Working with Pierre Cardin - Paris in the Sixties
Americans in Paris Missy Prowell far left, Linda Morand third from left
From the Diary of L. Morand Paris November 1966
It is my second day in Paris. I can only speak a few words of French. I am nineteen years old, away from
home for the first time. Paris Planning, my modeling agency, sends me over to Pierre Cardin for a fitting.
I will be modeling his 1967 Collection on the runway for private clients, exclusive buyers and the invited
World Press. Diana Vreeland and all the top editors will be there, including my friends from
Mademoiselle, Nonie Moore and Deborah Blackburn. The photos will appear in newspapers and
magazines through the news bureaus. Vogue Patterns has booked me for their selections from the
I am very happy that he had already decided to use me sight unseen, from the Mademoiselle cover and
layouts. "I must have ze Super Chick," he has told Francois Lano, referring to my recent spread in
Mademoiselle where I portrayed a Space Creature. I am very excited to get to work for him. He feels I
have the androgynous figure he prefers to show off the immaculate, sleek tailoring, he has perfected,
and that my futuristic space heroine image has the right image for his new line.
I am delighted to learn that my pals Ulla Bomser, Missy Prowell Wallis Franken and, Alana Collins have
been booked too. At least I will have somebody to talk to, I think as I stroll rapidly down the Rue
Tronchet, flanked on the south by the incredible Madelene, a church that looks like a Greek Temple. I
stop for a few minutes to check out "La Baggagerie", a boutique that has the most original handbags. I
make a mental note to get one next time I go to the agency. Then I look into Vog, another fab boutique.
The prices are not bad!
I look for a taxi but there do not seem to be any around. In Paris, you don’t flag cabs down like in New
York. You have to find a taxi stand and wait in line. I am in a terrible hurry. I don't dare be late, so I go to
the head of the line, hoping to use some charm to convince someone to let me get ahead. The man at
the head of the line readily agrees to let me in line and to share his taxi. He turns out to be the set
designer for a movie starring Peter Falk, the star of the wildly popular TV series "Colombo. He invites me
to lunch to meet Peter and John Cassevettes. He is very charming and I take his number and decide to
maybe give him a call later.
We are in a Space Race according to Time magazine and Life magazine. Astronauts are being featured
on covers of news magazines and the whole world is fascinated by the future, keyed up about who will
be the first country to get a man on the moon. Cardin has a passionate love of science fiction,
astronauts and the cosmos. He is determined to single handedly ignite the future, although Paco
Rabanne and Andre Couregges are feeling the same vibes. His creations have the trimmings of science
fiction and space travel. The fashion world is astonished at his space age 3-D shift, and his "white
breasts" dress. Cardin raises skirts 4" above the knee and plunges necklines back and front to the
My feet are hardly touching the ground as I enter the crowded atelier with about a dozen artisans, men
and women, working on the various stages in the structure of the one-of-a kind garments. The clothes
are made out of vinyl, wool, metal rings, carpenters nails, and artificial diamonds. There are knitted cat
suits that I love, taut leather trousers, and close-fitting helmets, that I hate, and bat-wing jumpsuits.
Various French mannequins parade around, in skirts, shifts, and pantsuits while seamstresses make
Cardin's determined quest for the future look has led to the production of brilliant fashion shows. I am
aware that in 1963, he brought out the "Cosmo corps" collection featuring colored tights, roulette
trousers, and in ‘64, he presented a collection of mini-shifts, bisected bi-colored outfits, with zigzags or
diagonal strings of his greatly beloved scallops. His creations proclaim a powerful talent and he is
becoming globally renowned. With an instinctive genius for marketing, he will become one of the most
recognized names on the planet.
I am led to a cabine, which is French for dressing room,lined with mirrors and lights with a long make-up
table and stools. There are many hats and other accessories hanging on the walls and stuffed on the
abundant shelves. There are still more tailors and seamstresses, hunched over thier sewing machines,
working on the final touches of exquisite garments.
I am told by a rather rude, middle-aged woman to undress down to my underwear. I deftly shed my bell-
bottoms and poor-boy sweater and lay them over a near-by chair. I am wearing a special model-garment
called a body stocking, which is a flesh-colored opaque dancer's leotard. A few haughty French
mannequins look me up and down, turning up their noses and mumbling under their breaths. They are
not thrilled with the House of Cardin for bringing in foreigners to take the spotlight off them.
Most of them have great figures but they are not what you would call photogenic. A nose just a bit too
long, a chin that is a tiny bit weak,a face that may be over the age of twenty-six, these may look just fine
in person, even adding a bit of charm and character, but they are not good in photographs.
