L’art et le style
Currently on view at the Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is “Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style”—a stunning homage to a woman who singlehandedly changed the shape of twentieth century fashion. The exposition, on display until February 21, 2016, acts as a tribute to de Ribes, now 86 years old, who revolutionized fashion with her innovation and audacity to break from the norm. This exhibit is one of the many forms of recognition that de Ribes has received throughout her life for her importance in the fashion world and her unparalleled glamour. She has also been selected as one of the ten “swans” by Truman Capote and Richard Avedon in their book Observations (1959), labeled by Vanity Fair as the “last queen of Paris,” and chosen to be part of the International Best Dressed List.
Jacqueline de Ribes developed her style with inspiration from a wide range of sources, which is evident in the display of dozens of her personal gowns, dresses, and ready-to-wear, some of which originate back to 1962. At first glance, the diversity in color, material, and silhouette of de Ribes’ collection is immediately apparent: she has both an impressive collection of neutral black and white dresses, as well as bright and brilliant evening gowns. Jacqueline de Ribes explains that: “Very early on, before it was generally done, I liked to mix my ensembles,” and furthermore: “I am not a lady who lunches. My suits have to move. My clothes have to be comfortable. I have to be able to work.” Her innovation and daring creativity can be seen clearly throughout de Ribes’ ready-to-wear: she would often pair a designer piece with her personal accessories so that the overall look would be unique to her. However, her second statement seems a little ironic: her elaborate suits from Dior (one of her favorite fashion houses), YSL, Balmain, etc. don’t seem ideal for the on the move, working lifestyle she describes. Being the first to wear a new style or technique was also important to de Ribes. On view is a Saint Laurent dress from 2002 that was one of the first sheer dresses in haute couture that de Ribes wore with a chinchilla wrap. This also emphasizes her clear fascination with construction. For instance, she has a fur coat by Fernando Sanchez that was inventive in that the fur was unlined, and therefore the coat’s construction could be more clearly seen.
Jacqueline de Ribes also designed ready-to-wear of her own, and she was especially fond of the simplicity of the draping technique in her own collections. A blue and black draped dress from her first collection is featured in the exposition, and de Ribes explained that she loved that this dress provided the wearer with a multitude of options on how they could wear and drape it, in order to make their experience of wearing it truly their own. Jacqueline de Ribes’ creativity is evident not only in her designs, but also in her personal collaborations with many designers. She had the opportunity to request pieces from older collections from many designers, but would make alterations to them—details such as changing the skirt length, or the colors, or changing the shape of a jacket—so that they better suited her style. A stunning piece in the exhibit is a recreation of a 1950s Dior gown that de Ribes had remade. She worked closely with the curator and recalled details of the dress by memory, and decided to change the color from purple to a bright pink.
This exhibit celebrates the colorful life de Ribes has lived thus far: from glamorous ball gowns, and over-sized earrings and necklaces, to sleek business suits and cocktail dresses, de Ribes seems to have worn garments by every important designer and attended events all over the globe. Her collection proves that fashion, and how one dresses and presents oneself to the world, the trends that they follow or choose to ignore, is indeed art, and deserves to be looked at as art. If you are in New York, this exhibit is a great way to discover the diverse life of a woman who has contributed so much to fashion.
By Isabella Luksh
Jacqueline de Ribes
The Art of Style
November 19, 2015–February 21, 2016