Madame Grès at the Musée Bourdelle

View of “Madame Grès, la couture à l’œuvre,” 2011, Musée Bourdelle, Paris. Photo: Pierre Antoine.

EACH GARMENT IS AN EXACT FORMULATION. The inner logic of the clothes—made visible on their surfaces in asymmetrical puckers, bandaging, floral detail, lashings, exhalations, interpenetrations, knife pleats, bulbous involutions, starbursts of folds, slashes, rhythmic poufs, pleated rolls, and impossibilities—dissolves, or anticipates the dissolution of, inside and outside. The textile operations are themselves a poetic syntax: robes poèmes. A black viscose jersey dress from winter 1942 is ruched along a virtual line over the sternum, so that the millimetric pleating emits an irrational frequency—strictly concentrated at the center but slackening as it radiates out toward the shoulders, from which, in turn, other kinds of tucks create vertical folds that drop and lose themselves in their denouement down the sleeve. Over the abdomen, pleats alter direction dramatically

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