|THE GRECIAN GOWN|
Madame Grès’s most famous and recognizable creations are her Greek-inspired gowns. Yet these fashions were not directly inspired by Grecian art; rather, they were timely distillations of classicism, which saw a revival in fashion during the 1930s. Predictably, they have been described as “classical,” and some fashion journalists have also called them “timeless,” meaning that their design did not change over time. However, this is incorrect. Madame Grès’s “Grecian” gowns, like all her work, constantly evolved.
Such misconceptions are common because Grès retained key elements of the gowns throughout her career. Most of them are monochromatic, they have no patterning or surface embellishments, such as embroidery, they were made from uncut lengths of doublewidth, matte silk jersey, they have almost no interior support on which to anchor the fabric, they provide little, if any, coverage of the arms, and they are mostly floor-length, but are cut to enhance the female body without restricting movement. Yet the construction of Grès’s “Grecian” gowns did change, slowly, over the decades.
By the forties, due to the impact of World War II fabric restrictions, Madame Grès’s output of classically-inspired gowns had been drastically reduced. When fabric again became readily available, Grès began to place more emphasis on “fluting,” a highly concentrated, micro-technique for pleating. Fluting became an omnipresent element in Grès’s Greek-inspired gowns during the second half of the century.
Grès continued to update and modernize her “Grecian” gown throughout the sixties. These thoroughly modern dresses not only kept pace with the times, their daring cuts sometimes surpassed the work of her much younger contemporaries. No figure in French couture used the elements of classicism so completely or poetically as did Madame Grès. If the entire body of her work could be viewed all at once, it would gleam with the complexity of her endless variations on this, her favorite theme.