Montgomery Clift was one of Hollywood’s original sexy brooders. He was a leading man who projected a big-screen persona that seemed small and vulnerable and a little tragic—a far cry from the swaggering hot shots that filled leading roles at the time—and he even copped the raised-eyebrow pleading puppy dog face a few years before James Dean and Marlon Brando perfected it. When Clift passed away on July 23, 1966, at just 45 years old, the world lost not only a talented actor but a reluctant fashion trendsetter as well.
During the peak of his popularity in the early 1950s, Clift’s classic, clean style was as attractive as his unexpected acting style, and widely copied by men and boys who couldn’t relate to the alternatives offered by Hollywood: tough cowboys, wealthy cads and goofball boys-next-door. Rumors of Clift’s sexuality were persistent Read More »
Think of great British fashion photography from the 1960s and David Bailey and Terence Donovan—not John French, who died on this day in 1966—are the names that usually come to mind. But both Bailey and Donovan first cut their teeth working as assistants in French’s Bleeding Hart Yard studio, pressing the shutter while French, an illustrator-turned-photographer, set the scene, arranging the models and lighting and observing the action as he instructed his shooters to snap the picture at the just-right moment.
Look at his images from that era and earlier shots from the 1950s—many of which graced the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Tatler and Vanity Fair magazines, as well as a number of newspapers—and that precision is evident. French was especially eager to publish fashion photography in newspapers, and so developed the technique of bouncing light from reflector boards to create aesthetically pleasing, low-contrast images that would reproduce well on newsprint. He eschewed Read More »
Gianni Versace died a shocking and senseless death on July 15, 1997, when crazypants murderer Andrew Cunanan shot him outside of his Miami Beach home. At the time he was at the height of his career, his fashion house had reached the status of “empire” and his devotees included the likes of Princess Diana, Elton John and Madonna. Versace had even succeeded in crossing the line from fame to infamy with an excessively flamboyant lifestyle and sometimes shockingly trashy collections that earned the label of “hooker’s haute couture.” But rewind 20 years, before his über-filthy 1992 bondage collection, before he defined Miami Beach gaudiness and redefined the modern fashion show into celebrity-studded spectacles, we find a sweet Italian mama’s boy who—very tastefully—helped put Milan on the fashion map.
Having learned everything he could from his mother, a seamstress in the southern town of Reggio Calabria, Versace moved to Milan at 26 to join the city’s growing Read More »
When Jeanne Lanvin died on July 6, 1946—less than a year before Christian Dior’s New Look was introduced—the couturier was not generally regarded as an innovator.
What she did do was make beautiful clothes that made women feel pretty and feminine through four decades that saw a great deal of experimentation with avant-garde dress shapes. For example, in 1910, when Paul Poiret introduced the crippling hobble skirt—a sensation among fashion victims—Lanvin was working on robes de style, flirty, full-skirted dresses with a fitted bodice that became the designer’s signature. (One might even conclude the figure-flattering robes were the precursor to Monsieur Dior’s own inspiration in 1947.) Read More »
When Pierre Balmain died on June 29, 1982, the fashion press asked: Was Balmain simply an imitator of his friend Christian Dior, or one of the greats?
As Germany was settling in to its occupation of France in 1941, a 27-year-old Pierre Balmain was settling into his new post at the prominent Paris couterier Lelong. Designer Lucien Lelong was high on the hog over the fact that as president of the French fashion syndicate, he had managed to convince the Germans that shutting down the Paris couture houses and trying to make Berlin the world’s new fashion capital was a terrible idea. Balmain, who had worked for him previously, prior to being called up for military service, had been invited back to become one of two lead designers of Lelong’s collections.
Balmain was getting down to business at his drawing table, joyfully belting out Read More »