One model was very friendly and very pretty. Her name was Hiroko. She was Asian, and strangely
enough for a model, very petite, but exquisite in every way. The other mannequins did not seem to like
her either. I have heard that Cardin has built the entire collection around her, his eye on the vast
markets in the Far East.
For the last few years, Cardin has astonished the world with his innovations. As a couturier, he has been
restively creative, experimenting with the concept of abstraction, exaggeration, technique and
technology. As such he is almost more of an architect that a designer. With all the media attention,
Cardin needs girls that will look good in the glare of the flashbulbs at the end of the runway as the world
press shoots with still cameras and film cameras.
He decides he will have the current crop of new young American cover girls. So the opportunity is
opening up for American photo models to conquer the sacred runways of Paris. Forget about the fact
that we have no idea how to walk properly. All that matters is that we will look pretty on camera. The
regular house mannequins are still used for private showings. They hate us for taking their places at the
main press show, and we cannot blame them. But in New York, we have to put up with the influx of
Swedish, Danish, German and British models. It is the survival of the fittest.
Still in my body stocking and tights, I am led into the main atelier where assistants surround Monsieur
Cardin himself. He is a fairly good-looking Frenchman of a certain age and flamboyantly gay. He seems
to be in a bad mood. I step onto a sort of podium. A young woman comes in with a pile of sketches. She
seems to be nervous and a little afraid of him. Cardin grabs one large sketch and with a charcoal stick
he makes a few sweeping changes. After a matter of two or three lines, he shoves the oversized sheet
back at her, all the time chiding her in a rapid stream of French. She scurries away. Cardin often gets
easily upset and is volatile and fiery in his speeches.
Next he has me try on a suit made of stiff white nubby Fabric. It is a sleeveless dress with a jacket that
has a kind of wide, stand-up mandarin collar. It has large semi-circular cut-outs on the sides, long
sleeves and three covered buttons down the front. Unfortunately, it is to be shown with a bucket shaped
helmet, which obscures most of my face. Kind of a Space-Age burka, except the skirt is too short.
Then another clerk shows him a pile of sample fabrics. He chooses a white vinyl swatch and some dark
green jersey, remarking that there is nothing suitable. He does not acknowledge my existence, as I
stand there shivering, whether from cold or fright I do not know. However, I am an old pro at being
ignored while in my underwear, having survived the fittings at American Vogue with Diana Vreeland, who
never once looked me in the eye. She just looked at the garment as if I were nothing but a clotheshorse.
That's what I was, I guess. But now I was living a dream. Imagine me, the skinny dork from Long Island,
walking the runways of Paris!
He begins by draping a canvas type fabric around me, actually cutting and pinning it on my body. I learn
that this premiere garment is called voile. It is fascinating to be in on the construction of an haute
couture garment. I do my best to keep still. I have plenty of practice from all my bookings at McCall's
Patterns in New York. I remember loving the fittings, because they paid a dollar a minute. Here the pay is
much less, but I do not even worry about it. The experience is worth the pay cut. Occasionally he speaks
to me, asking me, in a charming French accent ,if it is comfortable, but mostly he concentrates on his
"sculpture," chattering away in rapid French, to his assistants, who surround him like ministering angels.
After that I try on a black long sleeved body suit and a purple tunic with four square cutouts on the front,
a dropped waist with a silver buckled belt. It is remade to fit my proportions exactly.(see group shot
Finally I get to wear my favorite, a shocking pink body-skimming A-line shift with cut in arm holes. It has a
cute little matching hat.
To everything, he adds his own inspired ideas. He knows exactly what he wants, and he surely gets it.
Only trouble is, he changes his mind often. The grueling fitting is finally over, and I rush back to the
hotel on foot, quickly reaching the charming French hotel that the agency has found for me and Susan
Brainard, another American model. I like her very much and plan to become great friends with her. Ulla
Bomser is in the next room. She is my friend from New York and has offered to show me the ropes in
I am exhausted and need a little nap. Eileen Ford has invited me to dinner later that night at Castel, the
most exclusive and hottest restaurant/night club in Paris. I plan to make an early night of it, because I
have to work early the next morning for American Vogue with the notorious Bert Stern.
And I have got Peter Falk's friend's number...........To be continued
Linda as "Superchick"
|SPACE AGE BURKA
Classic Cardin Linda in the
House Model Hiroko
American Photo Models: Wallis Franken: third from left, Alana Collins: center, Linda Morand: far right
Hiroko in the Cardin cabine
|Linda Morand's Diary Paris in the Sixties
|Cardin Models, Linda
Morand and Alana
Collins on top of the
Arc de Triumph -
|Linda Morand - Diary of a Mod Model
Photo Chris Moore
Wilhelmina Headdress by Cardin
Linda in Cardin Couture
Linda in Cardin minidress with Baby-Hat