Betty Brosmer, “the Most Gorgeous Body of 50s”

22 May

Betty Brosmer

Beauty queen of 1950s Betty Brosmer started her model career at the age of 13. The result was more than impressive – she has won over 50 beauty contests, has appeared on magazine covers more than 300 times, her image decorated more than a hundred calendars, billboards across the country, and she was the highest paid model. She was a forerunner of such stars as Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Her phenomenal measurements: 38-18-36 (in inches) and 96-45-91 in centimeters gave her the title “The most gorgeous body of 50s”.

It’s speculated that Betty achieved her tiny waist with a little help from the practise of corset training, also known as waist training, waist reduction or tightlacing, for moulding a pronounced and significantly smaller waist, altering the shape of the ribcage in extreme cases and moving internal organs out of their original positions.


Short Biography

Betty Brosmer

Betty Brosmer (born on August 2, 1935) lived her early childhood in Carmel but later, from about the age of ten, grew up in Los Angeles. Naturally small and slight of frame, she embarked on a personal bodybuilding and weight training regimen before she was a teenager. Raised as a sports fan by her father, she excelled in youth athletics and was “something of a tomboy”.

A photo of Betty appeared in the Sears & Roebuck catalog when she was 13 years old. The following year she visited New York City with her aunt and posed for pictures with a professional photographic studio; one of her photos was sold to Emerson Televisions for use in commercial advertising, and it became a widely-used promotional piece, printed in national magazines for several years thereafter.

Betty Brosmer

Betty Brosmer

Betty Brosmer

Betty Brosmer

Betty returned to Los Angeles and was soon asked to pose for two of the most celebrated pin-up artists of the era, Alberto Vargas and Earl Moran. Encouraged, her aunt took her back to New York City again in 1950, and this time they took up residency. Betty built her photographic portfolio while attending George Washington High School in Manhattan. Despite her age, over the next four years she found frequent work as a commercial model, and graced the covers of many of the ubiquitous postwar “pulps”: popular romance and crime magazines and books. As she explained, “When I was 15, I was made up to look like I was about 25”. Some of her most famous photo work during this period include glamour appearances in Picture Show, People Today, Photo and Modern Man. She was also employed as a fashion model, and in 1954 posed for Christian Dior.

Betty Brosmer

Once Betty was 16 years old, the most prestigious titles which could beauties in 50s get, like a magnet attracted to the California model, “Miss TV”, “Miss Jones Beach,” “Miss figure”, “Miss blue eyes”, and so on.

Betty was pursued by Playboy magazine for an exclusive pictorial, and a photo shoot was set up in Beverly Hills. The resulting picture set was rejected, however, after she declined to do any nude posing: “I wore sort of a half-bra or low demi-bra with nothing showing … and that’s what I thought they wanted.” Playboy threatened a lawsuit over the alleged breach of contract, but ultimately relinquished the case. The photos were eventually sold to Escapade magazine and published in its anthology issue Escapade’s Choicest. She never did any nude or semi-nude modeling throughout her long career: as she explained later in life, “I didn’t think it was immoral, but I just didn’t want to cause problems for others … I thought it would embarrass my future husband and my family”.

Betty Brosmer

She managed to win over 50 beauty contests! Her image appeared regularly in the magazine advertising, trade catalogs, on milk cartons and roadside billboards. One month, her photo was printed directly on the cover of the eight national magazines. She has managed to become the uncrowned queen of the world of magazine covers.

Betty became the first model, who had the rights on all her photos, got a percentage every time her photo was published. Marilyn Monroe became a commercial phenomenon after 1955. Since 1948, the standard of female beauty was Betty. She performed the title role in the development of pin-up, creating an image of a playful girl. Her long-term success prepared the launch of a new star – Marilyn Monroe.

Joe WeiderJoe Weider would become Betty's husband in 1961

April 24, 1961 26-year-old Betty marries a famous bodybuilder, entrepreneur and co-founder of the International Association of bodybuilding, the creator of the Mr. and Ms. Olympia, Joe Weider and she takes her husband’s surname.

