February 27, 2014 § 3 Comments
Born in Flint, Michigan, Billie Blair (b. 1946) worked as a model at the Detroit Auto Show before becoming one of the highest-paid fashion models of the 1970s. Moving to New York City, she got a job at Halston and soon found success as an editorial and runway model. Blair was among the African-American models at the historic 1973 fundraising event, Le Grand Divertissement à Versailles, known today as the Battle of Versailles. (The event was the subject of a recent documentary by Deborah Riley Draper, Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution [2012)].)
Billie Blair may be seen on a number of Vogue designer patterns from the mid-1970s. Here she wears a tweed skirt suit and pussy-bow blouse by Oscar de la Renta; this design was marked as ‘suitable for knits’:
Stan Herman designed this casual hooded top, skirt, and pants. The illustration shows some American Hustle-worthy aviator shades:
Here Blair wears a girlish, vintage-style ensemble by Nina Ricci, a cream-coloured dress with matching cape:
From Jean Patou, this maxi dress may date to the period when the young Jean Paul Gaultier was assistant designer. Blair brings out the glamour of this haute couture loungewear:
In Vogue Patterns‘ 1975 holiday issue, Jerry Hall wears the Patou dress while Blair models an off-the-shoulder party dress in an editorial devoted to evening sparkle (the headline reads, “Be a Star the Vogue Way”):
Here she models a fabulous, evening-length Dior caftan with piped neckline:
This Nina Ricci separates pattern includes a poncho with shirttail hem, convertible collar, and big patch pockets:
Blair is the model on this rare pattern by Sonia Rykiel, Vogue 1378—check out the matching coral sandals:
Billie Blair’s commanding presence and approach to modelling as performance don’t seem too unusual today. But she was unconventional for the time, and even felt the need to under-report her age when she first became famous. A 1974 profile of Blair in People magazine says she is 22 years old and remarks on her size 9 feet. (In a letter to the editor, a high school classmate wondered how Blair had stayed 22 when her peers were 28.) She continued modelling into her thirties—here she appears in a dynamic 1978 Vogue shoot by Andrea Blanch:
October 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
Speaking of aspirational marketing, I wanted to share this early ’60s, Mad Men-era ad for Singer’s Slant-O-Matic sewing machines and Singer Sewing Centers:
The ad shows a model (Dovima?) in full evening dress, complete with long gloves and glittering parure; she leans on a monumental Singer Slant-O-Matic sewing machine, a length of her gown’s green fabric rippling underneath.
According to the ad copy, zig-zag sewing is an exciting, time-saving innovation that helps you sew drapes, mend Johnny’s shirts, and choose complicated designer sewing patterns without a second thought. The eveningwear design is a Vogue Paris Original by Nina Ricci, Vogue 1499.
I love how the ad plays with scale while juxtaposing mid-century high glamour with the latest sewing technology. The other ads I’ve seen from this series promote formal sewing for the winter holidays, but this one is from the June/July Vogue Pattern Book.