Paris: Tres chic Madame Grès retrospective at Musée Bourdelle


Works by Grès and Bourdelle
Works by Grès and Bourdelle. Photos © Galliera - Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris and the Musée Bourdelle

By Theadora Brack in Paris—

Got passion for fashion from watching the Royal Nuptials? I do! So gather ’round and jump on my train because I’ve got the cure, see. A rather smashing-looking retrospective saluting modernist couturier Madame Grès recently opened in Paris at Musée Bourdelle!

Onwards and upwards, Cheapos! Here’s the lo-(gown)!

Marriage made in heaven

Brilliantly organized by visionary curator Olivier Saillard of the Musée Galliera (currently closed for renovation), the new exhibition, “Madame Grès: La Couture à L’Oeuvre,” deftly pairs Grès’ Grecian-styled jersey silk gowns with sculptures by Antoine Bourdelle.

Works by Grès and Bourdelle

Works by Grès and Bourdelle

Here at the late sculptor’s former atelier, house and garden, Bourdelle’s own sculptures and his personal collection of classical torsos, busts, and heads both mesh and crash into Madame’s soft, sinuous dresses. The juxtaposition is both seamless and titillating. Sketches and photographs of Madame Grès working are also thrown in the mix.

Musée Bourdelle

Nestled on a narrow, quiet street near the Montparnasse Tower, the Musée Bourdelle is where Bourdelle worked on the façade of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, which was greatly inspired by dancer and muse Isadora Duncan. Thank Rodin for introducing the pair. The original stone maquettes for the project are still on display at the museum, and are definitely worth a peek.

Madame Grès

After giving up the idea of becoming a sculptor, Madame Grès turned her passion for chiseling to constructing dresses. With her dresses sometimes taking 300 hours to complete, she’d often quip, “For me it is just the same, to work with fabric or stone.”

Never using patterns, she preferred to work directly on live models, often using a bias-cut, following the curves of the body. Directing the flow of the folds with bare hands, she’d cut, pin and fasten the fabric one millimeter pleat a time, resulting in creations that resembled the classical Greek statues she studied at museums across the globe.

Who’s who

Madame’s red book of clients read like a Hollywood A list. It included Grace Kelly, Marlene Dietrich, and Greta Garbo, along with the Duchess d’Orleans, Princess Ghislaine de Polignac, the Begum Aga Khan, the Duchess of Windsor, Duchess of Talleyrand, the Countess Munose, Princess Matilda of Greece and the Princesses of Bourbon-Parma.

And one more thing

While everyone knows by now that Kate Middleton’s lacy stunner of a dress was inspired by Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco’s 1956 wedding gown, but it is less well known that Grace Kelly had met Princess Diana (Prince William’s mum) at Di’s engagement party and befriended her.

And speaking of the Princess of Monaco, Madame Grès not only designed countless dresses for Princess Grace, but also created tiaras for Cartier similar to the one Kate wore on Friday, loaned to her by the Queen.

Long live loving, generous grandmothers, I always say!

Getting there

Madame Grès: La Couture à L’Oeuvre (Madame Grès: Couture at Work) will be at the Musée Bourdelle through July 24, 2011.

Musée Bourdelle
16-18 Rue Antoine Bourdelle
75015 Paris, France
Web site

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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