Monday, September 16, 2013

That 70s Show

Dress and Hoodie (Vintage 70s, USA made by the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union); Boots (Diba); Bag (Mary Frances Collection)
The popular media's celebrity gossip-column style coverage of the recent New York Fashion Week makes it hard to imagine that a fashion show of any sort would be worthy of an award winning full-length documentary that premiered at Cannes.  But, Versailles '73: American Runway Revolution shatters the notion that fashion is trivial frivolity worthy of coverage only in the "Who Wore It Best" column of magazines perused in grocery check-out lines or as fodder for Joan Rivers' Fashion Police on E.  The film, produced by Coffee Bluff Pictures, tells the behind-the-scenes story of a now historical fashion show created as a fundraiser for the Palace of Versailles that morphed into a full-on battle between iconic French and American designers.  Sometimes referred to as "The Battle of Versailles," the show was a landmark victory for the Americans; changed the way the entire world thought about American fashion; and broke the color barrier for African American models.  

The Indianapolis Museum of Art showed Versaille '73 last week to a packed house that exploded with applause as the credits rolled.  Participation in the Q and A session that followed with the film's writer and director, Deborah Riley Draper, was so vigorous it spilled over into the after-party hosted by the IMA's Fashion Arts Society.  The discussion ranged from from lighthearted bits of gossip that didn't make it into the film to meaningful and thought-provoking dialogue on race and fashion in contemporary society.

I was fortunate to spend a little time chatting one on one with Ms. Riley Draper, and humbled when she told me I "killed it" in my vintage 70s ensemble!  I was also impressed that so many attendees took advantage of the opportunity to don the "swanky early 70s attire" encouraged by the invitation.  Some of the other looks were featured in the Indianapolis Star's coverage of the event, here.

If you have a chance to see the film, I highly recommend it.  It's a really interesting commentary on politics, society (both French and American) and race, in addition to providing a glimpse into the genius of designers like Bill Blass, Halston, Stephen Burrows, Anne Klein, and Oscar de la Renta (the first two of whom are from Indiana).  You can also learn more about the Fashion Arts Society and take advantage of opportunities to participate in future FAS events here.   
A still shot from the film, Versaille '73: American Runway Revolution
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!