Madame Grès (Alix Barton) (French, 1903–1993)
White silk jersey
Gift of Mrs. Leon L. Roos, 1973 (1973.104.2)
Grès, working earlier as Alix, created dresses in shafts of fabric, the diverse fluting of which served on the body like the entasis of a classical column. Seaming together fabric vertically so as to be continuous from hem to neckline, Grès pleated and tucked the materials into a shaping suitable to the body: the same fabric is buoyant and fluid when release-pleated from the waist down. She simulated a waist seam by tight tucking that continues through the bodice, and crowned the dress with volutes and twists. This tour-de-force of material, rendered in diverse ways, accounts for the tempered ergonomics of such dresses. Their wearers have testified that they felt secure and not immodest in these dresses, so organic was their creation. In this example, only one piece of fabric was added to the column: a small triangle was inserted under the arm to complete the structure, but otherwise the entire dress is conceived as one cylinder.