They lived together for a lifetime, and wrote many books on bodybuilding and fitness, in 1981 Betty and Joe co-wrote the “Book of Weider bodybuilding for women”, it’s still a leading speaker on these topics.

They say she suggested her husband to look at the Austrian champion – Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thanks to her, “The Terminator” was settled in neighboring cottage of Weider. This was her who pushed him to the movie screen.

Betty Brosmer with Arnold SchwarzeneggerBetty Weider (Brosmer) with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Betty developed her talent to business: in the 70s she jointly actively engaged in trading real estate. Power Exerciser huge sales were due to the fact that a new product was advertised by the couple “Arnold Schwarzenegger – Betty Weider”.

Joe Weider died in 2013, and Betty is now alone, and she still looks perfectly. Years passed her. She remains a star, immersed in the arms of the most muscular men of the planet.

Betty Brosmer

official website:


Betty Brosmer


A story about an even tinier waist:




C.Z. Guest, one of America’s Classic Beauties & first Fashion Icon Award winner

15 May
C.Z. GuestWearing oatmeal tweed Mainbocher, ph. Irving Penn 1952

A muse to artists like Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali, C.Z. Guest was one of the first true fashion icons. The socialite who also became a fashion designer later in life was the first among the select list of CFDA Fashion Icon Award winners. Named in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1959.

C.Z Guest

Short Biography

Lucy Douglas “C. Z.” Guest  (born Cochrane) was an American stage actress, author, columnist, horsewoman, fashion designer, and socialite who achieved a degree of fame as a fashion icon. She was frequently seen wearing elegant designs by famous designers like Mainbocher. Her unfussy, clean-cut style was seen as typically American.

She was born on February 19, 1920 in Boston. Her brother called her “Sissy” and she transformed that into “C.Z.” Mrs. Guest’s father died when she was 6. She was educated by tutors and later graduated from the Fermata School in Aiken, S.C. She made her debut in 1937, and was voted the glamour girl of the Massachusetts North Shore in a contest held in 1939, which prompted a brief fling as a showgirl. She appeared in a 1943 revue on the roof of the Ritz-Carlton in Boston and in a revival of the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway in 1944. She spent six months in Hollywood attending 20th Century Fox’s studio school but never appeared in a film.

In Mainbocher's La Galerie floral dress and jacket and double-strand pearls, 1950Mainbocher's La Galerie floral dress and jacket, 1950

”My ambition was to be a successful enough actress to get myself thrown out of the Social Register,” she once said. ”I had no talent at all but I enjoyed every minute of my experience.” It was also during this period that she took off for Mexico, where Diego Rivera painted her as a nude odalisque. When she became engaged to Mr. Guest, her portrait, which had reportedly been displayed in a Mexico City bar, was bought by her fiancé’s family.

Mrs. Guest’s interest in horticulture began when she was a child following the family gardener around her parents’ estate on the North Shore of Boston. Embarking on a writing career relatively late in life, she was the author of books on gardening and a children’s book, ”Tiny Green Thumbs.” She also wrote a syndicated weekly column that appeared in 350 newspapers across the nation.

Capote, Diana Vreeland & C.Z. Guest (1968).C.Z.Guest, Truman Capote & Diana Vreelend

Mrs. Guest began her writing career while recovering from a horseback riding accident in 1976. While she was convalescing, frequent telephone calls from friends about their gardening problems prompted her first book, ”First Garden,” which was illustrated by her ”very dear friend” Cecil Beaton and which had an introduction by another ”dear, dear friend,” Truman Capote.

C.Z.Guest by Cecil beaotnPortret by Cecil Beaton

Beaton and Capote were only two in a legion of celebrities and jet-setters who surrounded Mrs. Guest throughout her vivid life. When she was married in 1947 to Winston Frederick Churchill Guest, an international polo star, heir to the Phipps steel fortune and a second cousin of Winston Churchill, the ceremony was held at the home of Ernest Hemingway in Cuba, with Hemingway serving as best man.

Until Mr. Guest’s death in 1982, the couple was prominent in international social circles, hunting in India with the Maharaja of Jaipur and frequently entertaining the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who subsequently became godparents of their children, Cornelia and Alexander.

