Robert Goossens for Balenciaga
Silver-plate set with Bohemian crystals. Australian pearls are spaced along the entire perimeter. At the front they hang from metal wire adorned with pearls and metallic glass rings. The circular closure is adorned with a pearl surrounded by crystals.
Wedding Dress for Grace Kelly (Sketch)
Movie actress Grace Kelly, a Philadelphia native, wore this wedding dress for her marriage to Prince Rainier III in the cathedral of Monaco on April 19,1956; Academy Award-winning designer Helen Rose, who had created Kelly’s costumes for the films High Society and The Swan, was chosen to design the gown, which was constructed by the MGM wardrobe department. In style and detail the dress was conceived to complement the “fairy-princess” image of the bride. A bell-shaped skirt of ivory peau de soie supported by three petticoats, a high-necked bodice of Brussels lace was re-embroidered so the seams would be invisible and then accented with seed pearls. Pearl-embellished lace also covers the prayer book, shoes, and cap, which is surmounted by an orange-blossom wreath. The circular silk net veil, especially designed so that the bride’s face could be seen, is decorated with appliquéd lace motifs including two tiny love birds
Tea Gown (Detail)
House of Worth
This was worn by the wife of one of the great American bankers of the 19th century, J.P. Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943). It exemplifies the grandeur of Worth clothing among wealthy Americans, who aspired to be associated with European royalty.
The inspiration here is highly personal – the designer’s own heritage – which goes at least some way towards explaining the exquisite hand-craftsmanship that goes into each piece as well, of course, as bird head-dresses and McQueen tartan. The collection is luxurious and romantic but melancholic and even austere at the same time. The silhouette – all nipped waists, bustles and exaggerated hip lines – is designed to exaggerate a woman’s form and each piece is unique, a one-off couture creation with emotional content intended to be handed down from generation to generation like the most precious of heirlooms.
Evening Ensemble (Detail)
Yves Saint Laurent
While a long, lean body remained the ideal in the 1980s, a new, wide shoulder began to be appended to the silhouette. Ornately rendered here by Yves Saint Laurent, the shoulder provided a foundation from which fabric could be draped down to a contrastingly narrow waist. In the hands of some 1980s designers, shoulders were padded out to absurd widths. To a degree, this was a revival of 1940s fashion. Toward the end of the 1980s and into the ’90s, historicist revivals by fashion designers have created such a multiplicity of silhouettes that finding the defining one will have to wait.
Dress and Petticoat
Pierre Balmain opened his couture house in 1945. He had previously trained alongside Christian Dior at the couture house of Lucien Lelong. Balmain became one of the most successful couturiers of his generation and by 1956 his house employed 600 workers, with 12 couture workrooms and in-house fur and millinery ateliers.
Oyster Dress (Detail)
A number of gowns in Alexander McQueen’s “Transitions” collection of spring/summer 2003 appear to be poetic renderings of a disaster at sea. While a similar dress appeared colored like the plumage of a tropical bird, this gown of sand-colored organza recalls the mille-feuille ridging on the surface of a shell. The hem of the skirt, like the wavy lip of a giant mollusk, further emphasizes the seashell quality of the gown. But unlike Aphrodite, who was born in the foam of the sea and borne to shore on a scallop, McQueen’s beauty is a bruised pearl encased in a deconstructing oyster, the tumbled survivor of the violent action of waves.
The dress shown here is called ‘Zemire’ and was part of Dior’s H-line collection of Autumn/winter 1954-5. Dior often made cultural references when christening his designs. ‘Zemire’ was named after Zémire et Azor, an opera by Grétry first performed at the royal palace of Fontainebleau in 1771. Initially, it was called ‘Fontainebleau’, but this was crossed out on the chart and replaced by ‘Zemire’. It is one of his most historical designs, echoing the shape of riding-habits, and it was successful. The original model in grey silk satin was shown to Princess Margaret at Blenheim Palace in 1954, and it appears in several magazine features. A ready-to-wear version was licensed to Susan Small, a British company that made ‘line-for-line’ copies for Harrods. It sold for 22 guineas, a fraction of what a made-to-measure version would have cost.
Afternoon Dress (Detail)
The dress is an excellent example of Doucet’s penchant for lingerie-like garments, which is represented by the delicate ruffles and rose printed chiffon. The color combination of blues accented with turquoise is a favorite of the designer.
This dress was designed by Michael Sherard (1910–98) for his acclaimed 1958 spring collection. The flamenco dress was a recurring theme in 1950s cocktail and evening wear. Sherard’s version has a bell-like skirt and train made entirely of lace, his trademark fabric.