Madame Grès (French, 19031993)
Evening gown with peplum, silk jersey; 7 7/16 x 9 7/16 in. (18.9 x 23.9 cm)
Photograph: George Platt Lynes (American, 19071955), gelatin silver print, 1940
Permission courtesy of George P. Lynes, II, Executor, Estate of George Platt Lynes
David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1941 (41.65.2)
This photograph by George Platt Lynes features a dress by Madame Grès, who was known earlier as Alix. The model raises a chiffon stole in a pose like that of a maenad, a votary of Dionysos. The classical converges with the surreal in the setting, an Yves Tanguy-like landscape with an attenuated and faintly distorted figure. The dramatic highlighting and moody silhouette give the dress the look of a sculptural relief. Like many of the draped silk-jersey gowns with which Grès is identified, this evening gown substantiates the designer's classicizing intentions and antique sources. Like the overgirdled apoptygma on Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Victory, her creation has a small peplum. In addition, she introduced pleating to the center-front of the gown. For Grès, pleating was a means of fitting a garment without pattern-shaping and seaming. Like the ancient Greeks, she preferred an economy of line. And when she could, she avoided the cutting of fabric, relying instead on the bias and pleating to establish the shaping of her garments.