C.Z. Guest and the Duchess of WindsorWith the Duchess of Windsor

 C. Z. Guest was considered one of America’s classic beauties. The writer Jill Gerston once described her this way: ”With her pale skin, blue eyes, ash-blond hair and trim figure, she is cut from the same cool, silky cloth as Grace Kelly. It is a patrician beauty that is indigenous to socially registered enclaves like Palm Beach and Southampton, a sporty, outdoorsy look that eschews makeup, hairspray and anything trendy. She has an outspoken, coolly self-assured manner and a throaty, well-modulated voice with a trace of a British accent.”

In 1962, Time magazine did a lengthy article on American society and apotheosized Mrs. Guest on its cover as the model of horsy high society. She posed in front of her Long Island estate wearing a button-down shirt and tie and jodhpurs, a sleek hound at her side, the personification of old-guard chic. Truman Capote once described Mrs. Guest as the incarnation of understated elegance and said she was ”a cool vanilla lady.” John Fairchild, then publisher of Women’s Wear Daily, described her as ”Southampton, Long Island American, Ivy League blond.” British Vogue said she had ”the face of a flower.”

C.Z Guest in cover Time magazine

Often adorned by Mainbocher, Givenchy and Adolfo Dominguez., she was chosen by the New York Dress Institute as one of the best-dressed women in the world early in the 1950’s and remained on the list for years until her elevation to the Fashion Hall of Fame.

On of the Best Dressed Women in early 1950’s

C.Z. Guest


C.Z. Guest, photo by Peter Stackpole, October 1947



C.Z. Guest

C.Z. Guest photographed by Cecil Beaton for Vogue

C.Z. Guest

Mrs. Guest was also the designer of a small fashion collection introduced in 1985 and at the time made up principally of cashmere sweaters. ”I will only sell what I like to wear,” she said after her sweaters had been displayed flung casually around the shoulders of models at the semiannual show of the designer Adolfo Dominguez. A limited sportswear line was licensed in 1986 and in 1990 she came out with a fragrant insect repellent spray and other garden products.

Mrs. Guest died on November 8, 2003

C.Z. Guestph. Bruce Weber.


‘I’ve always felt that having a garden is like having a good and loyal friend,” C.Z. Guest once said.

Salvador Dalí - Portrait of C. Z. Guest, 1958Salvador Dalí - Portrait of C. Z. Guest, 1958




The Apple Boutique, only lasted eight Months

8 May

The Apple StoreApple Shop just before opening


The Apple shop was a retail store located in a building on the corner of Baker Street and Paddington Street, Marylebone, London. It opened on 7 December 1967 and closed on 30 July 1968. The shop was one of the first business ventures by The Beatles’ newcomer Apple Corps.

The concept of the shop was that everything in it was for sale. The aim, as described by Paul McCartney, was to create “a beautiful place where beautiful people can buy beautiful things”. In practice, the stock was overwhelmingly fashion garments and accessories. John Lennon vetoed the use of the word “boutique”, but the venture has come to be popularly called the “Apple Boutique“.

The Apple Boutique windowApple Boutique window


The launch party on 5 December 1967 was attended by John Lennon and George Harrison with their wives, as well as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Cilla Black and Kenneth Tynan, who were sipping apple juice as the shop had no alcohol licence.7th December 1967 Jenny Boyd, sister in-law of Beatle George HarrisonJenny Boyd, sister in-law of Beatle George Harrison


Lennon’s friend Peter Shotton managed the store with Pattie Boyd’s sister Jenny Boyd. The Apple shop was a financial disaster. Theft was endemic. Customers helped themselves to the stock, as did staff members, who had difficulty determining which things people had come in with and which they had picked up in the shop. The ethos of the venture and those operating it was antipathetic to making accusations of shop-lifting or of calling for the police. The Fool’s members also made a habit of taking their choice of the merchandise.


