Bonnie J Brown
The white, one shoulder, Jason Wu dress Michelle Obama wore on inauguration night is still on the lips of many stylephiles even a week after the event took place. Some love it, others hate it, but I can honestly say that I’m rather indifferent to it. While it looks like Jason Wu had every intention of creating a dress that hugs the female form and drapes in all the right places, he ended up instead with a dress that is just hanging there; and if you’re creating a one shoulder dress it should do anything but just hang.
The obvious origin of the one shoulder dress comes from the toga and many a Greek and Roman goddess are seen swathed in sheets of gauzy materials; the female form is celebrated in drapes and layers and it looks all completely effortless. But, as any designer is sure to tell you, draping is an art and it can be quite difficult to make a flowing, draped dress look effortless and still phenomenal. Just look at all the work Rami, a la Project Runway – Season 4, put into his designs. And while his talents were great, they do not compare to the beautiful dresses created by Madame Gres.
Madame Gres, born Germaine Emilie Krebs and also known as Alix Barton, dressed many fashionable women during her career, including Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and even Jacqueline Kennedy, to name a few. She is known for being the last haute couture house to create a ready-to-wear line, but she is remembered for creating beautifully draping dresses. She was originally a sculptor and studied Greek and Roman statues and often mimicked her dresses after them. Her gowns weren’t just draped; they were pleated, braided, woven, and shaped into beautiful creations giving the wearer an ethereal appearance. Although Madame Gres designed during the same time as the popular â€œNew Lookâ€ by Christian Dior, her fashions stayed true to classical lines. And instead of using pleats as a way to fit the dress she used them as ways to create one.
Even though Madame Gres died in obscurity in the early 1990’s and her fashion house went bankrupt much earlier than that, Madame Gres’ designs are still looked to as inspiration to many designers today. The artistry that went into her dresses is a talent that not many are able to attempt and far fewer are able to achieve.
1. Michelle Obama, 2009 Inauguration, Jason Wu One Shoulder Dress
2. Rami Kashou One Shoulder Dress, Project Runway Season 4
3. Madame Gres One Shoulder Dress
4. 1979 Madame Gres One Shoulder Taffeta Dress
5. 1965 Madame Gres Drapped Dress
6. 1971 Madame Gres Pleated Dress
7. 1954 Madame Gres One Shoulder Dress
Image Layout: Allison Merzel