Sunday, February 20, 2011

an ode to Jackie Kennedy style.

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During the early 1960s, Jackie Kennedy was a fashion icon for many women. She enlisted Oleg Cassini to design her wardrobe when her husband was elected president of the United States. Cassini designed nearly 300 looks for Kennedy. 

Cassini, a French-born American designer,  originally worked as a costume designer. Cassini grew up in Florence, but visited Paris twice a year with his mother to study French fashion. In later years, he moved to New York and eventually Hollywood. 

Kennedy's style was elegant, yet simple. She wore pieces that were tailored, geometric and decorated with large buttons. Many women copied the "Jackie" look by donning pillbox hats, above-the-elbow gloves and low-heel pumps. However after her time in the White House, her style changed dramatically. Her conservative First Lady clothes disappeared and she started to wear wide-leg pantsuits, headscarves, large sunglasses and gypsy skirts. Her clothing was also bright in color. 

Not only did Kennedy wear Cassini, she also wore Chanel and Dior. 

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was the inventor of the "little black dress," quilted handbags and the tweed suit. Chanel grew up in an orphanage during the late 1800s. Though she never married, she had several lovers and eventually obtained the funds to start her fashion empire. She shortened the hems of skirts to just below the knee (this was long before Courreges instituted the miniskirt in France) and made costume jewelry fashionable. According to Werle (author of "50 Fashion Designers You Should Know"), Chanel was not the first to reject the corset in her designs (Poiret and Vionnet had previously done so), but it was ultimately she who banned this garment from the wardrobes of the world. 

During World War II, Chanel stopped production of her clothing (as did most other French designers). However, in 1954 at the age of 71, Chanel made her comeback. 

Christian Dior, yet another French designer, took his wearers into the past. His evening gown creations used up to 40 meters of fabric. Chanel is quoted as saying, "These heavy, stiff dresses that don't even fit into a suitcase--ridiculous! Dior doesn't dress women, he upholsters them." However, Dior said his aim was to "make elegant women more beautiful and beautiful women more elegant." 

Dior proved to be successful, and by 1950 he had as many as 1000 dressmakers working for his fashion house. In only ten years he created 22 collections, and changed the silhouette of his designs each season. As many designers abolished the corset, Dior brought it back. Chanel's answer to this was tweed suits, quilted bags and the "little black dress."

the forgotten, yet notable: part II

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In 1946, Pierre Balmain yearned to bring buyers and clients back to Paris. After World War II, the French fashion scene was at a standstill. This French designer traveled throughout America to re-conquer the hearts of the elite American women, as well as their pocketbooks.

A year prior, Balmain's designs were featured in American Vogue. His designs were ultra feminine and flattered the waistline with a wide tapering skirt. This change was accepted after an era of long, fitted suits with wide shoulders. According to Simone Werle, the author of "50 Fashion Designers You Should Know," the wide, graceful shape of Balmain's clothes was exactly what women wanted--excitingly different, romantic and luxurious. However, it was Christian Dior who became famous for this look in 1947.

Originally Balmain desired to study architecture, but soon found a passion for fashion, which he called the "architecture of movement." Not only did Balmain introduce the wide tapering skirt, he also pioneered dresses and skirts that were fitted until the wearer's knees. In the 1960s, these gowns were popular among the Hollywood starlets.

Also during the 1960s, another French designer created a collection that was unlike any previous creation. According to Werle, Andre Courreges' collections looked as if they had come straight from the moon. Courreges' specialized in geometric cuts, lines and the color white. His creations were paired with goggles, hats and thigh-high boots. Courreges also raised the hemline of the skirt to above-the-knee. This was the first appearance of the miniskirt on a French runway.

In the late 1960s, Courreges launched three collections: "Prototype," "Couture Future" and "Hyperbole." Courreges clothes were as modern as the names of his collections--he created modern clothing for the modern, active woman. He also created form-fitting women's pants with a masculine style. His designs were not restricting and women had the freedom of movement while wearing Courreges' creations.

Eventually, Courreges closed his fashion house to the press and buyers because his designs were frequently being copied. In later years he tried to make several comebacks, but his creations remained low profile.

Because fashion is always about the newest trends or what is upcoming, designers have to evolve with trends. However, as the history of fashion proves, many designers cannot sync their style with these upcoming trends. Thus, they are forgotten.