Monday, August 15, 2011

Madame Grés at Musée Bourdelle

While I find my husband incredibly stylish [not that I’m biased or anything!], neither of us are very knowledgeable about [or wealthy enough to participate in] the “world of fashion.” However, over the last few years, we’ve found ourselves drawn to the fashion exhibits at various museums we’ve visited. The Kansai Yamamoto exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity” at the Met were two very different, but incredibly captivating slivers of art and design in fabric form.

I remember the Yamamoto exhibit being supremely entertaining – eye candy – detailed, whimsical pieces that incorporated traditional Japanese forms in new, extremely creative ways. Yet the playfulness of the work was enabled by a foundation of keen technical insight, condensing shocking volumes of fabric to create the otherworldly designs. If not for a need to do other things that day (like go get delicious Capogiro gelato!!!), we could have sat for hours watching the videos of his old runway-cum-Cirque du Soleil fashion shows.

In contrast, the “American Woman” presented a comparatively academic exploration of the evolution of women’s fashion, charting an arc from the 1890s rise of “the slender American Diana” archetype, through the flapper 20s, and to the screen sirens of the Golden Age of cinema. If there’s one thing we learned at this exhibit, it’s that the ideas of fashion really have been recycled countless times through the decades – for anybody who gets excited about things like poofy cap sleeves, google “Gibon girl athletic” and see what tennis & golf outfits looked like at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Such exhibits inspire us to check out the Fashion Institute of Technology whenever we’re in NYC to see whatever is on exhibit at their [free] museum – from beautiful pieces by Stella McCartney to displays on Japanese fashion of the 1980s, we’ve seen some interesting work in a comfortable, unimposing venue. We’ve been a little sad that we missed the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met this summer and are still keeping our fingers crossed that it ends up making its way to London…or Paris in the near future!

We did, however, have the opportunity to see another amazing fashion exhibit at the Musée Bourdelle in Paris this past weekend. About 80 pieces of Madame Grés are showcased until the end of August amongst the intricate, but still behemoth sculptures of Antoine Bourdelle. The work of Madame Grés is beautiful to examine in general due to the level of detail. Her ability to use pleats and folds to “sculpt” fabric into these timeless, beautiful forms is truly spectacular. And then to see these pieces – borrowed from classic Greco-Roman design, transformed into bright dresses with plunging backs, billowing sleeves, thoughtful cut-outs, and sometimes careful, rolled hems - juxtaposed amongst Bourdelle’s own modern takes on classic sculptural forms, is a unique and incredibly enriching way to view the work of these two individuals. I leave you all with pictures (click to enlarge) of this terrific exhibit…


  1. I can't say this as eloquently as you just did but: "Drool."

    I love clothes with embellishments but I gravitate toward clothes that allow me to dress them up with accessories. However, what I also really enjoy are those clothes--t-shirts and dresses alike--that have the embellishments built in purely with pleating and twisting of fabric. To me the most interesting wedding dresses (after many hours of research, ie watching "Say Yes to the Dress" on Yoomee's couch) are not necessarily the ones with sequins or jewels, but have interesting folds sewn in.

    So I love that you found this exhibit. And Leiden looks gorgeous.

    Miss you both!

  2. We miss you too, that's why you have to come visit! We'll find any type of food or exhibit you could want (that being Nisha's specialty in life), just make your way over to Holland!