhat older – women.

Saint Laurent Rive Gauche raincoat
This raincoat is one of the earliest Rive Gauche designs. It highlights the playful, vibrant aesthetic that characterized many 1960s creations for the label. Made from bright yellow vinyl with crocheted wool sleeves, it cost $90 U.S. dollars in 1966 (the equivalent of $675 in 2017). Saint Laurent intended his Rive Gauche designs to be more fun than luxurious – but, as the journalist Marilyn Bender wryly observed in her 1967 book The Beautiful People, “Like the goose that lays golden eggs, Saint Laurent has pretty expensive notions of fun.” Nevertheless, Rive Gauche was a great success. Saint Laurent’s designs for the label were widely covered by both the French and American fashion press, and he opened a New York boutique in 1968.

Saint Laurent Rive Gauche raincoat
Fall 1966
Gift of Ethel Scull
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.
André Courrèges hat

Courrèges’s designs for accessories were as significant as his garments. The importance of accessories can be traced to his traditional couture training, and specifically to his work under Cristóbal Balenciaga. The unusual, sculptural silhouettes that Balenciaga perfected were enhanced by hats designed to complement and enliven each garment. Courrèges crafted his own hats to similar effect.

The Museum at FIT is fortunate to have a collection of early Courrèges hats worn by fashion arbiter. One example, dating to 1962, is relatively conservative in spite of its use of bright violet leather. It features a shallow brim and a narrow band that ends in a slightly abstracted bow at the center back; its only unusual feature is a crown that slopes slightly upward toward the back of the head.
André Courrèges hat
Donated in memory of Isabel Eberstadt
by her family

André Courrèges hat

Dating to one year later, a hat made from white leather hints at some of the couturier’s more eccentric styles to come. A visor-style brim, accented with a center front bow, is attached to a large, rounded crown that bubbles up and over the head. This style was shown with a simple shift dress in a 1963 issue of L’Officiel. The caption described the dress as made from white jersey, cinched by a suede brown belt, “exquisitely elegant in its sobriety.”
André Courrèges hat
Donated in memory of Isabel Eberstadt
by her family

In 1964, Courrèges introduced his “Space Age” styles, which firmly placed him among the most forward-thinking of couturiers. While white, sculptural hats were integral to the head-to-toe look, Courrèges’s shiny white boots became one of his most popular and enduring designs. Made with a peep toe and cut-outs around the shin, the boots were fastened up the center back with Velcro. Relatively new to the commercial market, Velcro was also being used by NASA to anchor items inside its spaceships. It is clear that Courrèges directly connected his design to developments in space travel.

André Courrèges boots

André Courrèges boots
Gift of Ruth Sublette
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.
Yves Saint Laurent pea coatThe links between fashion and celebrity culture during the 1960s are most often associated with London, with stars such as the Beatles and Twiggy becoming international sensations. Yet there was a vibrant and influential youth culture in France as well. Film stars including Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve became fashion icons, as did singers such as Françoise Hardy and Sylvie Vartan.

Brigitte Bardot’s impact on fashion was firmly established in 1959, when she married fellow actor Jacques Charrier in a full-skirted, pink gingham gown by Jacques Estérel. While the look of the dress itself was not innovative, the use of humble cotton fabric for a bridal gown flouted tradition. Only one month after her wedding, the New York Times reported, “You can’t buy a yard of checkered gingham in Paris, not even enough for kitchen curtains, since Brigitte picked the fabric for her wedding dress.”

Catherine Deneuve’s 1960s style was defined by her relationship with Yves Saint Laurent. She wore the designer’s clothing on- and off-screen, such as his original “le smoking” suit and a gown from his renowned “Pop Art” collection. She also owned some of Saint Laurent’s more subdued styles, including a navy wool pea coat with brass buttons from 1966. The Museum at FIT’s collection houses an example of this same design.
Françoise Hardy and Sylvie Vartan were associated with a musical genre known as yé-yé, which took its name from English-language songs that included the words “yeah, yeah, yeah” – most famously, the Beatles song “She Loves You.”

Yves Saint Laurent pea coat
Gift of Doris Strakosch

Paris Refashioned Installation View

Similar to the way the term “mod” in England and the United States, yé-yé became used as a term to describe various aspects of French youth culture. Particular clothing styles were identified as yé-yé fashion, including trench coats, striped t-shirts, and flat, Mary Jane-style shoes. Two trench coats included in the Paris Refashioned exhibition – one from Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, the other from André Courrèges’s ready-to-wear line, Couture Future – were selected to represent an aspect of the yé-yé style.

