I’m aware of at least one other blog that has covered this topic before me, but I just can’t resist adding it to mine!
A very curious coincidence occurs in the December 1959/January 1960 (U.S.) issue of the Vogue Pattern Book. It features a brief profile of the Haute Couture House of Jean Patou, with Karl Lagerfeld as the recently-appointed head designer, and also features the introduction of three patterns featuring designs from the House of Christian Dior, whose head designer at that time was Yves Saint Laurent.
Above: 1470, 1471 & 1472 from Christian Dior, designed by Yves Saint Laurent.
Above: 1461 & 1466, two of the three patterns from Jean Patou, designed by Karl Lagerfeld, as featured in the December 1959 – January 1960 issue of the Vogue Pattern Book. 1463, a pattern for a dress in two variations, is the third pattern for which I can not find any further information.
I’ve been a fan of Yves Saint Laurent since I first became interested in fashion design, and I have come to admire Karl Lagerfeld the more I have come to know of him and his work.
Now, as anyone who has read the book The Beautiful Fall (or Beautiful People for the French edition) by Alicia Drake will know, both Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent had quite similar career beginnings and aspirations, they both started their fashion careers at about the same time, and, as the book suggests, they had a long-running sense of competition and rivalry in their lives and in their careers. It truly is a fascinating book for anyone who is interested in the two designers, or in fashion, period.
According to The Beautiful Fall, in 1954, Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld were both studying at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in Paris, and this is where they first met, however they were not in the same class but became friends and were for some time after.
In the same year they both won prizes in the 1954 International Wool Secretariat fashion design competition, Lagerfeld won the coat category and Saint Laurent won first and third prizes in the dress category.
Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain were in the jury, and the previous year Christian Dior had been a judge. I believe that Saint Laurent’s winning design was made by the house of Givenchy, but Lagerfeld’s was most certainly made by the house of Pierre Balmain. Lagerfeld was subsequently offered a job at the house of Pierre Balmain and joined as an apprentice in 1955. After four years he left Balmain to take up the position of designer at Jean Patou in 1959.
Saint Laurent joined the house of Dior as an assistant in the studio of Christian Dior in June of 1955.
After the death of Christian Dior in 1957, the first collection solely designed by Saint Laurent was for Spring/Summer 1958 and was shown in January 1958. It became known as the ‘Trapèze’ collection, which was the name given to the silhouette that was chosen to be the fashion message of the season from the house of Dior.
The first three Christian Dior designs on offer from Vogue Patterns are from the Fall/Winter collection of 1959-60. The bubble/bloused ‘hobble’ skirt silhouette of the dress of 1470 was a recurring theme in that collection and there were many variations.
Saint Laurent’s sixth and final collection for Dior was the infamous so-called ‘Beat’ collection for Fall/Winter 1960-61 which was shown in July of 1960. The collection was badly received by the Dior management, and soon after they breached their contract with Saint Laurent and replaced him with Marc Bohan as head designer in October of 1960.
It is interesting to note that Marc Bohan was working for the house of Jean Patou as a designer when he was contacted by Christian Dior in 1957 with the offer of a job in the design studio, and that Lagerfeld went on to work as a designer at Patou two years later in 1959.
There’s a certain symmetry to Lagerfeld’s and Saint Laurent’s starting point in fashion, first meeting and studying at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in Paris, then their success with the 1954 International Wool Secretariat fashion design competition, and then working for Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain, who had themselves worked together at the house of Lucien Lelong at the beginning of the 1940s and at the beginning of their careers. So what a coincidence it is that we should find these two articles featuring the designs of both Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent in the same issue of the Vogue Pattern Book!
Above: As featured in the December 1959/January 1960 issue of the Vogue Pattern Book, are the Vogue patterns from Jean Patou: 1463 (left) and 1461 (right). Notice how 1463 has a horizontal band toward the hem which is quite similar to the Christian Dior design from 1470, minus the bubbled skirt. The model wearing 1461 on the right is holding the coat that is included in the pattern, in this case made from some kind of fur or faux fur.
Above: Two designs from the Christian Dior Fall/Winter collection of 1959-60 which also feature the bubble skirt silouette of Vogue patern 1470. The image on the left is of a dress gray wool flannel and is from the collection of the V&A museum in London. The image on the right is of a dress with matching jacket and contour belt of black silk faille and long scarf of black satin, as it appeared in the book Yves Saint Laurent, published by the Metropolitan Museum of art, new York, in 1983 as the catalogue of the exhibition of the same name held at the Met in 1983. The ensemble is also held in the collection of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
As a side note, before I purchased the U.S. issue of the Vogue Pattern Book for December 1959 – January 1960 on eBay, I had already purchased the U.K. issue and it did not include the Christian Dior feature or any reference to the Jean Patou pattern 1463, however it did still include the feature on the house of Jean Patou and the patterns 1461 and 1466. All I can assume is that there was a time difference or delay in the release of certain patterns from the U.S. to the U.K., or that it may have been a licensing issue.
The Beautiful Fall (ISBN-13: 9780747585466) or Beautiful People (ISBN-13: 9782070402595, in French);
Yves Saint Laurent, ISBN:
0500273782 (Thames And Hudson, softcover, as pictured above)
0870993607 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, hardcover)
0870993615 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, softcover)
0517553090 (Random House, hardcover)
All books may be purchased at abebooks.com or amazon.com.