FUN FACTS: Oh What A Night

The Battle of Versailles

November 28th 1978 is day to be remembered. It was a day of change and evolution in the fashion industry. In her documentary "Versailles '73: American Runway Revolution", writer and director Deborah Riley Draper beautifully reconstructs the story and the night of this wonderful event. 

The 1973 Grand Divertissement a Versailles, also known as The Battle Of Versailles is the brainchild of American Fashion Publicist Eleanor Lambert  and  Versailles Curator Gerald Van der Kemp, who came up with idea in order to raise money to restore the once residencey of French Royalty-Versailles, which was falling apart at the time. Little did they know that their event would forever change the lives of many Americans designers and especially how black  models where viewed in the fashion industry.


 The idea for the event was a high end gala at which 5 of the top French couture houses would compete against 5 American fashion designers. Each French designers, would be allowed to pick their American designer counterpart who would display their work during their own separate fashion show before 650 members of European nobility, elite, and the press.





 French couture fashion designers Yves Saint LaurentPierre CardinEmanuel UngaroChristian Dior, and Hubert de Givenchy joined together with newer American designers Oscar de la RentaStephen Burrows , HalstonBill Blass, and Anne Klein and her assistant at the time Donna Karan. The night was filled with haute couture clothing and live entertainment from singers Liza Minnelli, Josephine Baker and Nureyev who danced.  A-listers such as  Andy Warhol and Princess Grace where among the attendees.
The event had rejuvenated fashion. Many older European designers began to see American designers as important players in the fashion industry. Impressed by the energy and music that the designers and their models had brought the show, the Americans had won this fashion battle. During the show African American models including Pat Cleveland, Bethann Hardison, Billie Blair, Jennifer Brice, Alva Chinn, Norma Jean Darden, Charlene 
Dash, Barbara Jackson, China Machado, Ramona Saunders, and Amina Warsuma sashayed down the runway that night captivating  European audience members. Little did they know that their presences would have such a huge impact on the fashion industry.



If you ever happen to visit The Palace of Versailles, just remember that this night, that fashion helped in the restoration of the Palace.

* Fun FactThe show was nicked named "The Battle of Versailles" because there happened to be a real competition between the French and American designers.











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