Cacharel and Liberty, Perhaps?

One of the must-have items for chic French girls in the mid 1960s was a Cacharel shirt.  Cacharel was founded in the late 1950s by Jean Bousquet, and by 1962 he was making the product that made his fortune – a woman’s shirt cut like a man’s, but trim-fitting and neat.

In 1966, Audrey Hepburn made the film, Two for the Road, in which her wardrobe was pulled from current ready-to-wear collections rather than her usual Givenchy designed wardrobe.  Included were five Cacharel shirts, which she loved so much that she went out and bought some for herself. (Side note: This is a must-see movie, if only for the clothes.)

By 1968 the Cacharel shirt was old hat and Bousquet started looking for a new twist.  He found it in an old-fashioned fabric – the Liberty Tana Lawn.   Under the design direction of his young sister-in-law, Corinne Sarrut, Cacharel began making the shirts from Liberty cottons.  Soon Sarrut was designing a full range of garments using Liberty fabrics.  Combined with a soft and romantic ad campaign photographed by Sarah Moon who created images similar to the ones she created for Biba, Cacharel moved into the 1970s with a look that fit in perfectly with the nostalgia trend.

I rarely find anything with the Cacharel label, so it was a pleasure to pull this shirt out of the Goodwill bins last week.  The first thing that went through my mind was that maybe this was an example of the Liberty/Cacharel shirt.

Of course, the best evidence would have been a label that read “Liberty” but the shirt only has the Cacharel label.  That alone does not prove the fabric is not from Liberty.  I’ve looked at many, many Cacharel shirts online in the past fifteen or so years, and the only ones I’ve ever seen Liberty labeling in are a new line that was released about two years ago.   If anyone has ever seen a vintage Cacharel shirt that also has a Liberty label, I’d love to hear about it and if possible, to see photos.

The label you see that is in mine was used at least in the 1970s, and into the 80s.  There were other color variations, and I’ve often wondered if the purple on white (which are colors also used by Liberty) label was not used on items with Liberty fabric.  Or more likely, I’m over-thinking that one!

Here’s a close-up of the print.  I don’t normally think of a one color on white print when I think of Liberty, but a quick search shows that they are really quite common.  The feel of the fabric is soft and cool, like known Liberty fabrics in my fabric stash.

But whether or not the fabric is from Liberty, I also needed to determine the age.  The biggest clue is in the shape of the collar.  We tend to think of longer points on collars being from the 1970s, but I found a 1968 photo of Jean Bousquet and a model wearing one of the new Liberty shirts.  The collar shape is the same as the one on my shirt.

There is one last clue:

The shirt has a small acetate tape with the international symbols for clothing care.  That was pretty confusing, because these have not been in use in the US all that long.  A quick search led me to a VFG thread on the subject, and from there I was led to a site that says the labels were in use in that from since 1958.  According to the discussion, one of the first countries to use the symbols was France, but that the use of them was not common until the 1970s.  Is it conceivable that they were used in 1968?  Yes, but that would be a very early use of the symbols.

So, I pretty much know that the shirt dates between 1968 and the mid 1970s.  Any thoughts?

This is one of those times that having just the right book came in handy.  Cacharel: Le Liberty by Jeromine Savignon and published by Assouline, tells the story and provided the photo of Jean Bousquet and the model.  Photo copyright Lipnitski/Roger-Viollet


Filed under Collecting, Designers, Uncategorized, Vintage Clothing

17 responses to “Cacharel and Liberty, Perhaps?

  1. Lovely shirt! And, how cool that you were able to provenance it. (is that a verb?)


  2. What a find! At Goodwill, no less! I didn’t know about Cacharel’s use of Liberty fabrics. I was just in Liberty’s yesterday, drooling over the fabric. Your blouse certainly has that Liberty look.


  3. Love love love these Cacharel shirts…time for a revival! X


  4. What a fabulous find! It certainly looks like Liberty.
    PS I love Sarah Moon’s photos for Cacharel…there was an amazing one of a woman lying under the needle of a giant old fashioned sewing machine which stuck in my mind. Sarah Moon’s photos for Biba are truly iconic…and coincidentally Barbara Hulanicki also did some designs for Cacharel in the 70s. O dear, that was a bit of a stream of consciousness ramble wasn’t it


  5. Gorgeous blouse! Love seeing your research in process like this, Lizzie. (And I’m chuckling over the shopping list as “curation”–hah! So true.)


  6. Christina

    Cacharel collaborated with many textile designers. This design may be by Liberty although the drawing style isn’t typically like the small tana lawn floral designs that Cacharel used. The British designers Collier Campbell also produced designs for Cacharel and Liberty. To throw another name in…as far as I know Cacharel didn’t collaborate with Laura Ashley but there is a bit of that look going on here which would date the shirt-blouse c 1970’s. Dating a classic Cacharel shirt-blouse isn’t easy I will say that!


    • Interesting thoughts, as always. I loved that Collier Campbell site. Simply stunning designs.

      It does look a lot like an early Laura Ashley print. I’ve never heard that she sold just fabrics to other makers though. The mystery continues…


  7. I used to love going Cacharel in the mid 80s, but it was pricey for a teen like me and my mum would only buy me the odd piece in the sales… Fairly sure the green/blue labels were still in use then – although you are right that the collar on yours suggests a much earlier date. I don’t remember ever seeing Liberty labelled despite their prints being used regularly.

    Just to confuse matters, these days the French use ‘Liberty’ to describe any fabric with a small flower print, but even as a teen I could tell when it was the real thing!


  8. Someday I would like to sew with Tana Lawn. It’s beautiful. I recall many sweet smocked dresses in beautiful prints. I would wear a blouse like that…


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