Madame Alix Grès (1903-1993), was one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant couturiers. During a career that spanned six decades, beginning around 1930 and lasting until 1988, she developed unique construction techniques that allowed her to craft garments of exquisite sculptural beauty. Because Grès draped each garment by hand and eschewed novel, thematic collections, her work has often been described – inaccurately - as free from the quixotic dictates of fashion. The fact is that she did keep pace with the times, but rather than merely follow general design trends, she elevated dressmaking to an art form.
Despite the high regard in which Madame Grès is held, the details of her innovations and the evolution of her distinctive style remain relatively obscure. This exhibition is the first to identify three primary styles as distinct terms in the Grès lexicon: the classically-inspired, “Grecian” style of her pleated gowns; the “ethnic” inspirations behind her simple, geometric designs; and the billowing, three-dimensional quality of her “sculptural” coats and gowns. Each original design was crafted by the couturier in solitude and draped “in the round.” Her unique, self-taught methods of construction may lack mathematical precision, but their technical consistency and graceful aesthetics come undeniably from the hand of a master couturier. This exhibition is dedicated to her incomparable achievements.
Patricia Mears, Deputy Director