Billie Blair

Billie Blair on the cover of Interview magazine, August 1974
Billie Blair on the cover of Interview magazine, August 1974. Image: Lipstick Alley.

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 in Donna Karan for Anne Klein, Virginia Slims advertisement, 1975
Billie Blair in Donna Karan for Anne Klein, Virginia Slims advertisement, 1975. Image: Stanford University.

Billie Blair can 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’:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Oscar de la Renta suit and blouse pattern - Vogue 1163
Vogue 1163 by Oscar de la Renta (1975) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

Stan Herman designed this casual hooded top, skirt, and pants. The illustration shows some American Hustle-worthy aviator shades:

Billie Blair modelling a 1970s Stan Herman pattern - Vogue 1169
Vogue 1169 by Stan Herman (1975) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

Here Blair wears a girlish, vintage-style ensemble by Nina Ricci, a cream-coloured dress with matching cape:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Nina Ricci cape and dress pattern - Vogue 1175
Vogue 1175 by Nina Ricci (1975) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

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:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Jean Patou loungewear pattern - Vogue 1344
Vogue 1344 by Jean Patou (1975) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

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”):

Designer evening wear Billie Blair Vogue Patterns November December 1975
Vogue Patterns, November/December 1975. Image: eBay.

Here she models a fabulous, evening-length Dior caftan with piped neckline:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Christian Dior caftan pattern - Vogue 1346
Vogue 1346 by Christian Dior (1975) Image: Etsy.

This Nina Ricci separates pattern includes a poncho with shirttail hem, convertible collar, and big patch pockets:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Nina Ricci pattern - Vogue 1376
Vogue 1376 by Nina Ricci (1976) Image: Betsy Vintage.

Blair is the model on this rare pattern by Sonia Rykiel, Vogue 1378—check out the matching coral sandals:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Sonia Rykiel pattern - Vogue 1378
Vogue 1378 by Sonia Rykiel (1976) Image: Etsy.

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:

Billie Blair, Renée King, Toukie Smith, Iman, Alva Chinn, and Dana Dixon in Vogue, December 1978
Billie Blair, Renée King, Toukie Smith, Iman, Alva Chinn, and Dana Dixon in Vogue, December 1978. Photo: Andrea Blanch.

Angeleen

Angeleen on the cover of Vogue UK, February 1974
Angeleen Gagliano on the cover of British Vogue, February 1974. Photo: Norman Parkinson. Image: Alice Mary Barnes.

Southern beauty queen and model Angeleen Gagliano (1950-2009) is a familiar face to vintage pattern aficionados. Born Angelina Marie Gagliano, she was also a keen equestrian—she is the model in Chris von Wangenheim’s circa 1975 series Untitled (Woman with horse). (It’s her horse. See prints at Christie’s and Staley-Wise Gallery.) Her son, Jason Storch, has posted a short bio here.

Angeleen Gagliano in Vogue 1315 by Bill Blass, Vogue Patterns retail catalogue, February 1976. Image: eBay.

Angeleen did a lot of work for Simplicity, McCall’s, and especially Vogue Patterns in the mid-1970s. Here she is on the cover of a Very Easy Vogue catalogue:

Vogue catalogue March 1976
Very Easy Vogue Patterns catalogue, March 1976. Image: eBay.

Angeleen can be seen on some of the earliest Vogue patterns from Sonia Rykiel, Chloé, and Calvin Klein:

1970s Sonia Rykiel pattern, Vogue 1379
Vogue 1379 by Sonia Rykiel (1976) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.
Vogue 1424 by Chloé
Vogue 1424 by Chloé (1976)
1970s Calvin Klein pattern, Vogue 1369
Vogue 1369 by Calvin Klein (1976) Image: Etsy.

Here she models Halston’s spiral-cut dress for McCall’s (see Dustin’s recent post on this pattern here):

1970s Halston pattern featuring Angeleen, McCall's 5103
McCall’s 5103 by Halston (1976) Image: Make Mine Vogue.

My personal favourite patterns featuring Angeleen are the ones for ’70s evening wear, like these designs from Balmain and Lanvin:

Vogue 1218 by Pierre Balmain
Vogue 1218 by Pierre Balmain (1975) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.
Vogue 1147 by Lanvin
Vogue 1147 by Lanvin (1975) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

See youthquaker’s blog and facebook for more photos of Angeleen from British Vogue. Thanks to Jason Storch for his assistance.