Left: trench coat by Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, circa 1967
Right: trench coat by Couture Future (André Courrèges), circa 1968
Photo by Eileen Costa. © 2017 The Museum at FIT
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.

Yves Saint Laurent’s “Mondrian” Collection

Models wearing Saint Laurent-inspired ensembles at the Detroit Auto Show, 1966 Photograph © Car & Driver

Models wearing Saint Laurent-inspired ensembles at the Detroit Auto Show, 1966
Photograph © Car & Driver

Piet Mondrian, Composition C, 1935 Public domain

Piet Mondrian, Composition C, 1935
Public domain

Simple 1960s shift dresses often acted as canvasses for bold adornments, an idea that Yves Saint Laurent took quite literally. His fall 1965 collection became known as his “Mondrian” collection, in spite of the fact that it contained only six dresses that resembled the Dutch painter’s work.

Saint Laurent had previously experimented with color-blocking while he was working for the house of Christian Dior, but he was not the first designer to be inspired by Mondrian: several years earlier, the American milliner Sally Victor had created a series of hats that took their cue from his paintings. Nevertheless, Saint Laurent’s colorful, geometric dresses became some of his most famous – and copied – works. Saint Laurent himself licensed his design to Vogue patterns, and cheap, mass-manufactured imitations of the style proliferated during the 1960s, as evidenced by the fashions worn to promote the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado at the Detroit Auto Show that same year.

"Mondrian" dress

Yves Saint Laurent dress
Fall 1965
Gift of Igor Kamlukin from the Estate of Valentina Schlee
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.

Roger Vivier for Christian Dior shoes

A “head to toe” look, including hats and shoes, was essential to 1950s couture. Roger Vivier’s ten-year collaboration with the house of Dior made history: not only was Vivier the first shoe designer to create footwear especially for couture collections, he was also the first to be openly credited for his work. His name was prominently featured alongside Dior’s in the press, in advertisements, and on the insoles of a line of ready-made shoes—an unprecedented move that placed a shoe designer and a couturier on equal ground. This immensely successful collaboration between designers remains a template for similar partnerships today.

Roger Vivier for Christian Dior shoes
Circa 1957
Gift of Arthur Schwartz

René Mancini shoes

René Mancini established his business in 1950, and specialized in custom-made shoes for prominent couturiers. He was one of several designers to produce footwear for Chanel, including her signature spectator pumps. He also made shoes for collections by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Hubert de Givenchy, and Yves Saint Laurent. The stiletto heels that dominated the 1950s fell out of fashion during the next decade in favor of more practical and youthful styles.

René Mancini shoes
Circa 1959
Gift of Lauren Bacall

Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.

Balenciaga and Givenchy

ParisRefashioned_21Hubert de Givenchy met Cristóbal Balenciaga in 1953, two years after Givenchy opened his couture house. Although Givenchy never formally apprenticed under Balenciaga, the elder couturier became his mentor, informing his business decisions and his aesthetic.

By the early 1960s, fashion critics had begun to complain that Givenchy was relying too heavily on styles pioneered by Balenciaga. Nevertheless, both couturiers continued to be enormously successful, and each had a large clientele in France and the United States. These voluminous coats, owned by the American heiress Doris Duke, reveal that the designers shared ideas as well as clients.

Left: coat by Hubert de Givenchy, circa 1958
Right: coat by Cristóbal Balenciaga, circa 1957
Photo by Eileen Costa. © 2017 The Museum at FIT
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.

Cardin Evening Gown, circa 1957

  • By The Museum at FIT
  • In Objects
  • On 30 Jan | '2017
  • permalink
Pierre Cardin, evening dress, circa 1958, gift of Rodman A. Heeren. 72.112.38

Pierre Cardin opened his own house in 1950, still only in his late twenties. According to a 1965 biography of the designer, Cardin’s early years were successful, but he was known primarily for designing suits. It was not until 1957 that he designed his first full couture collection, with designs for all occasions.

Viewing the couturier’s early designs – in particular his evening dresses – may be startling to anyone familiar with his work from the 1960s. Although fashionable and beautifully made, it is difficult to identify this gown as the work of Cardin. Over the next few years, he would begin to distinguish himself as a designer with a taste for the avant-garde and even the futuristic.

Pierre Cardin Evening Dress
circa 1957
gift of Rodman A. Heeren

Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.