Madame Grès (French, 19031993)
Cream silk jersey; (a) L. at center back 16 in. (40.6 cm), (b) L. at center back 46 in. (116.9 cm), (c) L. 25 1/4 in. (64.2 cm)
Gift of Chessy Rayner, 1997 (1997.116.38a–c)
The collections of Madame Grès were prized for the pleated silk jersey gowns that ended each of her shows. With their himation-like draped swags, these designs are a relaxed version of the fine dense pleating that generally covers her fitted, highly structured bodices. The technical virtuosity incorporated in the draping is revealed only on close study of this example. The swags are both continuous and unbroken panels of fabric that incorporate the right fronts and backs of the gown. In her neoclassicism, Grès conformed to the antique notion of uninterrupted lengths of cloth, stitched but not cut into shape. From her earliest work, Grès introduced windows onto the body with cutouts that bared the back and midriff. She created a fissured shoulder, consistent with her own practice and resonant of the split shoulderlines of antique chitons.