The Mural

dbc8df8689ab47765619b90ca69b9981The Fool 


During the 60’s three Dutch designers, Mr. Simon Posthuma, Ms. Josje Leeger, and Ms. Marijke Koger had an initially successful fashion boutique called the Trend in Amsterdam. It was closed due to financial problems. Simon and Marijke wandered around Europe before moving to London where they met Simon Hayes and Barry Finch. Hayes became the business manager while Finch joined the 3 Dutch designers who became known as “The Fool.” Pattie Harrison was familiar with them and even wore some of their designs. How it all started is not clear, but in September 1967 the Beatles gave The Fool 100,000 pounds to design and stock the first outlet of a planned national chain of “Apple” shops. 

Barry Finch employed art students to paint a psychedelic style mural, designed by The Fool, across the building’s facades between 10 and 12 November 1967. The concept was borrowed from the painting of the facades of the Lord John shop in Carnaby Street, albeit executed to a figurative design with greater density and color.

Lord John shopLord John shopThe fool outside the Apple Boutique.The Fool outside the Apple Boutique The Beatles' Apple Boutique (after The Fool's psychedelic murals were painted overThe Apple Boutique after The Fool’s psychedelic murals were painted over


Westminster City Council had not, however, granted consent for the mural, which could be construed as an advertisement, nor had a licence to do this been sought from the landlord, the Portman Estate. Complaints from local traders resulted in the Council issuing Apple with an enforcement notice to paint over the façade mural. In addition, the Portman Estate were prevailed upon[by whom?] to enforce the terms of the lease.

Apple Boutique Fashion, designed by The Fool

Apple Boutique Fashion

Apple Boutique Fashion

Designed by The Fool, 1960s.

Between 15 and 18 May 1968 the façades were duly painted white with the word “Apple” in cursive script painted on each fascia. This transformation and shift in style from the florid “psychedelia” of the original mural, already anachronistic by the end of 1967, to the minimalism of the “approved” scheme prefigures the contrast in record cover design between that of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band released in June 1967 and that of The Beatles to be released in November 1968.

Inside the Apple Boutique

Apple Boutique

Interior of Apple Boutique, 94 Baker Street, London. Photograph by Peter Mitchell, 1967.

In an interview conducted for The Beatles’ Anthology, George Harrison said of the artwork: “If they’d protected it and the painted wall was there now, they would be saying, ‘Wow, look at this. We’ve got to stop it chipping off.’ But that’s just typical of the narrow minds we were trying to fight against. That’s what the whole Sixties Flower-Power thing was about: ‘Go away, you bunch of boring people.’ The whole government, the police, the public — everybody was so boring, and then suddenly people realized they could have fun. Once we were told we had to get rid of the painting, the whole thing started to lose its appeal”.


The Failure and Closing

The retail business lost money at an alarming rate, due to (among others) the shop-lifting, eventually running to £200 000 and the shop was closed on 30 July 1968.

Jenny Boyd (bottom) with Beatle wives Pattie Harrison, Cynthia Lennon and Maureen Starr modelling Apple boutique designs, 1968Jenny Boyd (bottom) with Beatle wives Pattie Harrison, Cynthia Lennon and Maureen Starr modelling Apple boutique designs, 1968


The night before the closing The Beatles, their wives and girlfriends came to take what they wanted. The next morning it was announced that all the remaining stock was to be given away on the basis of one item per person. In his interview on The Beatles’ Anthology george Harrison describes the event: “We ended up giving the contents away. We put an ad in the paper and we filmed people coming in and grabbing everything”. Word spread quickly and the shop was empty within hours. The public, numbering in the hundreds nearly rioted trying to get their share and the police attended.

e328be65134e124098950553becb746aOne item per person were given away



Marijke Koger & Simon Posthuma 
Jackie magazine
1970Marijke Koger & Simon Posthuma 
Jackie magazine, 




Tao Kurihara, closed her Signature Label after Seven Years

1 May
Tao Kurihara

It’s already 5 years ago, Tao Kurihara’s label, simply named Tao, ceased to exist. Under the umbrella of her mentor and Comme Des Garçons founder, Rei Kawakubo, Tao showed from a/w 2005 untill s/s 2011.

