Madame Gres: Sculptural Fashion

Image of Madame Gres: Sculptural Fashion
Release Date: 
November 16, 2012
Reviewed by: 

“My advice? Read it! Love it! Gift it!”

How lucky am I to have had the pleasure of getting to know both Cristobal Balenciaga and Madame Gres in the same week. As it turns out, if we thought that Balenciaga was press shy and uncomfortable in the spotlight, Alix Gres now holds the title as even more notoriously private and dedicated to her work as couturier.

Madame Gres: Sculptural Fashion is an extremely informational book about one of the greatest couturiers/designers of the 20th century. The reader will be informed about her many quirks, her extreme and utter devotion to her craft, and how even at a young age, she was lauded for her unbelievable talents.

Mr. Saiilard’s format is a bit odd, yet extremely effective. The text is somewhat strange and one gets the feeling that it was not written in English but translated from French to English, forcing rereading certain unclear passages. Even with its quirks of language, the book offers a lot of knowledge about this accomplished woman.

As with any book whose subject is fashion, the visuals are essential, and Madame Gres: Sculptural Fashion is no exception. The photos are primarily in black and white with a section devoted to the preliminary imaginings of her designs. It should be noted here that Madame Gres like Balenciaga did not sketch, they both created on the body, which is a lost art in today’s world of fashion.

Any fashion fan will know the name of Gres as she was the master or mistress, if you will, of draped jersey but this book reminds us that she applied her talents to every type of fabric including coat weight wools. You will also now understand why Madame Gres is so closely aligned to the fine art of sculpture as well as fashion.

There are some highly memorable quotes that are so very telling about this elusive woman:

“I’ve always thought that life is an endless struggle and if I abandoned the struggle, life itself would abandon me.”

“I hate sewing, I never sew.”

She defined herself as “a worker in a room.”

“For a dress to be to survive from one period to the next, it has to be imbued with extreme purity.”

There is much to be learned from Mr. Saillard’s “portrait” of Germaine Emilie Krebs aka Alix Barton aka Alix aka Gres as he offers much more than anyone else has about a legendary designer active in the fashion world for over 60 years.

My advice? Read it! Love it! Gift it!