The Battle of Versailles Fashion Show

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The Battle of Versailles Fashion Show was a historical fashion show held on November 28, 1973, in the Palace of Versailles to raise money for its restoration.

Created by Eleanor Lambert and Versailles curator Gerald Van der Kemp,[1] the show pitted French designers (Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior, and Hubert de Givenchy) against American designers (Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Bill Blass, and Anne Klein, who brought along her assistant, Donna Karan).[2]

With a guest list of 700 and notables such as Princess Grace, Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, Jacqueline de Ribes, Gloria Guinness, Andy Warhol and Liza Minnelli, the event became legendary.[3] Each designer was to submit eight designs for consideration. The Parisian designers viewed their competition as mere sportswear designers. The American designers used eleven black models, an unprecedented number at the time. The American designers and their models stole the show, providing a youthful approach and stunning the primarily French audience.[4]

In 2011, the Huffington Post Game Changer Awards honored the African American models of Versailles with the Style Award. The models included Pat Cleveland, Bethann Hardison, Billie Blair, Jennifer Brice, Alva Chinn, Norma Jean Darden, Charlene Dash, Barbara Jackson, China Machado, Ramona Saunders, and Amina Warsuma.[5]

In 2012, filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper chronicled the event in the feature documentary, Versailles '73: American Runway Revolution. The film included designer Stephen Burrows, French Chambre Syndicale President Didier Grumbach, and many of the models, journalists and guest who attended the event in 1973.

In 2016 another documentary "Battle at Versailles" was made by the fashion network M2M, chronicling the event. The film was narrated by Stanley Tucci and featured many of the event's participants. [6]


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