“Alright ladies, what’ll it be this year?” Lauren Bacall purrs at the opening of the documentary The Paris Collections: Fall Fashion Preview, unofficially known as Bacall and the Boys. Originally aired on CBS in 1968, the documentary gave Americans one of the first insights into the world of the Paris fashion collections, which were then a far cry from our now social media-saturated fashion weeks around the world. Highlighted in the documentary were designers Pierre Cardin and Marc Bohan, as well as Bacall’s own close friends Emanuel Ungaro and Yves Saint Laurent. The iconic actress, who would have celebrated her 96th birthday today, was a lifelong lover of fashion—beginning in her early 1940s modeling days when she posed for legendary magazine editor Diana Vreeland—and thereby a natural choice for the documentary.
Directed by the fashion illustrator Joe Eula, “Bacall and the Boys” was an hour-long special that aired in primetime. It begins with Bacall’s narration and scenes of Paris, purporting to show “the most important fashions for the coming season” from the four extraordinarily talented designers. It took viewers behind the scenes to meet Ungaro, Cardin, Saint Laurent, and Bohan up close—closer, in fact, than the average American viewer had ever been to high fashion at the time. She goes to a fitting, a fashion show, on a drive with Saint Laurent in the country, the top down on his convertible Rolls Royce, is seen dancing next to Cardin. “[Fashion] may seem frivolous—it isn’t,” Bacall says in the documentary. “It’s the basis for an billion industry in the U.S. alone. It provides a lot of jobs for a lot of people. And it’s the one thing that women really look forward to.”
Bacall modeled the designers’ pieces in the show as well, like a fuschia version of Cardin’s famed Cardine mini-dress with sculptural pyramid details, accessorized with shiny black elbow-length gloves and matching thigh-high go-go boots. Designed to be carried in a paper bag, Bacall demonstrated in the film how it was done. She also wears a Christian Dior gown of silk jersey blooming with ostrich feathers at the hem and the wrists by then Artistic Director Bohan. Many of these looks were later featured in The Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s 2015 exhibition Lauren Bacall: The Look. In fact, Bacall began donating pieces from her wardrobe to the museum in 1968, the same year the documentary aired, and by the time she had passed, the museum had a collection of some 700 pieces to draw from for the show. A 10-minute clip of Bacall and the Boys also played during the exhibition.
Today we remember Lauren Bacall for her onscreen as well as off-screen glamour. While Bacall became known for her sultry screen performances in the ‘40s, her career was still thriving nearly 25 years later when Bacall and the Boys came out. Her unique style, which she called “studied carelessness,” blossomed in the 1960s and 1970s as she mixed glamorous sequined dresses with practical overcoats, developed a penchant for pantsuits, and was often inspired by menswear. The look, Robin Givhan wrote upon Bacall’s death in 2014, was one of “adult sexiness,” not coquettish or doll-like, a style for which many stars of Bacall’s era had previously been known. And it was a look that later informed not just the work of Saint Laurent, but designers after him like Bill Blass and Donna Karan.
Bacall may have hosted the documentary in 1968, but her own style was timeless. “I think to keep going with a trend is a big mistake,” she said in 1995. “I think everyone has to find out what suits them, you know?”END
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createdAt:Fri, 13 Sep 2019 19:20:46 +0000