It all started with an elaborate re-working of the corset; only in Kurihara’s hands this was cable-knitted and came with a ruffled and also knitted lace trim and predominantly in less than overtly feminine school-uniform grey. Witty and pretty in the extreme, it quickly came to the attention of the more discerning fashion follower who, while she might not have been quite ready to buy into this aesthetic in bulk – it was as prohibitively expensive as it was extreme – would be more than happy to see and read about it. This she could do in the pages of W magazine which, for a debut collection, is elevated coverage indeed.

TaoPage in W magazineTao 2005

The famously media-shy Kawakubo, meanwhile, admired Kurihara’s work enough to make an exception to her rule of silence and comment in that magazine thus: “The Japanese don’t have the habit of praising their own family, but I thought the collection was good because it has a concept and youthfulness.”

Next came a collection based entirely on handkerchiefs – predominantly found, vintage Swiss handkerchiefs – and trench coats. “I was attracted to the strong, cool, definite form of trench coats,” Kurihara explained of that season’s offering. “But I wanted to make something very different from traditional, water-resistant and functional trenches. So I chose to work with something fragile and familiar: handkerchiefs.”

handkerchief trenchcoat

spring '06

Kurihara re-worked old-fashioned bedcovers too, into exquisite, rainbow-coloured stoles and, more spectacularly still, turned her attention to the wedding dress, playing off the overblown and ornamental genre with nothing more overtly feminine or obviously decorative than a classic man’s white shirt. “I thought the idea of a man’s shirt meeting a white dress was a beautiful one,” she told at the time. “It’s because it is worn only once. Some people get married a few times but they don’t, I would imagine, wear the same outfit or go on to wear their wedding dress again as part of their daily outfit.”ss 2007

summer '07

For this reason, she continued, at least some of the designs in the collection were crafted in plain white paper, only pleated and folded in a manner that might upstage even the most overblown meringue. “That makes sense to me,” Kurihara said. “Paper is so fragile and not appropriate for over-use. I thought a paper wedding dress would be more special than one that was crafted out of a more traditional and typically extravagant material.

spring '07White silk knit short-sleeve polo shirt, white craft paper skirt from -A shirt and a wedding dress-

“I think the best way to express myself is to do a small but concentrated and very condensed collection,” was how the designer explained any self-imposed limitations as far as theme was concerned. “I believe that when one sets such limitations some kind of strength occurs.”

From thereon in, Kurihara based her shows on everything from 1980s gym-wear – striped, in hot pink and edged with small but perfectly-formed crushed frills – to the twisting and knotting of great swathes of fabric and the type of uniform the most  toy soldier might like to wear. While her work was clearly indebted to Comme des Garçons in particular and to the Japanese school of design more generally – and with that a belief that experimentation, as far as both fabric, cut and proportion are concerned, was of prime importance, her aesthetic has always also been gently feminine and as playful and light-hearted as it is clever.

What she did share with both Kawakubo and Watanabe is an uncompromising disregard for anything as obvious as a passing trend or even anything even remotely people-pleasing.

Tao fall 2006fall 2006

fall 06Tao spring 2008spring '08

spring '08Tao fall 2008fall '08

fall '08Tao spring 2009spring '09

In fact – and in this she differs from her Comme des Garçons stablemates – Kurihara studied fashion in London at Central Saint Martin’s “a few classes behind Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo. I couldn’t find any Japanese universities and colleges where I could investigate my interests more deeply. I don’t deny that my national identity is reflected in my work. I think I’m influenced by where I grew up and especially by my experience at Comme des Garçons. However, I don’t think my way of working would change if I was another nationality. My standpoint would still be the same. Nationality is pure chance”.

Since graduation – and based once more back in Tokyo – her career path has, as she has always said, been entirely indebted to Comme des Garçons. After graduating, she worked as assistant to Junya Watanabe and, as well as designing her own collection, in 2002, took over from him (Watanabe) at the more accessible Comme des Garçons Tricot line alongside. She has been, she argues, “very lucky to work in an environment with 100 per cent free spirit”.

Tao fall 2009Tao Comme Des Garçons

fall '09

fall '09

fall '09 Tao fall 2010fall '10

fall '10Tao spring 2010spring '10

spring '10

spring '10Last Tao collection, spring 2011spring 2011

spring '11

spring 2011

spring 2011.j

Of her decision to stop work on her signature line in 2011, she says now that she was looking for “a change of my lifestyle – marriage could have been a trigger.”

