The Madame Grès exhibition, pt. 2

“I wanted to be a sculptor — for me it is just the same to work with fabric or stone.” – Madame Grès

I think nothing embodies that sentiment more, than the collection of seven extraordinary dresses in white at the special Madame Grès exhibition at the Musée Bourdelle.

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Although the exhibition was staged at Musée Bourdelle only because of renovations to the Musée Galliera, I think it was particularly apt that the collection was displayed at museum for sculpture.  Not only because of Madame Grès’ initial aspirations, but also because her dresses, this set of seven in particular, do look like statues in marble.

I never knew fabric could be draped, tucked, shaped, braided, gathered and ruched so many ways, and with such beautiful results. And while the colored gowns are just as beautiful, there is no better way to appreciate the detail, the work and the structure of Madame Grès’ gowns than when they are in white:

I can’t decide if the dresses above (or almost all of Madame Grès’ dresses, for that matter) are impossibly intricate or actually deceptively simple. Because it could be argued, after all, that they are all just draped dresses. But at the same time, they aren’t JUST that. They are, through the genius of Madame Grès, works of art, too. Like sculptures.

PS: If you want to see more pictures of the exhibition (I’ve got about a hundred), click here or on any of the photos to see them on my Flickr account. There are TONS of other gorgeous dresses, trust me.

The Madame Grès exhibition

I’ll admit, I didn’t know who Madame Grès was until one of the contestants on The Fashion Show did an awful job in modernizing her designs. The challenge was for the contestants to put a modern twist to a legendary designer’s legacy (Coco Chanel, YSL, Dior, Pucci and Halston where the other designers) and Merlin, the contestant who got Madame Grès, didn’t know who she was.  When he admitted as much during judging, the judges of the show, Isaac Mizrahi and Iman among them, nearly had heart attacks.

I remember googling her and photos of her her designs and thinking they were beautiful. Then I forgot about her. Fast-forward a few years later and I read Garance Doré’s post on the Madame Grès exhibition in the Musée Bourdelle. Garance’s photos and, of course, the dresses themselves made me want to go and see the exhibit myself. As luck would have it, the exhibition was extended, and I was able to go and see it in Paris.

And I am so glad I did. The collection, 80 or so pieces from the 1930s to the 1970s, was remarkable.

Detail on the first dress in the Madame Grès exhibition

Set against the background of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle’s work and home, each piece showcased Madame Grès’ (real name Germaine Émilie Krebs) mastery of the feminine form and of fabric.

This dress is the only thing that has ever made me want to wear orange

The bulk of the collection was made up of her trademark pleated dresses, and rightly so. All looked deceptively simple, but were some of the most intricately structured pieces of clothing I have ever seen.

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This dress was, if I’m not mistaken, made of a single piece of fabric

Each dress made me want to photograph every single inch of it.

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Painstaking detail

And from every possible angle.

I love how it’s a completely different dress from behind.

Needless to say, I took a lot of photos.

This post is just meant to be a teaser of sorts, a peek into the exceptionally curated exhibition. I’ll be working on more posts soon (sorry guys, but a two week vacation + 1.5 weeks of business trips = a horribly clogged up inbox), with more amazing dresses, including more of my favorites, so bear with me.

In the meantime, you can click on here to see my set on the exhibtion on Flickr.