PARIS, BURNING ALREADY... LANVIN'S BONFIRE RED SILK TAFFETA
Dress deeply decollete in a frill collar, then skirt to the floor with the hem finely striped green, sky blue, pink, grey, above a ruff of silver fox.
I nearly swooned when I opened the September 1980 issue of British Vogue and saw this luscious editorial of Parisian couture. Shot by Barry Lategan against a brocaded silk backdrop, the poses of the models (which include Grace Coddington and Marie Helvin) rather invoke a Bronzino portrait. Though I am writing this on a steamy 90 degree day in NYC, the plush velvets and luxurious taffetas are photographed so exquisitely that I wish I could run my fingers across them. If you've read some of my previous columns you will remember my fascination with the workmanship that goes into a couture gown—helpfully this story fuels my interest by including the hours needed to make some of these remarkable pieces. The late 70s and early 1980s was really a golden time for couture, at least in my eyes, since there was an interesting combination of 70s decadence merging with the incoming maximalism that would define much of the 1980s.
Editorial by Barry Lategan for Vogue UK, September 1980. Hair by John Frieda and makeup by Barbara Daly.
In Paris the party's not over. This evening it is dressed in taffeta—glowing, crinkling, crackling torrents of taffeta married to chiffon and velvets, finger-nail-deep embroideries. One of the joys of Paris couture is the workmanship, the infinite care, the finest hours that produce clothes for a lifestyle some like to think is vanishing. Saint Laurent's grandest evening suits and dresses were each 85 to 100 hours in the making, and that's not counting the time it took him to dream up and design them. Givenchy's black velvet and taffeta took 40 hours, with another 7 to frost 200 coq feathers stiff with sequins. It took 16 hours to sew the ribbon round Ungaro's taffeta skirt. Scherrer's score was 92 hours for one dress, 60 for its cape, 87 for the embroidery, which makes 10 days and us quite dizzy.
SAINT LAURENT'S SPRINGING TAFFETAS WITH PEACOCK CHIFFON...
Brilliant chiffon print blouse under gilded black velvet waistcoat, over violet moiré taffeta skirts that spring from black velvet hips rich with colour, gold silk ropes, an amethyst butterfly. The taffeta hemmed with black velvet over black velvet underskirts. Peacock green panne velvet turban with glass sparkled feather brooch. Pearl, red, gold ear drops. Red, turquoise, gold thread and bead belt. Gold and emerald slave bracelets.
...AND BLACK VELVET CORSETRY
Braided black velvet corset laced with silk rope and smoothed at the hips into vast ruffled rustling peacock blue taffeta skirts, over black taffeta knife-pleat-edged underskirts. Fringed gold and black chiffon shawl. Gold and jet ear drops. Diamante and jet necklace and bracelets.
DIOR'S BEAUTIFUL BLUE BALLOON SUIT...
Sapphire blue taffeta balloon suit, a marvelous exaggeration of anorak, with drawstring neck and hips, and pantaloons with drawstring ankles. Underneath the blue balloon, a skimpy black jersey top on shoestrings. Montgolfier, you should be living at this hour. Pairs of navy sequin and black sequin bracelets.
GRES GREAT AND GLOWING RED-AS-RUBIES DRESS
Light volumes of bright ruby red taffeta dress with boat-neck, gathered batwing sleeves with more gathers at inside elbow in half sun shape, and a whoosh of skirts from tiny pintucked tiny waist.
SAINT LAURENT'S BLACK VELVET AND WILD NIGHT PINK
Splendid dress. Off-the-shoulder black velvet bodice banded across with trellis beading, beaded tassels. From the beaded velvet hips a burst of wild fuchsia pink taffeta skirt piped down in black, over black taffeta underskirt with knife-pleated hem. Jet ear drops and double choker.
HIS MOROCCAN PRINCELING SUIT
Delectable black and scarlet suit. Black silk crepe de chine long-sleeved bow-necked blouse, black braided velvet jacket, scarlet panné velvet cummerbund ruched tight about black velvet hipband with braid catching gathered black moiré taffeta skirts hemmed at the ankle with velvet and braid. Scarlet fez with black gold tassels. Gold, violet and coral plaited choker.
UNGARO'S PRECIOUS RED AND EMERALD SILKS
Emerald moiré taffeta blouse, set in a collar of rich embroidery, with deep embroidered and tasselled belt and skirt of scarlet taffeta, striped with colour, gold braid and black velvet.
GIVENCHY'S BARE BLACK IN A HALO OF COQ FEATHERS
Black velvet camisole bordered in black braid joined to black taffeta skirts at the hips in a ring of sequinned coq feathers. With a black silk fringed vivid blue crepe de chine shawl, not worn here.
RICCI'S SMOCK AND DRESS
Vast black taffeta smock with the neck tied, and pintucks from shoulder to bosom. The long dress, as capacious, with petticoat top, skirt gathered from hipband and flared. Jet ear drops.
SCHERRER'S EMBROIDERED BANDEAU DRESS AND CAPE: BIG NIGHT FOR TAFFETA
Black taffeta dress to the floor, tent shaped from a deep band of gold braid and emerald embroidery. Enveloping long black taffeta cape with sides split, tall shawl collar. Gold, black, emerald bead choker.