Kurihara is, of course, not the first or last talented designer to make such a move and, although her presence in Paris is missed, she still continues to design Tricot, which is available in Dover Street Market in and enjoys a high profile in Japan. “My intention is to create the kind of everyday clothing that is new and exciting for this label.

Tricot Comme Des Garçons 

tricot CDG

tricot CDG

iiiinspired _ special story Tricot Comme des Garcons, so-en, feb 2011, ph Osamu Yokonami _013

iiiinspired _ special story Tricot Comme des Garcons, so-en, feb 2011, ph Osamu Yokonami _ 017

tricot CDG '13 '14


info: &



Caftan, moves with the Air and with the Body

24 Apr
Caftan Emilio Pucci, ph. Bob Krieger 1970Emilio Pucci caftan, ph. Bob Krieger 1970 


Where exactly did these divine garments come from? They’re believed to have roots in ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, a region that includes parts of present-day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Pretty much as soon as the first piece of textile was woven, someone thought to put a hole in it, pull it over their heads, and cinch it with a length of rope around the waist. They were worn by men and women—in some cultures, exclusively by men. More advanced caftans had real sleeves, and some opened in the front, like a coat or robe, worn with and without a belt.

The structure of a caftan is really just loose fabric, attached to the shoulders with holes for the arms and the head. It’s the kind of garment that has been worn throughout history by lots of different cultures. The idea of taking loose fabric and covering the body is prevalent throughout the world. But the ones that we know now as fashionable caftans have their most immediate root in the 1960s, when designers were starting to look toward more exotic locations like Morocco and Turkey, places where these traditional loose, flowing garments were worn for centuries because of the warm climates. It’s such a breathable, comfortable garment in the heat.

Caftan in the 1960sVogue US November 1967 Marisa Berenson is wearing a golden silk caftan by Tina Leser Photo Henry ClarkeMarisa Berenson, Ph. Henry Clarke for Vogue US, 1967.Actress Rachel Welch wearing a Creation of Valentino ph. by Franco Rubartelli for Italian Vogue,in 1969.Rachel Welch wearing Valentino, ph. Franco Rubartelli, Italian Vogue 1969Harper's Bazaar - 1969Harper’s Bazaar, 1969
Balmain, 1969Pierre Balmain, 1969
vintage pineapple print maxi Gian Paolo Barbieri 1969 Vogue ItaliaPh. Paolo Barbieri for Vogue Italia 1969

The caftan-like garments that popped up throughout civilization had their own regional styles and names. The Japanese developed flowing robes known as “kimonos,” while the Chinese started wearing big-sleeved robes called “hanfus.” The West African “boubou,” also known as a Senegalese kaftan, is a wide-sleeved robe similar to a hanfu. In other regions, the caftan took the form of a slimmer-fitting long jacket that buttoned in the front like the Indian “sherwani” or the Persian “khalat.”

Several cultures used the word “caftan” to describe their traditional dress. In North Africa around Morocco and Algeria, caftans also called “djellaba” are long outer robes with hoods. Morocco also has a woman’s caftan known as a “takchita,” which has two layers, a pullover dress made of unadorned fine fabric and then a matching overcoat that buttons up the front and is embellished with embroidery, beads, or sequins. The takchita is worn with a matching belt under the bust.

Caftan in the 1970sCaftan

Vogue 1970s ethnic caftan dresses.

1970- UNISEX CAFTANS by Rudy GernreichUnisex caftans by Rudy Gernreich, 1970 1970s caftanPh. Anthony Barboza, 1970s 

The Ottoman Empire, ruled by the Oghuz Turks, ruled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, the Caucasus, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa during the 12th and 13th centuries. The all-male Ottoman sultans, as well as male dignitaries and generals, wore caftans. These caftans were more like coats that buttoned in the front and flared at the hips, and their rich colors, bold patterns, and accoutrements like buttons and ribbons all indicated the wearer’s status. They were given as gifts of honor to court guests. The Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul has an impressively preserved collection of ancient sultan caftans.

