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Fashion Statement: Elsa Schiaparelli

“Of course we don’t want pants!” —French designer Elsa Schiaparelli, when asked on this day in 1933 if women were ready to adopt the new-fangled pants look. Schiaparelli was meeting with the New York Fashion Group, and conceded that—other than pants—women were ready for radical new and striking effects. She also advised that cotton had its place but never in the ballroom and that while sleeves should not be worn full at the elbow, ballooning at the wrist or the shoulder was OK. Shortly after this meeting, Schiaparelli changed her tune on the issue of pants: In the photo above from 1935 she is Read More »

Cinemode: Morocco: It’s All About the Pants

There is a brilliant moment with Marlene Dietrich in Morocco, the romantic drama that opened on this day in 1930. As cabaret singer Amy Jolly, Dietrich leans back during her opening number onto the railing separating herself from a table in the audience. She barely surrenders any body weight to the rail before kicking one leg over, bringing it lightly to the ground and then swinging her second over in suit. It is a killer move that would be hardly manageable in a dress or skirt.

This story is the second Cinemode I’ve written for On This Day In Fashion, and I already seem to have gotten myself into an early pattern: Women in pants. It seems that throughout cinema history, when a woman puts on a pair of pants, it’s bound to get us talking. And Amy’s pants weren’t just any old pair; they were the definitive pair in cinematic history. So, let’s talk. Let’s talk about these pants.

On December 6, 1930, movie-goers watched Dietrich saunter onto the stage of Lo Tinto’s cabaret in Mogador, Morocco, in nothing less than a top hat and full tuxedo. In the film, the audience erupts into a chorus of boos for the woman in pants, and one has to wonder if moviegoers were equally alarmed. Although, and perhaps because, the film was Dietrich’s American debut, Paramount Pictures expended considerable energy generating publicity about her enviable Read More »

Fashion Statement: Marc Bohan

“I don’t think the menswear look is over, and I don’t think women will ever give up wearing pants.”

—French designer Marc Bohan, speaking to journalist Eugenia Sheppard in July 1976, when asked whether or not women will stop wearing those crazy pants and go back to good old-fashioned skirts. On this day in 1958, Bohan was hired by Christian Dior as an aid to Yves Saint Laurent, Dior’s much younger lead assistant. Dior soon died, Saint Laurent took over the house but was fired and replaced by Bohan after just two years. The ousted designer went on to revolutionize pants for women, while Bohan thrived as the lead designer at the House of Dior for 30 years. You can file this particular quote under “fashion predictions that are actually correct.” To read more fabulous Fashion Statements, click here.

Saint Laurent Introduces “Le Smoking,” and Changes Womenswear Forever

When designer Yves Saint Laurent introduced his first version of le smoking—a black tuxedo for women—during a presentation of his couture collection on this day in 1966, the outfit didn’t have fashion editors falling out of their chairs. That came later. On that afternoon at 5 Avenue Marceau 44 years ago, the only jackets that caused a bit of swooning were “thin-girl” fur coats, which fit snugly over plaid shirts and pants, and a reshaped version of his tailored pea coat. A group of Pop Art–inspired dresses featuring imagery from Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein paintings drew a few giggles. But none of the major magazines rushed to feature le smoking in future editorials and buyers weren’t tripping over each other to order copies for their stores. Gloria Emerson of the New York Times, perhaps cranky after several days of Paris shows, called the collection “outdated” and “lumpy,” and suggested the designer “strains too hard to convince the world he is hand-and-hand and eye-to-eye with the very young.” But for Saint Laurent, the collection was a turning point. With the introduction of le smoking, he’d uncovered his definitive muse: the liberated, unfettered, independent woman. The critics that day were oh, so wrong. The tuxedo would be included in Saint Laurent collections for the next 30 years and literally revolutionized Read More »

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