The Runway Battle of Versailles ’73: A Story That Needed to be Told

Just like everything else in the world, fashion has a history. A very elaborate history that is often told through stories passed from generation to generation, “he say, she say”, carrying the tradition of those old fables you learned as a kid. Only this time, the tortiose and the hare are substituted with real people trying to make their dreams come true, back stories of the lives of once struggling designers and models trying to make a name for themselves, all while doing everything in their power (on purpose, or not) to leave their mark in fashion. Even as we marvel at the stories we’ve heard over the years, and get even more giddy as we learn of new tales of old stories, we all know that all stories don’t get their chance in the limelight and that many times, they are the ones that deserve it the most. The events of what has been named Versailles ’73, is one of those stories, and it’s finally being told.

Versailles '73

Last evening I had the pleasure of being invited to a private screening of Versailles ’73, a documentary, directed by Riley Draper, about an event in fashion that was so monumental and life altering (for some), that someone….forgot to tell the story. Neither here nor there, the story of Versilles ’73 is now being told in a exciting and attention grabbing documentary, with intention to either make you feel like you were there, wish you were there, or say to yourself, “…and why did it take so long for them to tell this story?!”.  I asked myself all three of those questions, and with much purpose. To give you a brief synopsis without telling the whole story (I promise, no spoilers…although I want to soooooo badly!) Versailles ’73 tells of an EPIC–people usually use this word for non-epic moments, but this is one that’s deserving– fashion show that would put five well known French couturiers against five, then less globally recognized and respected, American fashion designers in an initial effort to raise money to repair the Palace of Versailles. I emphasize the word initial because although that was the primary purpose of the show, the end result of what happened that night would forever change fashion, the lives of the designers involved, and the models that served as muses that night; especially the African American models who came onto stage and dazzled the predominantly French audience like nothing they had ever seen before.

Versailles '73 on stage

Bethann Hardison and Daniela Morera with designer Stephen Burrows,  Versailles '73

Bethann Hardison and Daniela Morera with designer Stephen Burrows, Versailles ’73

Versailles ’73 is an electrifying account of the magic that took place in Paris on that November evening in 1973 , and only those involved could tell the story with such excitement, accuracy, and step-by-step detail, captivating the audience in such a way that it pulls you to the edge of your seat! Just talking about it has me excited again, and being able to hear the story told by those who were actually there that night makes it all the more thrilling. The model muses include Pat Cleveland, Bethann Hardison, China Machado and Carla Lemonte just to name a few, and the five designers that would ultimately prove American fashion were Anne Klein, Stephen Burrows, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, and Halston. These designers put ready -to-wear on ‘the map’, and took fashion in a new direction, away from the elaborate haute couture that only the noble and, well, rich could wear, and opened everyone’s eyes to a new way of dress, that was fit for all. If I go on, I will tell the whole story and you’ll be mad at me, so take a look at the trailer to get a piece of what Versailles ’73 was and is all about and why this story needed to be told. Thank me later after you see it!

This story needs to be told, heard, and appreciated. It will make you laugh hysterically, gasp in shock, and clap in glee as the story unfolds! I hope you all get to see this remarkable documentary, and that you share it with others.

There will be a public screening of Versailles ’73 tonight at 7:30pm ET at Temple University’s Center City campus, 1515 Market Street room 222 organized by the Philadelphia Collection. Mikki Taylor, Editor-at-large of ESSENCE Magazine and Author of Commander in Chic, and fashion Philanthropist and style maven Cameron Silver will also be doing a Q&A after the screening, so come out! It is open to the public and free of charge, hope to see you there!

ps, the models and some attendees of Versailles ’73 recently had a reunion, don’t they look FAB?!

Models of versailles 73 now

Models and attendees of Versailles ’73 in 2012, beautiful!

Visit Versailles ’73 for more info.


with style~ Sharontina B.


  1. Corleen October 22, 2012 / 12:05 AM

    Thanks for sharing! I love that you have some before and after pics from the models. I added the video to my Pinterest board of fashion videos.

    • Cherry April 26, 2017 / 5:18 AM

      Heck yeah baeby-e keep them coming!

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