When the Western World started to appropriate caftans in the 20th century, the idea was pilfered from all over the map. Caftan fashion in the West was borne out of a romantic obsession with the idea of the exotic otherness.

Elizabeth TaylorElisabeth Taylor

Elisabeth Taylor

The appropriation started with Russia, after Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Alix of Hesse married Czar Nicholas II, which made her Czarina Alexandra. In the late 1890s, Alexandra was an aspirational royal style icon. The czarina rocked the Western European fashion world when she appeared in a long, straight, and heavily embellished traditional coronation dress from Russia’s past. (Historically, Russian caftans look quite similar to those worn by Ottoman sultans.) Radically different from the waist-cinching corset and curve-hugging dress that was so fashionable in England, the robe completely obscured her figure. She looked delightfully striking and strange to Western eyes.

She definitely sparked an interest in a looser silhouette. She is one of the first examples of a woman who was also seen in fashionable Western dress wearing something so exotic. Her coronation gown influenced fashion, even if it wasn’t necessarily the same types of fabric or the same exact silhouette. But after that, socialites and designers were drawn to the idea of looser clothes with more volume and less constriction.

Designer caftans in ’60 & ’70

Zandra RhodesZandra Rhodescaftans7_designer_bustown_missoniMissoniEvening dress Hanae Mori 1975Hanae Mori , JapanEvening dress, circa 1974. Silk chiffon. Hanae Mori, JapanHanae Mori, Japanrudi GernreichRudi GernreichEvening dress Madame Grès (Alix Barton) (French, Paris 1903–1993 Var region) 1960–79Madame Gres

While the allure of unknown cultures like Russia and Persia was one factor that brought caftans to the West, another important influence was innovative fashions by turn-of-the-century designers who rejected the confinement of Edwardian S-shape corsets. Groundbreaking French fashion designer Paul Poiret was one such influencer—even as a teenager in 1896, he wanted to get women into robes. Which is not to say that all women blindly followed his lead. For example, 80-year-old Russian princess Leonilla Bariatinskaya wasn’t about to trade her corset for an ancient-style dress the way the young queen did. When teenage Poiret presented her with a hanfu cut with kimono-style sleeves, she exclaimed, “What a horror! When there are low fellows who run after our sledges and annoy us, we have their heads cut off, and we put them in sacks just like that.”

christian DiorChristian Dior Caftan dress

Dior is credited with showing the first modern caftan, as a coat over a dress, on a haute couture runway in the 1950s. By 1954, Dior had jettisoned the hourglass silhouette of his New Look for a flat H-line shape recalling the Jazz Age. In 1955, he added Yves Saint Laurent, a 19-year-old French designer from Algeria, to his team, and the house introduced the triangular A-line silhouette and the wide-shouldered, slim-skirted Y-line shape. After Dior died in 1957, Saint Laurent took over his fashion house, and introduced the “trapeze dress”—a short, waistless dress, also with an A-line silhouette.

In the early ’60s, “Vogue” editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland discovered caftans on a trip to Morocco, and began to wear them around the office and champion them in her writing, calling them “the most becoming fashion ever invented.” In 1964, Elizabeth Taylor met young fashion designer Vicky Tiel, who was wearing a white lace mini caftan, and decided she absolutely must have one. Soon, Taylor made African mini caftans in colorful batik her signature look, which was copied by women all over the world. Around the same time, Thea Porter had so much success selling Middle Eastern wares and antique caftans at her London shop, she started designing caftans herself, which are very collectible these days.

Thea Porter caftansThea Porter caftan 2

Thea Porter Caftan 3

Thea Porter Caftan

By 1967, Vreeland’s Vogue was overflowing with caftans. She insisted that caftans were “fashionable for the beautiful people.” That same year, the Beatles wore Indian sherwanis when they visited guru Maharishi Mahesh in India, and this had a huge impact on bohemian fashion in America, particularly the hippies participating in the Summer of Love.

Diana Vreeland really embraced jet travel and the jet set. During her years at Vogue, she sent models and photographers off to all these exotic locations to shoot them in caftans. The world was just opening up to people in terms of visuals, thanks to the photographs that were appearing in the pages of Vogue.

