Category Archives: Archival Article

Zoran, 1982


“Wearing sneakers and no socks, white pants and a long beige cashmere and silk sweater from Zoran’s warm weather collection, Candice Bergen watched the proceedings perched on a platform along with retailers and members of the fashion press.

Zoran has expanded his collection of men’s styles, which are no more complicated than his women’s clothes. It is a natural development since men have been buying his women’s sweatshirts, Dawn Mello of Bergdorf-Goodman said.

With no collars, pockets hidden in side seams and a total absence of pattern, the clothes have all their style built into the cut. They are made in one size only, and manage to fit most people.”


Back to the Twenties







All illustrations from L’Officiel 1924

The 1920’s. Finally, we made it

The 5th season of Downton Abbey which has just begun airing on PBS finds the Crawley family and servants in the year 1924, a time rife with change, a time when modernism ran rampant. It manifested in literature, in art, architecture, in industrial design, graphic design, photography and, of course, in fashion. The waist was dismissed, assigned to hover abstractly over the lower hip like a vestigial limb. The bosom was banished. Although a mere hint remained it was never obligatory. Western culture’s fashionable body, having been engineered to suspend from either the waist or the bust for hundreds of years, relocated to the shoulders. Common to most modes of dress found outside of Europe, this particular fashion innovation hadn’t been seen in Western costume since the Middle Ages, and more distinctly, the fall of Rome. It is why Diana Vreeland once proclaimed the 1920s as her favorite decade citing that it was the first time in history women wore their hair short. The first time their ankles were revealed. It’s the time of the Bauhaus, of Man Ray, of Jazz and Chanel. For women’s dress it was an utter schism.

The beauty of Downton Abbey is that it’s allowed us to follow fashion from the sinking of the Titanic through a World War and into the world of tomorrow — all chronicled through a fantastically written, superbly acted, lavishly produced and exquisitely costumed soap opera. And now with the 5th season beginning the timing couldn’t be better for fabulous 1920s styles to go on display every week for the next two months or so.

The ‘20s is one of the most misunderstood decades. It is consistently butchered and shortchanged, scantily summed up with something vaguely flapper-ish. But the ’20s saw one of the most radical shifts in dress of the last 300 years. While dress reform was already underway by the time Paul Poiret was ruling fashion in 1909 it wasn’t until his success that fashion was challenged directly. Poiret offered revolution in the guise of the exotic. His interest in global dress provided vivid contradiction to the status quo (his innovative though eccentric Harem pantnts were highlighted in Downton Abbey season 2). But World War I brought on many changes and Poiret could not follow up on the modernism he instigated. Credit is given to Chanel for inventing the modern woman’s wardrobe though it is likely her then rival and now virtual unknown Jean Patou who was a more impactful designer. Regardless, both of them made extremely modern, cleverly engineered and flawlessly styled sportswear — obliging the demand for a more active and confident means of dress for even the most fashionable woman.

The effect is not unlike what designers Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and Phoebe Philo have been getting at in the last couple years or what Armani has been proposing for the last 40. As a sportswear revival goes underway, led by likes of The Olsen twins and Christophe Lemaire, Downtown Abbey offers itself as a compelling series of fashion plates granting a detailed and insightful peek into one of the most exciting and eternally relevant eras of fashion.


Chez Calvayrac

Calvin Klein, 1991

Calvin91a  Calvin91b


“Calvin Klein has put a new spin on minimalism. Everything that could possibly be distracting is pared away. Makeup is natural. So are the coiffures. So are the clothes.

‘I feel so good about the collection,’ the designer said yesterday after his spring show. ‘I feel it’s for the modern woman. It’s all about softness.’

It is also about restraint. Those who feel clothes have to be elaborately decorated and vividly colored will not find much here to admire. This is probably the coolest, most understated collection of the season.

Since it is for warm weather, the coolness is not inappropriate.

Consider the colors: parchment, platinum, celadon and, of course, white. In this company, aqua stands out as a vivid hue.

Consider the shapes: a gently cut dress, with a high round neckline, camisole straps or no straps at all, is the key to everything.

The fabrics are equally self-effacing: washed silk, silk or wool crepe, linen and cashmere.

The clothes are the kind that show off a great figure and make one not so great look better than it is. The models skim along on flat beige T-strap shoes, looking totally at ease.

While those shapely dresses are the main event, they receive support from softly tailored jackets (often the same mid-thigh length as the dresses they accompany), skinny pants and shorts. Wrapped effects maintain the soft treatment in blouses.

