Left: Vicomtesse de Ribes, the daughter of Comte and Comtesse Jean de Beaumont. She is shown here, dressed as she likes to look for parties at home in a narrow blue faille dress by Patou. Right: Mme. de Ribes, one of the very chic young women in Paris who loves and wears hats, wears here a huge chinchilla toque.
So extraordinary is the beauty of Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, the subject of an upcoming exhibit at The Costume Institute (opening today!), that even the most fluent wordsmiths were flummoxed by it, resorting to metaphor to describe her endless swanlike neck, and her lion’s mane of hair. Following in that vein, this accomplished balletomane, sometime columnist, and muse turned designer, might best be likened to a unicorn. She is, after all, a proud and regal survivor of a world that was—the fancy dress balls with the Duchess of Windsor! The three months of skiing per year! The fittings with Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Jean Dessès!—one who remains relevant and admired today. As her magic with clothes, of her own or of others’ design, is put on display, we share this celebratory 1959 profile from the pages of Vogue.
This is an edited version of an article, photographed by Antony Armstrong-Jones, published in the December 1, 1959 issue of Vogue.
A great beauty in the classic European tradition, with her oval face, smooth dark hair, and marvelous elongated neck, the Vicomtesse de Ribes adds to all this some famously ornamental characteristics of her own. Her high cheekbones and long, tilted greenish eyes give her a mysterious, exotic look—accentuated by her dramatic eye makeup and the big jewelry she favors, often Oriental in feeling. Her figure is what the French admiringly call a “silhouette de mannequin”—tall, slender, lithe. Her fashion personality is vivid, unstatic, exciting; she has tremendous daring about clothes, a keen sense of fashion drama that never slides over into theatrics. Mme. de Ribes loves clothes, enjoys them, and—like all strong fashion personalities—has strong ideas about them. For day, she insists on clothes that are simple, workable, unfettering (“I have great trouble getting a pleat in my skirts”). For evening, she wants, and wears, the newest and highest fashion the French couture can devise, however exigent or extreme. “I like clothes either quite crazy or terribly strict,” she once summed it up.
Facing page: Mme. de Ribes in a violet silk faille evening dress from the new Dior collection—a dress many women would consider “difficult,” because of the straight cutting of the bodice and waist. Mme. de Ribes, with unfaltering fashion sense, adores it.
From left: She wears an almost-big-enough hat: a sable toque with white lamb crown. Right, Mme. de Ribes whisking across the Champs-Elysees in a suit from one of her favorite couturiers, Guy Laroche: black-and-white tweed, belted. Also from Laroche, her “sporty” mink coat—7/8 length, with patch pockets. Facing page: Mme. de Ribes's face, framed by a Renaissance fringe of jet beading (actually this is the edge of a Paulette hat). Recently Mme. de Ribes came to New York to attend the Embassy Ball, for which she acted as Chairman of the International Committee.