To elect to devote an exhibition at The Costume Institute to the work of and individual living designer is a significant decision. Yet we have chosen to do so unequivocally for Madame Grès. We tender our hightest esteem for this designer of exceptional vision, whose work is untrammeled by commerce or compromise. She has fulfilled the highest objectives of art for the majority of this century.
Grès invented one model that she practiced, polished, perfected, and purified. Her Grecian gown, the drapé or draped dress, has been her emblem for nearly two-thirds of this century. Grès’s sensual purity is akin to sculptor Antonio Canova’s ideal of supple and voluptuous classicism and also to painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s evocation of the tremulous, yet still, beauty of liquid line. Undeniably Grès’s drapé is a supreme cipher; it owes its imputed mystery to the elements of voluptuous excitability, pensive sensuality, and repressed eroticism. It is a perfect neoclassicism.