There are just a few variations to the dominant look: a trench coat or two to cover everything up; a shot of navy as a change from all the pale tones; some all-over beads.

But the collection has a cohesion and a directness that is rarely achieved. All the ideas have passed through the designer’s sensibility, and he has worked over them until he got them just right. If it’s flash you’re looking for, this may not be the right stop. But if it’s elegance and style, it’s a real treat.”


“French Seams”

Beretta1981Anne Marie Beretta, L’Officiel 1981

Castelbajac83Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, 1983

“Nothing Left To Achieve, Balenciaga Calls It a Day”


The great haute-couture house of Cristobal Balenciaga will close next month. A spokesman for the salon, which is on Avenue George V, finally confirmed the closing.

It was hard to understand what the woman said on the telephone for she sobbed as she spoke, breaking down into tears when she tried to talk. Private orders from the last collection, shown in February, will be filled. And then—probably in June—the doors of the house that 73-year-old Balenciaga has made the citadel of the haute couture will shut—maybe forever.

Only two weeks ago one of the designer’s employees issued a stinging denial of the closing rumors, which had been circulating both here and in New York for some time.

But it is believed that Balenciaga has perhaps nothing left to achieve professionally and is closing the house because he is bored.

His prestige with private clients has never faltered, although in the last few years American buyers have occasionally felt that his clothes looked too familiar, “too old” compared with the younger, more commercial creations that other Paris houses showed, and “too traditional.”

“We are desolated,” Jean-Claude de Givenchy said today when he heard the news, “we cannot express our distress.”

Mr. Givenchy was speaking on behalf of himself and his brother Hubert De Givenchy, the couturier. Hubert is a Balenciaga protégé and disciple.

Before his death, Christian Dior called Balenciaga “our master.” And Coco Chanel, the doyenne of Paris couturiers says:

“The others are just draftsman or copyists, or else they are inspired people or even geniuses, but Balenciaga alone is a couturier. He is the only one who can design, cut, put together, and sew a suit or a gown entirely alone.”

New York fashion leaders are equally upset.

“When history is written,” said Nancy White, editor of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, “his contribution has to be recognized as one of the greatest in fashion. We shall miss him.”

Jessica Daves, former editor of Vogue, attributes part of his success to what she calls “his Spanish way of thinking.”

“He has the best attitude towards women.” Miss Daves said. “He believes in elegance and ladies. I don’t think he ever did a vulgar thing. He doesn’t believe in sudden changes.”

Andrew Goodman, president of Bergdorf Goodman, said:

“It’s a tragic loss to the fashion world—the end of an era. He was a strong voice for elegance. He never compromised for a minute.”

– from THE NEW YORK TIMES, MAY 23, 1968


Isaac Mizrahi, 1995

Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue

Halston, 1970

Some of the clothes that stepped quietly, elegantly into Halston’s heavily curtained showroom yesterday are the kind you don’t see around much anymore. They look sculpted rather than pasted together, and they were the work of Charles James, erstwhile couturier and now “fashion consultant-engineer” to Halston Frowick.”He helped shape the collection, like Balenciaga helped Givenchy,” Halston explained.

The shebang was done in a white studio on the top floor of the building at 33 East 68th Street where Halston greets such clients as Mrs.  William S. Paley, wife of Columbia broadcasting system chairman, Mrs. Patricia Lawford Kennedy and Mrs. Clinton Murchison of oil and cattle fame. The studio looks like a cross between a doctor’s office and an artist’s workroom with anatomical drawings on the walls, some headless forms of human body and surgical white décor.

Mr. James, who Halston likens to Leonardo da Vinci, has only turned out a few styles, but then he’s only been ensconced there a few weeks. He’s working on basic shapes upon which endless variations can be played. “Once you get the structure right, the things can be reproduced quickly,” he said. “I believe in mass production.”

So far, the designer who played haute couturier to women of fashion from the 1930’s to the 1950’s (Halston produced a retrospective showing of the design’s last December) has only turned out a few things. There’s a beige jacket suede jacket shaped with a little shirring at the waist in back and one button low on the waist in front, that Halston envisions as inspiring a whole wardrobe.  “We’ll do it as a suit, as a coat, in many different fabrics,” he said.

There were some blouses also in suede, with undulating necklines that Halston describes as “pretty sculpture for a lady to wear to dinner.”The decked-out gypsy thing, Halston said, was beginning to seem too much. The mannequins seemed to get the message. Instead of swinging down the room, they moved languorously, with style. Is fashion entering a new phase?