On a normal day, I wouldn’t have placed the Musée Bourdelle  high on my list of places to visit in Paris. Truth be known, if it hadn’t been for the Madame Grès exhibit I never would have made the trip in from the Yvelines, driving around the confusing maze of streets that take turns and follow tunnels in the area of Montparnasse I’m not familiar with.
Having never heard of Madame Grès, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, to me, a foreigner with an outdated interest in fashion, her name meant little. She wasn’t a “Coco,” whose life story made it to the big screen via Audrey Tautou. Nor a YSL, whose retrospective I’d seen the previous year at le Petit Palais .
But that was before, and after being invited along by friends for the first visit, I can now claim to be the owner of two entrance tickets to the Musée, having made the trip a second time, so impressed was I.
Presented by the Palais Galliera  / Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, the exhibition highlights the works of the striking Madame Grès and is the first Parisian retrospective devoted to the elegant creations of the lady born Germaine Krebs.
Set amongst the marble, bronze and plaster sculptures of Bourdelle and in his atelier in the 14th arrondissement, the collection is impressive. One regards in awe at the pleating detail and can imagine Madame Grès sculpting the fabric to the body it was being created for, for sculptures and creations they are truly are.
Such is the simplicity and timelessness of many of the creations, that it is easy to imagine some of them making an impact on their entrance into a modern evening affair.
Mme Grès commenced on the rue Miromesnil in Paris during the 1930s and established a career that saw her creating for nobles and celebrities of her time with regular appearances of her designs in Vogue France & Harpers Bazaar. Her fortunes took an abrupt turn in 1987 when after two years of unpaid rent at her then-address 1, rue de la Paix, she was evicted and her maison de couture was liquidated. She was left with the feeling that her life had been stolen. What remained of the Maison Grès brand was purchased by a Japanese company, still the owner to this day. (1)
Following the turn of events of the previous year, Madame Grès made her final public appearance in 1988 before arriving at the office of her dear friend Hubert de Giverney with a box. Inside the box was a dress to which Mme Grès told M. Giverney, “I don’t know how to thank you. I’m giving to you, the last dress that I’ve made. You know Hubert, of all the dresses I adore, it is the ones that I didn’t sell, but that I gave away.” It was the last time that M Giverney was to see his beloved friend. (2)
In 1993 Madame passed away: “Madame Grès est partie comme elle a vécu, silencieuse et seule.”(3)
The Madame Grès exhibit has been extended for an additional month, until August 28th.
Book references: 1,2,3 ; Madame Grès – La Couture à L’Œuvre (ISBN : 978-2-7596-0157-8) Published by Paris musées – les Musées de la ville de Paris
 Tél: 01 49 54 73 73
18, rue Antoine Bourdelle, Paris 15th
Métro: Montparnasse-Bienvenüe (lines 4, 6, 12, 14, place Bienvenüe exit) Falguière (line 12)
Bus: 28, 58, 91, 92, 94, 95, 96
Hours: Daily 10am to 6pm except Mondays & bank holidays
Admission to the Madame Grès temporary exhibition: 7€ adult; 3.50€ for 14-26 years; children younger than 14 are free
Accessibility: Lift access to the different levels of the museum; wheelchair available at reception; disabled access to toilets. A list of hands-on exhibits and large-print tour guides available at reception
Want to read more? Here’s an earlier review of the Madame Gr è s exhibit  by design student Erica Hewins.
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Madame Gres: Sphinx of Fashion  [Hardcover]
While the classically inspired “Grecian” gown designed by Madame Alix Grès is widely recognized & admired, little else of the brilliant couturier’s life or work has received close attention. This book, by far the most detailed study yet published on this influential fashion designer, carefully analyzes Madame Grès’ innovative construction techniques & connects her designs to the art styles & movements that inspired & informed her aesthetic. Gorgeously illustrated with images of fabulous clothes designed by Madame Grès, the book focuses on her long career (spanning the early 1930s to the late 1980s)….The volume discusses how sculpture & the construction of non-western clothing inspired Grès’s fashion . . . & constructs a timeline of her career & discusses her secretive private life, including the circumstances of her death, inexplicably concealed by her daughter for over a year.
Speaking of beautiful . . .
We bought this collectible book at the 2010 YSL Retrospective Exhibition and it’s on our coffee table. This luxurious volume was published to accompany the retrospective of Yves Saint Laurent’s work that drew tens of thousands to the Petit Palais Museum. Retrospective curators presented the fashion designer’s professional craft and personal history in a very thorough exhibition. From his early days working under Dior and heading the House of Dior after his mentor’s death, to the opening of his first prêt à porter shop on la Rive Gauche and debut of his iconic “Smoking Tuxedo” for women, to the muses he adored, Loulou de la Falaise and Catherine Deneuve among them, this volume reveals the breadth and scope of the designer’s entire career. Gorgeous book and available here today for about half of what it cost at the event, not to mention the pain of lugging home a tome. Click to order YVES SAINT LAURENT  or find the latest in travel accessories, book and treats for Francophiles at our Amazon.com French Marketplace .
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