Madame Grès has often been called the
“great sculptress” of haute couture. Sculptural elements in her work are the
results of fabric that was puffed, molded, and shaped in ways that allowed
large quantities of it to billow boldly and dramatically around the body.
The post-World War II era was the heyday of Grès’s sculpted works. Unlike
most other designers of the late forties and early fifties, Grès did not
rely upon hidden support structures, such as crinolines, to craft her
sculpted designs. Instead, she used paper taffeta or heavy fabrics to shape
her cocktail dresses, capes, and coats.
Grès would continue to experiment with three-dimensional forms well into the
sixties and seventies. Examples range from a navy blue taffeta gown with
enormous, balloon-shaped sleeves to the “Turandot” evening gown. The latter
is basic in construction but operatic in manifestation. Using three
graduated circles placed atop one another, its tiered, wedding-cake
silhouette is anything but saccharin. The folds of inky silk are brilliantly
controlled by Grès and impart to the wearer a kind of languid animation akin
to that of a robed emperor or pontiff.
Years of controlled refinement shaped the evolution of Grès’s sculpted
designs. Created over a period of several decades, they may differ in
appearance, but the visual drama of these garments provides us with a link
to their exquisite common ancestry.