Madame Grès takes Paris

The inestimable Madame Grès, turbaned patron saint of exquisite drapery and consummate style, is taking Paris some 18 years after her death– in the first ever exhibit dedicated entirely to the influential couturier’s oeuvre. Née Germaine Emilie Krebs before later adopting the name ‘Alix Barton’ and finally ‘Madame Grès,’ a partial anagram of her Russian painter husband’s name, Serge Czerefkov — the designer and dressmaker’s career spanned some 50+ years, beginning in the early 1930s and ending with her sale of the business in the early 1980s. Grès pioneered the art of draping vs. patternmaking, channeling her initial ambition to become a sculptor into her dressmaking with stupendous, unrivaled results. Forgoing muslin and working directly on the body, Grès’ approach started with the fabric itself [generally silk jersey]– and heaps of it, as her creations often used between 13 and 21 meters for a single dress. Legend has it that she rebelled against the fabric restrictions during WWII and bought large quantities on the black market to maintain the integrity of her Grecian-inspired aesthetic, something that will come as no suprise to anyone who has seen a Grès gown up close.

The show, which includes some 80 garments, photos by the likes of Cecil Beaton, Henry Clarke, and Richard Avedon as well as archival drawings,  marks the Musée Galliera’s inaugural exhibition ‘hors des murs,’ or ‘outside its walls,’ as the museum remains closed for renovation through Spring 2012. Hosted at Paris’ Musée Bourdelle in the montparnasse area, Madame Grès’ work is the perfect complement to French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle’s oeuvre, on permanent display in the artist’s former ateliers and gardens which comprise the museum’s grounds.

Madame Grès: La Couture à l’œvre runs from 25 March – 24 July 2011 at the Musée Bourdelle, 18 rue Antoine Bourdelle, Paris 75015. Open Tuesday – Sunday from 10am – 6pm.

Madame Grès on her Paris atelier’s terrace; Model in Grès creation

Model in Grès dress, circa 1960s; Model fitting for beachwear, 1940s

Model in Grès, 1935, photo by Boris Lipnitzki; Model in Grès 1934, photo by Studio Dorvine

Grès gowns in the exhibition

Grès cocktail dress + detail shot, in exhibition

Grès dress + detail shot, in exhibition

The perennially turbaned, rigorously austere Madame Grès throughout the years Please note: Garment and some historical photos throughout courtesy of the Musée Galliera

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