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The Battle of Versailles, 1973
The Battle of Versailles, 1973via

Iconic 1970s fashion battle to be turned into film

Selma director Ava DuVernay is working on a film based on The Battle of Versailles – the legendary 1973 show which saw American and French designers wage war

HBO Films have snapped up Selma director Ava DuVernay to direct The Battle of Versailles, a film following the monumental fashion show-off at Versailles Palace in 1973. The film will be based on author and Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan’s 2015 book The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History.

Originally intended to fund the restoration of the crumbling French Palace, The Battle of Versailles was a pivotal, historic night marking the establishment of American designers in a French-dominated fashion industry. 

The show pitted five legendary French houses (Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin and Emanuel Ugaro) against five then lesser-known American designers, including Oscar de la Renta, Halston, Bill Blass, Anne Klein and Stephen Burrows.

More than 700 global guests were in attendance, including Andy Warhol and Princess Grace of Monaco, to watch the two continents compete in an 80-look show-off. Though the French were the favourites to win, the Americans stunned the audience with a raw energy. 

As well as being a pivotal moment for American fashion, it was a triumph for racial diversity in fashion. Not only was Burrows one of the first black fashion designers to hit the mainstream in America, but 11 out of the 36 models representing the country were African American – an unanticipated level of representation.

The Battle of Versailles comes with much anticipation under the direction and co-writing of American director and screenwriter DuVernay. Having garnered critical acclaim for her impassioned retelling of Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights in Selma, DuVernay is a fitting choice to portray the often debated white-washing of the fashion industry. 

It’s not the first film to be made about the show. 2012 saw the debut of Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution, a documentary on the event which featuring interviews with many who took part, from Stephen Burrows to models Pat Cleveland and Bethann Hardison. 

Watch the trailer for Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution below: