Today the Metropolitan Museum of Art opens “Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style,” an exhibition celebrating the incomparable French aristocrat who is as famous for her unerring fashion sense as her indelible beauty. Her chiseled bone structure invites comparisons to Greek statuary. Classic, too, is her signature look: winged eyes, swanlike neck, a bouffant of dark hair. In her ’60s heyday, the latter was often styled by Alexandre, the leading French coiffeur of the times, or, often, at home by De Ribes.
Intent on discovering the vicomtesse’s secrets, Vogue aimed its “private eye” on her, reporting in the January 15, 1965 issue that “in one swift hour, [she] demonstrated at least a dozen of her ingenious and dexterous ways with [her hair].” Not only did De Ribes disclose the technique behind her voluminous and soigné updo—a style that continues to captivate in photographs some 50 years later—but her weakness for American lipstick. Here, from the archives, a rare inside glimpse of how the famous De Ribes glamour is achieved.
The Art of the French Twist
“Seated, and with head bent well forward, her strong, capable hands divided her hair into thick sections,” wrote Vogue, capturing the precise movements De Ribes used to create the base of her gravity-defying look. Next, she picked up a boar-bristle brush and “went at each tusk, back-combing with a vengeance.” Finally, the magazine reported, “she flipped her head back, her hair now three times more enormous than it was before, radiating like a sunburst. With a brush—she never uses a comb, even in her handbag she carries a narrow, rattail brush, shaped like a kitchen knife—she smoothed her hair with fantastic speed, shaping the mass into a sleek mound.” Afterward, De Ribes tucked the back ends into a French twist, “held with big, sturdy tortoise pins” that, in her words, she was “completely lost without—they are the only ones that reach to the scalp.”