Updated: Apr 5, 2021
I'm looking forward to recreating this lovely Madame Gres dress. It is Vogue Paris Original pattern #1411, from the year 1958. Day dresses may not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering haute couture, but vintage haute couture collections often included practical day dresses.
Even though this is a day dress, the dress still has Madame Gres’ signature pleats and tucks, with pleating in the back, tucking in the front, and a classically-inspired, wrapped Grecian skirt style.
Keeping true to the highest ideals of her art, Madame Gres refused to participate in ready-to-wear, although many of her contemporaries did. However, she didn't have any concern releasing home sewing patterns, because she knew the seamstress or professional dressmaker could alter and fit for a unique body shape and size, keeping true to the rules of couture, unlike ready-to-wear. I find it interesting that the grand couturier was offended by the idea of ready-to-wear, yet, embraced the culture of home sewing patterns.
For this dress, there is an option for sleeves, or very short cap-sleeves. I often marvel at the different variations the designers gave the home seamstress through their patterns; they never viewed their dresses as static, and were known to be modifying and reimagining their designs, up until the last minute, before showing to the public.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to buy a vintage Madame Gres gown from her early to mid-career, but her gorgeous gowns can be viewed at world-renowned museums, like the MET and the V&A. Take a look at her Grecian gown below, which depicts her signature style:
Below is an afternoon dress housed at the V&A that was created around the same time that this Vogue pattern was released:
This will be my second Madame Gres recreation. I previously made a Madame Gres evening gown in black velvet. I am very humbled and pleased that her family (who runs her Instagram account) took the time to like the photo of the pattern and dress on Instagram:
Madame Gres released a relatively large number of authorized and licensed sewing patterns through Conde Nast, for the home seamstress. While the dresses may not be as complex as her magnificent, heavily-pleated, haute-couture evening gowns, her distinctive look and method are still present, and these sewing patterns often detailed the method she used for draping fabrics over a unique corselette.
I have just begun recreating this dress, but I am reminded of the uniqueness of Madame Gres' dresses with the construction of its underpinnings. The dress has beautiful pleats and soft, hand-secured draping in the back, but the pleats and tucks are held in place by a corselette and a harness.
I've found that Madame Gres' corselettes are incredibly unique: her corselettes are usually partial, not full, as compared to the full bodice corselettes that we are used to constructing in the methods used by other design houses.
There is an irony to her work, it is both simple and complex: the couture underpinnings are edited down just as much as her designs, similar to the way she delivers the perfect amount of tuck or pleat for her endlessly unique creations.
It has been my dream to recreate this dress for nearly a decade, and now I've begun with this interesting corselette with harness. I'm very much looking forward to completing it, and showing you more of the construction details in the next blog post.