Diana Vreeland Diana Vreeland , caftan

Diana Vreeland

Vreeland just loved caftans. When it comes down to it, the caftan is just an unstructured, uncut length of fabric. You have all that color, all that pattern, and Vreeland loved the bright patterns and great colors of the ’60s fabrics. She was all about making a big statement. What Balenciaga was doing with gazar had a really sturdy structure to it, and a lot of the Russian traditional garments have a heavier hand, or feel, to them. But the caftans that models were wearing in Vogue in the ’60s were about diaphanous, flowing material.

Yves Saint Laurent and his life partner, Pierre Bergé, who launched the Saint Laurent fashion house with him in 1961, visited Marrakesh, Morocco, in 1968, and became enamored with the colors, textiles, and sensuality of Moroccan culture. Saint Laurent fashioned caftans for his fabulous pals like actress and socialite Talitha Getty, her playboy husband, John Paul Getty, Jr., and supermodel Marisa Berenson. In January 1969, the Gettys were photographed by Patrick Lichfield wearing caftans on a Marrakech rooftop, which became an iconic image that defined what’s known as hippie or boho chic.

Marrakech Yves Saint LaurentYves Saint Laurent in MarrakechRetro Marrakech, 70's fashion shootTalitha Getty & husband John Paul Getty Jr., ph. Patrick Lichfield

Oscar de la Renta started created caftans as “hostess” dresses for his clients. Pucci, Pierre Cardin, and Valentino all debuted out their own versions of the caftan on the runway. Each designer made the caftan his or her own with the type of  fabric, color palette, and embellishments used.

Celebrities like Jackie Kennedy, Bianca Jagger, Anjelica Huston, Brigitte Bardot, and Diahann Carroll were photographed in designer caftans. Grace Kelly, who became the Princess of Monaco in 1956, naturally, appeared sporting a caftan. 
Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco wearing a creation by Grès and photographed by Richard Avedon for Italian Vogue.Grace Kelly wearing madame Grès, ph. Richard Avedon, Italian Vogue
Grace Kelly was the most beautiful and chic woman. Here she's taking photos at a 1972Grace Kelly wearing a Emilio Pucci caftan, 1972

Over the years, Elizabeth Taylor amassed a huge collection of designer caftans by Emanuel and Thea Porter, and she even wore a tie-dyed Gina Frantini caftan for her second wedding to Richard Burton in 1975. In the 1970s, Halston designed tie-dyed and silk chiffon caftans explicitly for nights on New York’s club scene. Halston was the person who clothed the jet set of that time, and especially the Dancing Queens who loved their disco. It was the height of fashion to have something that you could dance in that really showed off your motion by moving with you.

While caftans were for the young and sexy in the disco world, as soon as disco became passé, caftans, along with muumuus, were regaled to batty old ladies, the kind who stayed at home smoking and drinking cocktails. Instead, young starlets in the 1980s adopted form-fitting Spandex and big, angular shoulder pads.

Halston Painted Caftan, 1972,Halston tie-dyed and silk chiffon caftan, 1972

Finally, the caftan is making a triumphant return. For its whole spring/summer 2011 collection, Missoni returned to the multi-cultural looks of the 1970s, with fluid smocks, tunics, caftans, and kimonos and colors and patterns that took cues from Bakst’s designs for Ballets Russes. Emilio Pucci returned to caftans as well, always a fantastic way to showcase his signature fabrics.

More recently, designers like Naeem Khan, Stella McCartney, Alberta Ferreti, Reem Acra, Gucci, and Roberto Cavalli have gotten on the caftan bandwagon. In 2013, Hedi Slimane showed caftans for Saint Laurent.

Caftans by contemporary designers
Saint Laurent 2015
Saint Laurent by Hedi SlimaneEtro Spring 2013 RTW CollectionEtro spring 2013Etro-Spring-2013-RTW-Collection40Etro spring 2013Sophie Theallet Spring 2016Sophie Theallet 2016Paul Smith 2013Paul Smith 2013Jean Paul Gaultier 2013Jean Paul Gaultier 2013Dries Van Noten Fall 2004Dries Van Noten Fall 2004




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