This elegant afternoon dress reflects Madame Gres' signature style. Its apparent simplicity manages to reflect classical lines, with an underpinning that supports her flowing, draped design.
The dress is made from an ivory 4-ply silk crepe. Although Madame Gres often used silk-jersey to drape her dresses, I chose silk-crepe instead, for its propensity to drape, but not overly cling or stretch, unlike jersey. Since this dress isn't lined or flatlined, I felt it needed a fabric with a bit more substance.
The Madame Gres’ pleating technique, to create the bodice back, was unique in my experience. The pleats are not exactly the same size, even though, at first glance, they appear to be. The slight variation evokes a sculptural quality, as if it was carved by human hands.
The pleats in the back can't technically be considered release pleats; they aren't completely sewn down, but they are tacked together at three separate points. This helps preserve the “airiness” of the pleats, but they remain controlled, and, in some places, counter the direct gravitational pull of the drape.
All of the seams are hand-finished using the hand-overcast method.
The armhole facings and the hem are carefully blind-stitched in place by hand.
The most amount of work went into, surprisingly, the partial corselette with shoulder straps, or, dare we call it, the harness.
The corselette was boned with a total of seven synthetic whalebones. I didn't want the bulkiness and the steeliness of metal bones to show through the delicate, ivory 4-ply silk. Below, is the dress, turned inside out so you can easily view the corselette, bones, and waist stay.
There are no zippers or buttons on this dress. It is a classic wrap dress, which requires a hook and eye attached to seam binding, which is then sewn onto the corselette, to keep the skirt in place.
After making another 1950's Madame Gres dress, we can be certain that Madame Gres was creating wrap dresses long before Diane von Fürstenberg, even though many attributed the first wrap dress to DVF in 1973.
The bodice is held together by only 4 snaps in the back. You can see the organza shoulder straps attached to the partial corselette, below:
The dress looks so simple from the outside, it almost looks like a wrapped toga, but as you can see, the inner architecture is important for the dress to drape successfully, and in order to preserve its stunning simplicity.
There is no underlining, so one's hand-sewing skills are essential, to be able to recreate this design. As mentioned before, all of the the facings, hems, and sleeves were carefully blind-stitched to the outer fashion fabric. All of the seams, even inside the corselette, were carefully overcast by hand, since ivory 4-ply silk crepe will reveal any extra lumps and bumps or variations of color.
A self-covered bow threads through the handworked eyelets in the front.
The front dart shaping remains open under the bust line, to give the bodice a blousier feel.
The dress was very simple, compared to the gowns I've been recently making, but it was a technical make that required patience and precision. Although it resembles a Greek toga, it had an incredible amount of thought and detail designed into the inner workings, in order for it to remain simple from the outside. Everything had to be precise, or the entire proportion and fit of the dress would be thrown off.
I love this dress, because it is practical for any age bracket, and would be appropriate for most any occasion during the day. I imagine wearing this to church, brunch, or to a nice lunch at the Bacara - Santa Barbara. Maybe, someday, it will even make it on a Mediterranean cruise!