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Jacques Fath in America

Posted by Laura
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Jacques Fath for Joseph Halpert dress; Enka Rayon ad, Autumn 1949. Photo by John Rawlings.​

 

 

While many of the post-war French designers created collections specifically for the American market (such as Dior's "Christian Dior, New York" line that was founded in 1948), these clothes were designed in France based on the designer's preconceived ideas of what American women wanted. Jacques Fath (who alongside Dior and Pierre Balmain was one of the most important voices in Parisian fashion at that time) instead chose to move to New York for three months to design his first exclusive American collection (manufactured by Joseph Halpert). There he was able to watch and learn about American women's lives firsthand, throwing aside stereotypes and then designing from reality. The results were launched for Autumn/Winter 1949, with Fath discussing in the press the differences between the cultures and how that manifested in the types of clothes women needed. I've selected some quotes from an interview he gave and pulled together a number of ads that showcase his new American styles. In comparison to the luscious satin ballgowns that made his name, these sharply tailored day and dinner dresses would have been eminently more suitable for most women's wardrobes.

Interview by Barbara E. Scott Fisher for the Christian Science Monitor, October 3rd, 1949.​

Nothing stops the innate “push” of Jacques Fath’s American collection, made of American fabrics, designed in America, and manufactured under the careful supervision of Joseph Halpert for Jacques Fath right in the heart of New York’s own Seventh Avenue. The dash, the verve, the beauty, and practicality of these clothes seem to give them all the “push” they need.

Asked what differentiates his French collections from those he is making here, Mr. Fath said he felt the collections really explained themselves. “The French designs are inspired by our way of life in France where houses are cool and life leisurely. My American clothes take into consideration your often over-heated houses, as well as your air-conditioned offices where many an American career woman spends much of her time. The American collection caters to your penchant for dining out and for café society.”

 

 

Jacques Fath for Joseph Halper​t​​ ​
Dinner ​dress​ ​and jacket. Julius Garfinckel & Co. ad, Autumn 1949.

“For it we use thin materials and those that are far less bulky than those we wear in France—sheer wools, chiffons, and now, once again, the lovely soft crepe de Chines.”

 

 

Jacques Fath for Joseph Halpert
​Organza and taffeta ​​​dress. Hudson's of Detroit ad, Autumn 1949.​

The French collection is pointed toward sales to the cosmopolitan, to the women scattered in all parts of the world, who are both extravagantly wealthy and super elegant, as it were. A large part of this collection is devoted to the magnificent ball gowns, while the smart short evening dress claims greater prominence in the America scene. While you might say that the American collection is in a way a development from the French collection, it is in no sense a repetition. “However,” Mr. Fath added with his flashing smile, “it does enjoy the exhilaration of ‘that French touch.’”

 

 

Jacques Fath
Suit with a Jacques Fath emba mink pelerine for Frederica Furs, Autumn 1949.

“Living in Paris and then spending three months in New York, the designer continued, “is like enjoying two plays—both good, both completely different. I am happy in New York and feel very much at home here. I call it my adopted capital. But, though my mother is English, I never someway feel at home in London. The only trouble with my New York life is that I’m always locked up working.”
This 34-year-old blond Frenchman, who has fallen in love with square dancing since a recent visit in Texas, says his pleasure in dressmaking is to show women to advantage just as they are, not to try to alter their proportions. “I believe clothes should be designed basically to accent a person’s good points, and of course design is also a matter of style.”

 

 

Jacques Fath for Joseph Halpert
Dinner ​​​dress. Vogue, November 15, 1949.​

“For the past few years emphasis has been on the bust and the small waist. Today the small waist is still fashionable, but the bustline is less in evidence and in fact the whole silhouette has been softened and remains completely feminine to balance the present rage for short hair.”

​"I hope now all my life to design for the American woman."​

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