Monday, March 24, 2008


Jacques Heim, the great but oft-forgot couturier of the 1950s and 1960s, makes his debut on the Decades blog today with a gorgeous spring dress. The designer has not achieved the same posthumous glory as colleagues like Chanel and Patou; as the New York Times commented in his obituary, "Jacques Heim, a tall good-looking man with a cheery disposition, seemed more like a businessman or banker than a couturier. He exhibited none of the flamboyance or temperament of competitors like Yves Saint Laurent or Christian Dior." Perhaps the median truth was expressed in Women's Wear Daily 's obituary: "Heim was basically an innovator in business. He didn't want to be called a designer, but rather an editor of clothes."

Heim aggressively conceived of ways in which couture might be vital to new audiences: his Heim Jeunes Filles brought garments to a young audience long before other couture designers, and engendered early client loyalty. Moreover, his Heim Actualité diffusion line, launched in 1950, extended his influence into ready-to-wear (what a visionary!). He was an editor of many design ideas, beginning with the possibilities of fur, continuing through beach and play outfits, even the two-piece swimsuit, and the plane and planar simplifications of design in the youth-conscious 1960s.

Through the 1950s, Heim addressed American needs for sportswear in innovative and utilitarian fabrics, while still remaining, in the vocabulary of the day, very ladylike. The dress below, for instance, was purchased by a Los Angeles based dressmaker as a "bonded" sample that would be "knocked off" and mass-produced. A family friend of the dressmaker happened to be the sample size and she was always given the bonded samples after they were used for copying. Lucky lady, non? Anyway, she probably was the only person who was slim enough to fit into the samples. This dress looks fanatastic on our chic Decadestwo manager, Amanda, but she is truly a contemporary size 2, so that should be considered when contemplating this charming creation.

Jacques Heim Jeunes Filles bonded sample day dress in green leaf print, c early 1960s. Contemporary size 2 SOLD
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