You Should Be Watching: Versailles ’73

Over the years, Worn Through has featured numerous fashion related videos and documentaries.

The slew of new documentaries out this summer season reminded us of what a powerful tool video can be when teaching fashion and conducting costume research.

In a similar manner to Worn Through’s You Should Be Reading, we have decided to launch You Should Be Watching. You Should Be Watching will introduce and evaluate new documentaries and videos while also revisiting some past classics that deserve a second investigation. At times, the column will focus on a single film (like the post below). At other times, the column will review a group of related videos or movies.

We hope the content of the new posts will add to your arsenal of fashion resources.

Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution

Versailles ’73 covers a significant topic in American fashion history, which in the past has received little attention.

Image: Charles Tracy from Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced

Le Grand Divertissement à Versailles, better known as the Battle of Versailles, was organized to raise funds for the restoration of the Palace of Versailles. The event pitted five well-known French design houses (Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior, and Hubert de Givenchy) against five relatively new American fashion designers (Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Bill Blass, and Anne Klein).

The outcome of the 1973 fashion show established American designers and American sportswear as a powerful force on the global stage, challenging the staid dominance of French haute-couture. The success of the American designers, largely credited to the electrifying presentations by their African American models, ushered in a new era of fashionable beauty.

Image: KAPLAN/SIPA – Oscar de la Renta’s show at the Palace of Versailles

Writer-director Deborah Riley Draper’s upbeat retelling of the events leading up to the fashion show and the event itself, utilize excerpts of  interviews with models, designers, and socialites involved with the show in 1973.

At times, the firsthand accounts can veer towards gossip but they do succeed in providing lively and valuable insight. Commentary by individuals like the Costume Institute’s Harloda Koda and designer Stephen Burrows, add depth to the viewers’ understanding of the social importance of the fashionable event.

The engaging documentary is visually stimulating while elucidating the phenomenal influence that a small group of American sportswear designers and African American models had on the global fashion industry.

Further exploration into the ways in which the industry was altered after the Battle of Versailles would have rounded out the film.

Viewing options available on Itunes, Xbox, YouTube, and Amazon. Click here for more information.

Additional Resources:

SCAD Style 2013 Panel Discussion
Featuring Pat Cleveland, Deborah Riley Draper, Stephen Burrows, and Cameron Silver
Link to SCAD’s YouTube Video Post here.

Tavis Smiley’s interview with writer-director Deborah Riley Draper.
Link to Tavis Smiley video post here.

Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced catalog and exhibition.

In addition, we look forward to Robin Givhan’s 2014 book,  One Night at Versailles: The Fashion Showdown that Changed Everything.

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London Fashion Umbrella: Modern Cultural Curators on Film

Screen grab from Another Magazine film featuring Simon Costin

Screen grab from Another Magazine film featuring Simon Costin

While I was on my hiatus from Worn Through, much of my waking hours were spent working alongside Art Director and Set Designer Simon Costin. I have occasionally written posts related to experiences gained behind the scenes of fashion as Simon’s assistant, but not specifically about him or his work. Thankfully, Another Magazine has featured him in a quirky and informative film, the third in their series on Modern Cultural Curators.

The film by, Stefan Heinrichs, intersperses Simon’s own take on what he does and makes in the world along with peeks into his home and studio.  I spend quite a bit of time working within those walls, and share table space with his collection of macabre artifacts while working, so it was pretty thrilling to see a bit of my behind the scenes landscape in a film that captures some of its essence, but steals none of its magic!


Caught on Film: Mysteries of Vernacular – Tuxedo

From the TEDEducation Youtube channel, this video by Jessica Oreck reveals the unexpected origin of the term ‘tuxedo’:


Caught on Film: Preventing Garment Factory Fire

In this Youtube video clip produced by Democracy Now, Charlie Kernaghan from the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights discusses organizing labor unions as a way to prevent deadly garment factory disasters like the building collapse and fire on April 24 at Rana Plaza in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh.


Caught on Film: Conservation of an 8th Century Egyptian Tunic

In this video, a textile conservator from the V&A Museum shares her work on an 8th century Egyptian tunic. Enjoy!


Caught on Film: Easter Bonnets

Enjoy this 1950′s newsreel about Easter bonnet fashions!


Caught on Film: Jewelled Stockings

This 1955 clip from the British Pathe Fashion Archive demonstrates how to create jewelled stockings- enjoy!


Caught on Film: Laser Sintering

This Youtube video by MaterialiseGroup shows the flexible 3D-printing process of “Laser Sintering” used by designer Iris Van Herpen, in collaboration with the architect Julia Koerner and Materialise, to create a dress for her 2013 Haute Couture Collection ‘Voltage’. Enjoy!


Global Mode: Tsuke Yaeba

Tsuke yaeba, or snaggleteeth, are coveted enough in Japan that a girl group was formed around the aesthetic trend in April 2012, scouted in a dentistry office that specializes in creating the “fangs” or protruding canines. Some dental offices are even offering tween and preteen girls discounts on the procedures, which can cost more than $400.

Nana, Mio, and Rika of the “snaggletooth” girl group TYB48, 2012. One of their first singles was, “Mind if I Bite?”

Snaggleteeth are usually defined as crooked teeth, and in the case of yaeba refer alternatively to prominent canines or “fangs.” Kirsten Dunst has been extensively investigated by tabloids for her supposed snaggleteeth, although her dental anomalies are much less obvious than those of the TYB48 girls, for example.

The dental procedure undergone by so many Japanese women is not as dramatic as many media make it sound; it’s often just a cap that gives the appearance of crowded baby teeth, a common cause of snaggleteeth.

In Japan, women who have (or buy) yaeba are considered slightly homelier than women with straight teeth, which is a good thing: it makes them more approachable–and subsequently much less homely. Often seen as a flaw in the West, prominent canine teeth have become an attractive trait to some Japanese men. Yaeba are now often associated with cuteness, or kawaii, a well-documented visual trend and sexual preference in Japan and around the world. As with the girls of TYB48, tsuke yaeba are often accompanied by cute, childlike clothing, such as a schoolgirl uniforms.

Photo from Elite Nights’ Tumbler (, with the caption, “Doing yaeba right.” Photo: uncredited.

Many commentators harp on the relativity of beauty, the sacrifice (monetary and aesthetic) of these young women in their search for mates, and the sexualization of young girls. In a resounding and unsurprising lack of cultural relativism or understanding, websites like the UK Daily Mail Online offered headlines such as, “Japanese cosmetic trend for ‘sexy’ child-like look fuels demand for CROOKED teeth.”  Perhaps this is a response to the wealth of comments substituting one insensitivity for another and comparing Japanese yaeba converts with the British, often lambasted for their apparent dental imperfections.

Is the trend for tsuke yaeba troubling for its connections with sexualizing a child-like appearance? Or is it just another easy target? Is it a step forward (or at least away) from our global obsession with a perceived perfection? What other procedures do you know of that remove, alter, or denigrate a socially attractive feature of the body in order to make a person more approachable (see: Tyra Banks advising widening a gap tooth)? 

If it were a different part of the body, or more surgically invasive, would you feel differently? Where is the line of so-called “sacrifice” drawn? Does this belong on the spectrum of body modification, or can this be compared to our American/Western interest in plastic surgery? What is the difference?

Let us know what you think below!


Caught on Film: Collecting Turkmen Jewelry

In this Youtube video posted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf discuss their collection of Turkmen jewelry, on display at the Met until February 24: