Born Germaine Krebs, Madame Grès (1903–1993) was known and feted as Alix from 1932 onwards. In 1942 she founded the fashion house Grès – a partial anagram of her husband's name, Serge – which lived on until 1988. Keen to remind her contemporaries of the antique-style draped look that had made her name ten years earlier, Madame Grès took the method further by giving her famous jersey the characteristic 'Grès pleat'.
The first pleated dress of the first Grès collection in 1942 – a variation is shown here – was a manifesto for the new identity she would cultivate for almost fifty years.
A great lover of sculpture, she did not cut the fabric, staying faithful to its nature and density: the ten continuous strips of jersey making up this dress start out from the hem of the skirt, are pleated over the hips, interlace to form facets on the bodice, then zigzag along the back to fall on the other side of the skirt. An entire month of work went into making this dress for Madame Jean-Henri Labourdette, wife of a famous Paris car body maker and mother of the actress Élina Labourdette.