Madame Grès captured

Excerpt from Vogue France, 1936

Skimming through the pages of old fashion magazines at the MoMu Library to find a visual reference of Madame Grès’s designs is a fascinating challenge.

During the Interwar period and the immediate years after the Second World War – when Grès’s career flourished – editors were more eager than ever to give imagery a timeless appeal as haute couture revived. By the same token, the reader’s eye commanded what felt within its gaze: the pictures had to touch a nerve by portraying the feminine and memorable silhouettes on the right model.

The readers of the French monthlies L’Officiel and Vogue France were regarded as ladies of leisure possessing faultless taste. By pinpointing e.g. the natural waistline and superbly cut dresses, magazines gave women a vivid taste of fashion. In the pictures above, the ancient secrets of antic sculptures were revealed in a modern way. The feeling of movement was emulated by pleating artificial silk jersey in different ways with great appreciation for exquisite draping details. Therefore the unknown photographer succeeded in capturing ‘des lignes vivantes’ of Grès.

Excerpt from L'officiel, september 1946

After the Liberation her collections remained a gold mine of information for French fashion journalists, who were fascinated by the ‘pli Grès’ technique and her clean cuts. A glance at the article of Jeanne Stéphane in L’Officiel in 1946 showed that she was quite impressed by Madame Grès’s flexible dress coat. The mixture of subtle contradiction in her work was shown here: flow and structure, classic but innovative.

be sure to visit the MoMu library to take a closer look at the fashion periodicals we have collected over the past ten years. They are the pre-eminent interpreters of the laws of fashion, magazines serve as means of spreading specific information and opinions about designers like Madame Grès and their influence on our daily lives in the past, present and future.

(text by Christin Ho)