As far as fashion lore goes, the 1973 “Battle of Versailles” — the showdown between a handful of American designers and their European counterparts — stands the test of time.
Participants Pat Cleveland, Bethann Hardison and Chris Royer served up some savory details about that monumental fashion event Wednesday during a discussion led by The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan. Organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the event doubled as a reminder of the Tom Ford-orchestrated Battle of Versailles gallery that is now on view at the Upper East Side museum in “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” through Sept. 5.
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Explaining how the extravaganza at the Palace of Versailles transpired, Givhan said Versailles’ curator had asked his publicist friend Eleanor Lambert about how to raise some money in an effort to support French institutions, and she suggested putting five great fashion designers against five American ones — all of whom happened to be her clients. Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Hubert de Givenchy and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior faced off against Bill Blass, Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Anne Klein and Stephen Burrows. The Americans used pre-recorded music, a spare set and “sleek, easy and unencumbered” clothes and models, “who moved with distinction and personality,” Givhan said. “What began as an international party and a publicity stunt was soon hyped into a battle by the media, and the Americans were victorious in that battle. They won over the crowd and their colleagues.”
Hardison, a model and associate of Burrows at that time, recalled how models then inspired fashion designers and were muses. There was also diversity with models and designers of all different types of backgrounds, she said.
Speaking to Cleveland about her signature runway style, Givhan said, “No one could