Dresses and decor from Paris

French fashion designers show ball gowns, historic homes

In an age when comparatively few people can even house a ball gown, the leading couturiers of Paris live in surroundings which make their most opulent creations look like the natural way to dress.

Some of the extravagantly beautiful ball gowns from their current collections are shown here, photographed in the rich setting of the designers’ homes. Ranging in size from two-room apartments to a 40-room chateau, the couturiers’ homes are splendid in color and detail, filled with fine paintings, historic pieces and sentimental trinkets.

The decor is often reflected in the clothes — Dior’s monotone sunroom in his pale ball gown, the color of Fath’s upholstery in his blue gown. Schiaparelli’s strong pink in her rug, lamp and candles, as well as in her dress. Made of luxurious fabrics in traditional strapless styles or with shoulders newly covered for evening, the gowns cost upwards of a thousand dollars.

Schiaparelli, Fath and Dessizs are the most noted party-givers among these designers, but all of them regularly draw guests to their salons who are as elegantly clad as the international beauties on these pages.

French fashion designers show ball gowns, historic homes


White satin ball gown with velvet ribbon

Fath’s ball gowns lean to pale polished satin, with shoulders covered and the skirt’s fullness drawn to the back in a modified bustle. On the marble checkerboard floor of the foyer at Corbeville, Irish beauty Anne Cunning wears a white satin gown with velvet ribbon outlining bosom. Commode behind her once belonged to Louis XIV, bears his coat of arms.

White satin ball gown with velvet ribbon


Fath lives in a landmark

Most imposing couturier home is Jacques Fath’s 40-room chateau of Corbeville, 36 miles from Paris, which was built in 16th Century by Charles IX’s banker. Royal hunting parties rollicked there in its early heyday, and 200 years later Andre Lenfitre, the landscape architect for Versailles and the Tuileries laid out its gardens and 145-acre park.

But Corbeville slowly fell apart, and when Fath bought it, there were cracks in walls and rubbish in the moat. Fath restored it in 18th Century French style. has also installed seven 2oth Century bathrooms and a swimming pool.

The belles of the ball gowns strut their stuff in vintage French designer dresses (1953)

Fath’s even simpler design above, adorned only by darker gloves and colored earrings, is worn by Jane Sprague, an American who has lived abroad for six years. Original paneling in salon is 16th Century and the room is decorated in a favorite Fath color, blue.


Paris designer: Pierre Balmain

In Balmain’s Paris apartment, in front of a wall covered with 19th-century wallpaper, the Marquise de Levis-Mirepoix wears one of the designs which have made his clothes popular among stylish young French women — a traditional tulle and lace dress.

Below: Ball gowns from French fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Jean Desses

Paris designer: Pierre Balmain

Ball gowns from French fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Jean Desses


Fashion designer Jacques Griffe

Still in the throes of being decorated, Griffe’s two-room apartment will show off 18th-century antiques. Amid temporary debris, Belgian Gigi de Terwalgne wears his empire-waisted chiffon, one of Paris’ most popular dresses.

Fashion designer Jacques Griffe

Givenchy satin appliqued dress from 1953


Dior’s “big ball gown” featuring a skirt with 12 layers (1953)

Dior big ball gown - skirt with 12 layers from 1953


White lace and tulle traditional evening dress / ball gown from Pierre Balmain

White lace and tulle traditional evening dress from Pierre Balmain - 1953


About this story

Source publication date: Nov 9, 1953

Filed under: 1950s, Beauty & fashion, Magazines

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