Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The New Kid in Town

It is very rare that when I post that I will quote whole text as the bulk of a post. However I came across this little gem the other day from Time Magazine in 1961 giving a recap of the Haute Couture showings in Paris in 1961.

I am not sure who the author was, however a world of glamour and elegance is described at the eve of the beginning of the swinging sixties. Compared to the huge publicity grinding machines and spectacles that couture showings today demand, this seems like a dowager’s tea party. However I think that I would rather have tea with a dowager than attending a brash cocktail party which today’s showings tend to be.

“In the salons of haute couture in Paris last week, buyers and fashion editors from all over the world got their first look at the color and shape of the spring lines—and found themselves looking backward. The new look was the old look of the F. Scott Fitzgerald flapper in the 1920s. Skirts and coats were straight, short, with hemlines flaring. Shoes were square-toed. Bosoms were flat, backs bent and billowing, with designs that required the mannequins not only to slouch but virtually assume the posture of an expectant, concave catcher's mitt. Though Paris fashions have been irresolutely marching backward for several seasons, the big, bold step this year was apparently inspired by a hit movie running in Paris called The Crazy Years, a documentary of the '20s.

The Crazy Years designs produced as wild and improbable a week as the fashion world has known for many a year. At the house of Cardin, which drew the week's first applause for a superlative line, a mannequin was showing a new flat-chested dress to a U.S. buyer. She was suddenly interrupted with a scream from the vendeuse: "But darling, you're wearing it back to front!"


When Madeleine de Rauch's collection failed to follow the flapper trend, the audience began to leave, and waiters dashed in with champagne to stem the bored retreat.

de Rauche

The triumph of the week and cause of the most excitement was the work of Christian Dior's little-known, untested Marc Bohan, 34. The Parisian-born son of a modiste, Bohan broke into haute couture in 1945 as an assistant designer at Patou, left Patou in 1958 to work under Dior's Boy Wonder Chief Designer Yves St. Laurent. When St. Laurent, after an unhappy stint in
the French army, "retired" from Dior two months ago because of "ill health," Bohan, one of the few married male couturiers in Paris, took over. Few in Paris expected much from his debut, and St. Laurent fans were openly hostile. Admitted the New York Herald Tribune's Eugenia Sheppard: "I had a poisoned typewriter ribbon ready."


But Bohan's hip-hugging skirts, exotic colors ("Laburnum yellow," "Provence apricot,"), and infinite attention to detail and neatness, generally embracing the flapper trend, stunned the salon and sent reporters into paroxysms of joy. "But Marc Bohan is wonderful," cried a converted Eugenia Sheppard. "Five minutes after the show started, I felt like a cat before a saucer of cream."

At the show's end, the audience was near delirium and jaded U.S. fashion editors at the outer tether of objectivity. "The shouting, clapping, surging mob at the press showing caused chaos in the elegant salon," reported the New York Times excitedly on Page One. "M. Bohan was pushed up against the boiserie, kissed, mauled and congratulated. Chairs were toppled. Champagne
glasses were broken. People were knocked down." Breathlessly cabled another U.S. reporter to her office: "Just dashed out of Dior to share with you still-boiling excitement." Wrote the New York Daily News's Monique: "Thundering applause led by a newly blonde Duchess of Windsor rolled through the elegant grey-and-white salons of the House of Dior today, the happy
ending to the suspense story of the fashion year."

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