Madame Gres' work has had profound effects on Haute Couture and her influence still resonates to this day. Her attention to detail, master draping techniques and respect for the female form is unparalleled. She was known for designing and creating garments directly on the models and the results were spectacular. She first opened her atelier, La Maison Alix in 1932. A partnership briefly changed the house's name to Alix Barton and then the label went to simply Alix. In 1942 she married, and the label made its last change to became Madame Gres, a partial anagram of her husband's first name, Serge. In 1980 she started a ready to wear line in partnership with designer Peggy Huynh Kinh but by 1983 she took it over in-house so that she had sole control over the entire process. This skirt bears the label produced between 1983 and 1987 and is a rare example of her work during these last few years of her career.
This skirt is utterly fantastic in its own right beyond its historical importance. I am in absolute love with it - the color, the design, the workmanship - everything about it is perfection. Pieces with this label are rare and the beauty of this particular piece really makes it a once in a lifetime find. The fabric is unusual and is a soft woven textile that feels like a mix of silk and maybe a fine wool thread mixed with a silver lame thread. The color is a cinnamon brown with a pattern of black and silver flowers that are woven into the fabric. This lifts them just slightly off the base fabric and adds an extra dimension to the fabric. The main portion of the skirt is cut on in a long and lean line with a band around the waist for added shape and a deep ruffle that circles the lower hem. It comes with its original long suede tie belt that has a large glossy black carved plastic bead to finish each end. The beauty of the color combination is equaled by the fine workmanship that has gone into constructing it. It is really a work of art and in important piece of fashion history. Excellent condition.
Unlined and closes with a painted metal zipper at the waist. Original suede tie belt and an inner hooked waist stay. Pockets along the seam of each hip.
Waist: 13.5" flat across from side seam to side seam
Hips: to 21" flat across from side seam to side seam
Length: 43.5" from top to hem
Modern Sizing Equivalent: SML-MED
This garment has been professionally cleaned, pressed and is odor free. Thoroughly checked over before shipping, it will be ready to wear upon arrival.
Madame Gres' work has had profound effects on Haute Couture and her influence still resonates to this day. Her attention to detail, master draping techniques and respect for the female form is unparalleled. She was known for designing and creating garments directly on the models and the results were spectacular. She first opened her atelier, La Maison Alix in 1932. A partnership briefly changed the house's name to Alix Barton and then the label went to simply Alix. In 1942 she married, and the label made its last change to became Madame Gres, a partial anagram of her husband's first name, Serge. Her work spanned over five decades and all of it, with the exception of a short-lived RTW line begun in 1980, was created as Haute Couture pieces.
When researching this garment I happened across a dress that is held in the collection of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, with a similar cut, and what looks to be the same fabric, dated to 1977. The collection notes on that dress even mention a matching cape that is not shown in the single photo provided for that garment (and shared here). It is also interesting to note that the Museum held dress has been exhibited twice. Once for the "New Look to Now", at de Young Museum, 1989-91; and it was lent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for "Mme. Gres" in 1994. This 1970s period is also about the time period where she turned her attention from using primarily jerseys to incorporating more taffeta and silks into her work. Her designs were never huge variations on themselves through the decades and we do see similar feeling pieces to this across the decades of her work at times, but I am fairly confident that this is the correct date within a season or two. Especially given the reference photo provided and the fact that the Museum dress also has a matching cape. It is just too coincidental given the same color and similar silhouette, not to be from that same collection.
The dress and gown are made from a deep green silk taffeta. This fabric choice gave her the ability to work in the volume she required for the silhouette whole still keeping the dress light and wearable. It is also a fabric that helps to retain the shapes she wished the set to have. The sleeveless bodice is cut so that the shoulders slightly extends outward giving the silhouette an almost statue-like appearance. The bodice skims over the body in a long lean drop that ends just at the top of the hip. It extends in this same long lean line over the hips, under the skirting and falls to the floor, with a high side slit up one side to allow you to walk. Attached to this inner dress is a dramatic skirt that is cut high at the front and curving down and slightly trained at the back. By tightly gathering the taffeta and adding a second tightly gathered, short ruffled layer underneath around the hips, she has created a form that stands away from the body and gives tremendous volume and shape. On the body it has an airy lightness and the volume of the skirts surrounds you, making you feel like you are a part of a magical fairy tale. Over this is a matching silk taffeta cape with almost monastic simplicity in its lines. It simply hooks into place at the neck with one tiny hook and falls beautifully over the shoulders. The cape flows and extends down longer at the back, picking up on the curved lines of the back skirts and extending the line downwards and back. It is magnificent. Both pieces are made by hand and both have the Gres Haute Couture label present. This is a rare opportunity to own an original Couture Gres ensemble comprised of this extraordinarily beautiful gown and matching cape. Excellent condition.
The Dress and cape are unlined with hand done seams throughout as per the parameters of Haute Couture. The dress closes with a off-set back zipper that is camouflaged along a seam. It also closes along the top of one shoulder with a series of hooks and snaps. The cape has one single hook & eye to close. Under the skirt overlay is tightly gathered ruffle of silk taffeta that gives the skirt overlay support and some extra volume. I see some very tiny marks on the bodice that are negligible but mentioned for accuracy. Note that the bust is more suited for a medium frame and the dress will work well on a smaller frame as well as the volume through the waist and hips is not meant to really hug and fit the body bit to glide over it. The dress has a very faint smell of perfume but it is not unpleasant or overwhelming. It is an extraordinary thing to see in real life.
Bust: to 18.5" flat across from side seam to side seam
Natural waist: 16" flat across from side seam to side seam
Hips at dropped seam: 20" flat across from side seam to side seam
Natural Hips: to 22" flat across from side seam to side seam
Bodice: 23" from neck to dropped seam where over skirt begins
Inner skirt: 37" from dropped seam where over skirt begins to hem
Total Length: 60" from neck to hem of inner dress, 67" to longest point of the back of the trained top skirt
Slit: 20" from the hem up
Cape: will fit any size and is 30" in length
Modern Sizing Equivalent: SML-MED
Reference Photos: 1977 Madame Gres Dress from the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. / Cherie, Owner of Shrimpton Couture.
This garment has been professionally steamed and sold in, clean, as found condition. Thoroughly checked over before shipping, it will be ready to wear upon arrival.