On 28 November 1973, the Palace of Versailles organised an exceptional reception, which took place at the Royal Opera.

How the reception unfolded

Originally designed by the Head Curator of the Musée National de Versailles, Gérald Van der Kemp, in order to raise funds for the restoration and refurbishment of the Palace, the reception was organised by baroness Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, in close partnership with the Head Curator, who was closely involved in its design. In France and the United States, the reception of 28 November 1973 was perceived as a “competition” between French and American fashion designers. It was funded by benefactors and profits were entirely donated towards the museum’s fund-raising campaign. The show at the Royal Opera, staged by Jean-Louis Barrault, combined fashion shows, dancing and singing.

The Head Curator of the Musée National de Versailles, Gérald Van der Kemp, with Princess Grace of Monaco, on the evening of 28 November 1973.

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Many artists performed on stage, such as Joséphine Baker, Danielle Darrieux, Zizi Jeanmaire, Line Renaud, Jean Sablon, Dalida, Liza Minelli or Jane Birkin. The show marked the history of fashion and haute couture: five French designers and five American designers presented their collections in turns. On the French side, designers included Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emmanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior (represented by Marc Bohan) and Hubert de Givenchy. On the American side: Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Bill Blass and Anne Klein.

End of the reception, 28 November 1973. In the centre, Liza Minelli after her performance on the stage of the Royal Opera of Versailles.

© Getty Images

Alongside French fashion designers, American designers were put in the spotlight, thanks to their creations, their performance and especially thanks to the presence of ten fashion models of colour: a first for the times. After the show, some 700 guests, including Princess Grace of Monaco, and 100 actors and models, had dinner in the State Apartments.

Fund raising for the Palace

The reception was funded by the donations of French and American committees. All the profit - €1.2 million French francs - was donated towards the restoration of the Palace of Versailles. Thanks to the collected funds, the museum was able to purchase a sculpted and gilded wooden piece of furniture commissioned by Louis XVI for the games room of Saint-Cloud, at the price of 62 million French francs.

Very few photographs of this event remain, although the reception raised a lot of funds for the restoration of the Palace of Versailles, almost forty years after the American philanthropist John D. Rockefeller made his donations.

Four American models posing in the Hall of Mirrors, on the evening of 28 November 1973.

© Getty Images


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