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Evening dress

Designer Jean Dessès French, born Egypt

Not on view

Jean Dessès began his fashion career designing for a small couture house, Maison Jane, in 1925, where he was hired on the strength of his original design drawings. He opened his own maison de couture in 1937 but received his greatest recognition following World War II, having successfully built an international clientele. Dessès gained a particular reputation for evening gowns of intricately pleated and gracefully draped sheer silks, which became signature features of his collections beginning in the late 1940s. These fabrics, whose fragile nature necessitates expert handling, offered a pliancy that allowed Dessès to create endless variations of form, drawing inspiration from a range of historical sources. Here, the influence of 1860s ball gowns is revealed in the dress’s grand proportions and swagged drapery. Although Dessès captured the expressive opulence of the era of haute couture’s birth, he modernized and softened the nineteenth-century paradigm with his fluid draping and airy textiles.

Evening dress, Jean Dessès (French (born Egypt), Alexandria 1904–1970 Athens), silk, French

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© 2019 Nicholas Alan Cope