The Battle of Versailles
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The Battle of Versailles : The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History

3.86 (501 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

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. At the Battle of Versailles, five Americans - Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, and Stephen Burrows - faced off 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. Against all odds, the American energy and the domination by their fearless models (ten of whom, in a ground-breaking move, were African-American) sent the audience reeling. By the end of the evening, the Americans had transformed their place on the world stage and sowed the seeds for changing the way race, gender, sexuality, and economics would be treated in fashion for decades to come. The in-fighting between ego-inflated designers, the unforeseen obstacles instaging the show on a shoestring, the triumphant win, the vastly different fates of the designers post-show.
Robin Givhan's meticulous research brings the event alive and places it firmly in the history of fashion, offering an intimate examination of a single moment that teaches us how the culture of fashion as we now know it came to be.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 147 x 226 x 23mm | 372g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 1250062322
  • 9781250062321
  • 348,548

Review quote

"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." --Kirkus Reviews

"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." --Publishers Weekly

"It was a big deal when American Fashion went to Versailles...who better than Robin Givhan to tell this captivating story?" --Diane von Furstenberg

"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." --Holly Brubach, author of A DEDICATED FOLLOWER OF FASHION

"In The Battle of Versailles, Pulitzer-prizing winning fashion critic Robin Givhan expertly captures the players and the scene of a turning point in both fashion and American culture, showing that chutzpah and savviness count as much as craftsmanship and refinement. With in-depth reporting and her warm, informative voice, Givhan proves that a fashion show is about far more than clothes. Indeed, as this fascinating book shows, it can spark a social revolution." --Dana Thomas, author of the New York Times bestselling DELUXE: HOW LUXURY LOST ITS LUSTER

"Robin Givhan's book recounts how the French fashion establishment in November 1973 fell in love with American couture. The Battle of Versailles tells the behind-the-scene story of the night that wildly cheering French critics gave a standing ovation to five American designers and their stunning black models. Givhan provides readers with both a front row and backstage view of the drama. It's a wonderfully fun read of how a few daring Yanks won recognition in world fashion." --George Taber, author of THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS

"[Givhan's] witty, closely observed essays...transformed fashion criticism into cultural criticism." --2006 Pulitzer Prize Committee
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About Robin Givhan

Robin Givhan is the fashion critic of The Washington Post, where she covers the news, trends, and business of the international fashion industry, and the former style correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. She has also contributed to New York Magazine and Vogue, among other magazines. In 2006, she won the Pulitzer Prize in criticism for her fashion coverage. The Battle of Versailles is her first book.
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Rating details

501 ratings
3.86 out of 5 stars
5 25% (127)
4 44% (219)
3 23% (117)
2 7% (35)
1 1% (3)
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