Friday, September 26, 2008

Balenciaga Adaptation Suit by Dan Millstein

For the past couple of weeks, we've been looking at Paris and Italian couture garments that were purchased by departments stores and manufacturers in North America specifically to copy for their customers. Just listed on our website is this early 1960's dinner suit which is a Balenciaga Adaptation by Dan Millstein. Click the picture above to see the listing with many more photos.

Dan Millstein, Inc. was a high end suit and coat manufacturer in New York which first became successful during WWII when the company made civil service and civilian uniforms for the US government. After the war, Mr. Millstein was one of the first manufacturers to visit Paris, where he began to work with Christian Dior and Pierre Cardin. He would purchase items from these designers, bring them back to New York, and make copies for the American market with the designer's approval. Later, he would attend the shows with the buyers from Lord & Taylor, who would advise him as to which garments to buy to make copies for their stores.

During the 50's and early 60's, Millstein (and others) would pay a cover charge of several thousand dollars to attend the couture showings in Paris with the understanding that he would purchase several of the samples. His designers would sit in the front row making sketches of the garments as they came down the runway. Calvin Klein got his start in the business by sketching for Dan Millstein.

The dinner suit shown above is made from black wool and is adorned with black braid and passementerie trimmings. Balenciaga used these elaborate adornments many times over the years. With the suit's wider collar opening, shorter jacket, and straight skirt, I estimate this to date right around 1961-62. We can assume from the label that Millstein purchased the original of this suit in Paris and copied it in New York, then sold it to high end department stores and boutiques. This particular suit was sold by Raphael's, a family owned department store in New Britain, CT.