The year 1973 put American fashion on the map. During the Grand Divertissement à Versailles fashion show, 11 black models helped five American designers—Halston, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Oscar de la Renta, and Stephen Burrows—gain world renowned fame as they modeled their fashions, all while demonstrating black is beautiful. It was a groundbreaking move that Deborah Riley Draper now plans to tell the story of in her new documentary, “Versailles ’73: An American Revolution.”
“I wanted to do something different–something positive. I wanted to tell a story about black women that wasn’t like ‘The Housewives Of Atlanta,’” Draper told HuffPost Black Voices.
That shouldn’t be too difficult considering the distinguished women who will be a part of the film: Pat Cleveland, Bethann Hardison, Billie Blair, Jennifer Brice, Alva Chinn, Norma Jean Darden, Charlene Dash, Barbara Jackson, China Machado, Ramona Saunders, and Amina Warsuma.
“The story is about more than just clothes. It’s about economics, race and politics as well. And the fashion aspect simply encompasses all of those things,” said Draper.
Draper, 44, admitted that she didn’t know about these women until she came across an ABC News segment and NPR piece. Initially embarrassed that she didn’t know the story, she decided that it would make an amazing documentary. The film will be her first feature-length project and it’s on track for an early march completion, just in time to be considered for the Cannes Film Festival. This is a film that’s definitely long overdue.
Did you know about the groundbreaking Versailles models? What do you think about Draper’s idea for a documentary?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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