These two sketches by Madame Grès are part of a group of 2,800 drawings from the archives of the Alix and Grès couture houses. Covering Madame Grès' career from 1934 to 1988, this remarkable collection was donated to the Musée Galliera by the Pierre Bergé/Yves Saint Laurent Foundation as a tribute to a designer the pair held in particularly high regard. These drawings are an indispensable tool for dating and documenting the garments making up the Grès collections.
In the few interviews she gave to the press Madame Grès always insisted that she could neither draw nor sew, but a host of sketches partially contradict this legend. A perfectionist by nature, she may have considered them not finished enough to be considered real drawings; nonetheless, they are invaluable testimony to they way she gave shape to a collection. Like telephone doodles, they cover the whole sheet of paper, with spirited, decisive strokes: only the forceful lines are used to indicate the overall structure of the garment, with hatching underscoring the direction of the folds and pleats. Revolving around a wasp waist and a sinuous torso, these sketches make no secret of the sensuality that governed all Madame Grès' work. They were used as notes and reminders for the shaping of the fabric on the model, her favourite stage in the creation of a dress.
Both these sheets include two recurring Grès styles: her pleated 'antique' dresses and the 'neo-romantic' pieces whose historical references included wide skirts, either draped or puffed out like crinolines.
More so than classical fashion drawings, these examples are marked by the distinctive style Madame Grès had invented and which she brought to all her work.
Notice's author : Laurent Cotta