Madame Grès (French, 1903–1993). Dress, 1971. White hand-pleated silk jersey. Gift of Thomas L. Kempner, 2006 (2006.420.6).
Alix Grès was a designer of diverse tastes, but one whose work always reflected her fascination with the complexities of a garment’s cut and structure. She was most widely known for her finely pleated silk jersey dresses such as this particularly representative example. Grès began the draping of such gowns with a boned underbodice, very much like a supple corset. She manipulated and loosely tacked the tightly arranged pleats to this base by hand. Generally, the jersey was worked in parallel vertical panels running from the shoulders to the hem of the gown. In this design, the horizontal pleating at the bodice is composed of separate inserts, but the “braided” bands that extend to form shoulder straps are continuous with the skirt.