madame gres

Magical c.1958 Madame Gres Haute Couture Printed Silk Chiffon Dress & Hooded Cape Piece

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 her models and this became a signature of her work. She opened her first 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, which was a partial anagram of Serge, her husband's first name. Her work spans over five full decades with the vast majority of it, with the exception of a short-lived RTW line begun in 1980, dedicated solely to creating Haute Couture. She is one of the greatest couturiers of our time and her pieces are very rare and hard to find.

This Haute Couture dress is exceptional. It comes to me directly from the family that the other recent Gres pieces have come from. Her son told me that 'Madame Grès would let her wear many dresses as she was size model and those she really liked she purchased afterwards.' This was one of those that she kept and it is a very special piece. He remembers her wearing this around 1960 to some galas. This is also the time period that she would have had that relationship with Madame Gres. In the course of researching the dress we found that the 1958 and 1959 collections in particular were ones that featured braided details and cape elements like this dress has. I have included here some examples other dresses by Gres that share some of those common elements to this one from those years for you to see.

This is one of the most stunning dresses I have ever had in the shop. It is made from a biased cut silk chiffon with a small abstract print on it. From a distance it gives you that beautiful mottled red effect. Then as you look closer at the fabric you see that there is a deeper red, coral, soft green and a blue that all work together to form a pretty abstract floral print. The dress itself is simple and minimalist. It falls from the shoulder with wide straps that are made from hand gathering the silk chiffon and hand stitching them in these incredible little curved sections to create the illusion that the silk has been braided. These curve over the shoulders and then follow the neckline for a square off feel at the front. At the back they run down to the mid back and then run across in a straight line there as well for that same squared off finish there. The body of the dress falls from under that detailing in a swoop of bias cut silk. By the time it reaches the hem it is quite full. When you are standing still you get a soft column feel but then when you move you get incredible movement. The dress is lined in a layer of biased cut ivory silk and this gives the top layer and that pattern more depth. The silk is as light as air. Every seam on the dress has been finished by hand. Working with a silk chiffon as fine as this makes that an incredible achievement that would've taken countless hours of handwork. The dress is stunning on its own but this is a set and it comes with a incredible matching caped piece that has such  an unusual and beautiful design. Two wide panels done in a single layer of silk chiffon are sewn together at the top of the neck at the back and then they hook together at the front. The panels fall over each shoulder to the floor and just past the hem of the dress. It is incredibly light in weight. This allows the slightest bit of air to pick them up so that they waft and float around you as you move. If that was not already beautiful enough the cape is topped by an oversized hood made of the same silk chiffon. It is cut extra long at the back and in such a way that when it is off the head the ends twirl on their own. I have taken a photo of this for you because it is just such an incredible detail. It's something that happens naturally and on its own as a result of how the silk has been placed and sewn into place. When the hood is up it falls gently around the face to frame it. The dress is in incredible condition and appears to have never been worn. It is literally a work of art and one of the most special things I've ever had in the shop. This is truly an extraordinary piece of modern couture and is exceptionally beautiful. No matter how good you think it looks in the photos, it is better in person. Excellent condition.

The dress is lined in a fine ivory silk. There is handmade soft inner corset set inside and under the ivory layer and it closes with its own zipper. The ivory silk lining closes over that with its own zipper and then the outer layer of the dress closes with hidden set tiny snaps. The cape hooks to close at the front. An inner waist stay hooks to close with metal couture hooks. I see a very tiny and finely done seam at the base of where it snaps to close at the front and I'm not sure if it is there deliberately or if it was a repair at one time but it's invisible when the dress is on. Please see the photo after the label shot. It appears to have been worn very little if at all. The dress is finished to Haute Couture standards and entirely made by hand. The proper Haute Couture label is present. The bias cut of the dress does allow for a range of measurements and I have listed those below to the comfortable range laying flat where that applies. Note that due to the value of this dress returns will not be accepted so that it ships only one time.

Bust: 14-17" flat across from side seam to side seam

Inner waist stay: 12.5" flat across from side seam to side seam
Inner hips: to 23" flat across from side seam to side seam
Length: 58" from top of shoulder  to hem
Cape: 65" from neck to hem and will come up a touch when on the shoulders

Modern Sizing Equivalent: XS-SML

Item# DD4254

Reference Photos: (1) 1958 Madame Gres Evening Dress in The MET Collection. /  (2) Madame Gres evening dress, L'officiel de la mode, 1958.  /  (3) 1959 Madame Gres Evening Dress in the Chicago History Museum Collection.

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Please review all measurements carefully. More often than not, vintage garments do not fit any size category exactly. If in doubt, measure a garment of your own that fits and is a similar cut and compare it's measurements to the listed measurements below.