Four Fashion Designers Make their Mark with Designer Cars

Picture the scene: It was the bicentennial, the year 1976. Ninety percent of clothes worn in the U.S. were made in the U.S., and Detroit was still the car capital of the world. If you were rich, or wanted to look like you were, a two-ton behemoth of an American-made luxury car was the must-have accessory. Sure, the new Japanese cars got better mileage, but they were dinky and, besides, only hippies, draft-dodgers and the (then-thriving) middle-class drove those. But that year, as had been the case for many years before, the Cadillac was the preferred status symbol of choice. And so on this day in 1976, the Ford Motor Company strived to one-up Cadillac-maker General Motors, and introduced its Lincoln-Mercury Mark V Designer Series, a car-couture collaboration with four luxury fashion design houses: Cartier, Givenchy, Bill Blass and Pucci. (Though it is strange that Ford didn’t partner with four American designers. Perhaps Charles James, Oscar de la Renta, Arnold Scaasi and James Galanos preferred Toyota?)

“Designer cars” were not a new idea: Since 1968, Cartier chronometers had been a standard feature (and posh selling point) on instrument panels in Mark III editions of Lincoln Continental sedans. In 1972, both Pierre Cardin and Levi’s designed sporty Javelins for American Motors Corporation, in an effort, apparently, to appeal to Read More »

Cinemode: Breakfast at Tiffany’s: The LBD that Dethroned Edith Head

Think of cinema’s ultimate fashion moments, and chances are the little black dress created by couturier Hubert de Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is at the top of the list. The designer and actress had already successfully collaborated in Sabrina in 1954 and Funny Face in 1957, but Breakfast at Tiffany’s would prove to be their style masterpiece. When the film opened on this day in 1961, audiences collectively gasped at the chic vision of Hepburn wearing a full-length black dress with a cutout back that outlines her lean shoulder blades. She models the glamorous gown on a deserted New York City sidewalk at dawn while eating the film’s eponymous breakfast. With a little rhinestone tiara perched atop her blonde-streaked beehive, elbow-length black satin gloves, a heap of pearls draped around her neck and dark oversized sunglasses, Hepburn is a fashion star. The moment symbolized Hepburn’s style takeover of Hollywood and popularized a new look for the modern woman that was in direct contrast to Christian Dior’s New Look (see the barely contained curves of Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor), which remained the standard for Hollywood’s leading ladies more than a decade after its introduction. Hepburn had no bosom or hips to speak of; she was still a waif despite having given birth three months prior to the shoot and was forced to invent her own standard Read More »

Cinemode: Sabrina: Edith Head vs. Hubert de Givenchy

Would you accept an Oscar for work you didn’t do? Legendary costumer Edith Head did, when she won an Academy Award for Sabrina, a film starring Audrey Hepburn that was released on this day in 1954. Head had worked with Hepburn the year before in Roman Holiday—a film that earned them both Oscars for their efforts. But the Oscars came months after costuming began on Sabrina; at that time Hepburn was just an English theater actress barely known in the United States. So Head was furious when director Billy Wilder agreed to Hepburn’s suggestion that her Sabrina character—a tomboy who travels to Paris and returns a swan—should have a “real Parisian” dress for the scene where Sabrina debuts her European makeover, rather than a dress made by Head. “Edith was very good about it,” Hepburn recalled in a 1970s interview, but the truth is that Head never forgave Hepburn, even decades later. Head reluctantly sent Hepburn to Paris to meet with couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga, a “suggestion” from Wilder’s wife, also named Audrey. What followed is the beginning of one of the most retold stories in Hollywood fashion history: Hepburn arrived in Paris but Balenciaga sent her to his up-and-coming protégé, Hubert de Givenchy. Except Givenchy was expecting to style the other Hepburn: Katherine. When the wrong Hepburn showed up at his atelier wearing a T-shirt, cropped pants and a tourist’s Read More »

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