Wearing the 1959/1960 Dress Silhouette by Jules-Francois Crahay of Nina Ricci, Vogue #1017

I marvel over the resiliency of some of the designers who lived through WWII. Jules-Francois Crahay was captured by the Germans and was a prisoner of war for five years.

During his incarceration, the young Jules-Francois Crahay had a serendipitous interaction with Nina Ricci.

A group of fellow prisoners were trying to relieve their anxiety and boredom. Crahay suggested to the prisoners that they should create a theater company, and he himself would create the costumes.

Without much hope of success, he wrote to a number of Parisian couture houses, asking them to send him any "reject" dresses, which he could then re-cut and repurpose. One of the letters was addressed to Nina Ricci, who unexpectedly sent him a whole trunkful of treasures. [1]

After Crahay joined the team at Ricci, in the early 50’s, Robert Ricci explained the philosophy that he wanted to see from haute couture: the quest for the lost harmony between the body of a woman and the clothes she wears, a harmony quite ignored by modern geometric tailoring. [1]

In 1959, the "Y" line dress, that plunged to the waist and was decorated with a rose, made Crahay the new darling designer of the fashion journalists.

I hope by recreating this dress by Jules-Francois Crahay for Nina Ricci, we can reinstill some of the well deserved notoriety to this somewhat overlooked and forgotten dressmaker who once held center stage in the fashion world.

Jules-Francois Crahay is one of my favorite designers because of the way he blended strong tailoring principles with softer, feminine lines.

This was an enjoyable dress to make, and I hope to wear this to a cocktail party some day.

[1] Nina Ricci, by Marie-France Pochna et al., Ed. Du Regard, 1992.


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