Fashion Flashback: Models of the Grand Divertissement, 1973

If for some reason you don’t read ALL of the New York Times’ fashion coverage, then you may have missed the recent article on the Grand Divertissement de Versailles in 1973. The Grand Divertissement was an America vs. France fashion throwdown put on to raise money for the restoration of the Palace of Versailles.

French designers (Dior, Cardin) and American designers (de la Renta, Blass) put on shows along with performing artists from both countries in what Times reporter Guy Trebay described as “a muscular group of comers with Studio 54 as their shared point of reference taking on the fusty world of the haute couture.”

The show was a big deal for a few reasons: One, American designers finally got to show that they were serious and could do more than sportswear, and two, according to Oscar de la Renta, “in Paris no one had ever seen a black model on a runway” until American designers cast them in the Divertissement.

The times ran the article because the Costume Institute is hosting a reunion this month of the models-of-color who catwalked American Designers to victory back in 1973.

Here are photos from the Times article of some of the women who participated in the famed event:

Bethann Hardison (at left with Daniela Morera and Stephen Burrows at Studio 54 in 1977).


Pat Cleveland (with Sterling St. Jacques in a 1977 show)


Billie Blair

And here are some more photos of models mentioned in the article:

Billie Blair



Alva Chinn


Bethann Hardison

photo by Bruce Weber


(with Iman)


Pat Cleveland


(with Halston)

With the general dearth of ethnic diversity in American fashion shows and magazines, you’d never know that American fashion was ushered into international legitimacy by these gorgeous women of color.  Thanks to the New York Times and the Costume Institute for educating those of us who weren’t around to know about it!




P.S. Special thanks to Brenda Lane Richardson for putting me on to the topic.


About Carrie Leilam Love

i love words, babies, and shoes better than everything.

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