This weekend we went to the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit Jacqueline de Ribes:
The Art of Style. The exhibit demonstrates the legendary Countess/socialite/designer’s style and shows some of her own beautiful couture creations from the 1980s to the 1990s.
Countess de Ribes was named one of Truman Capote’s “swans,” socialites of exceptional grace, intelligence, and beauty, and was a favorite subject for the fashion photographer Richard Avedon. For her day looks, the countess was famous for adding her own individual flourishes—whether it was a Victorian driving veil from her grandmother’s collection to store-bought jeans paired with a couture coat. But haute couture eveningwear was where she truly shown. She cultivated the careers of many designers, including Yves Saint Laurent (whom she followed from Dior to his own house) to Valentino Garavani (who first sketched out her own couture designs).
de Ribes’s eveningwear designs demonstrate the Countess’s keen understanding of good design: mix different textures and colors, but always include a balance of tailoring and drape. de Ribes was one of the few clients whom couture designers allowed to tinker with their creations and make the gowns and ensembles totally her own.
When the Countess commissioned this gown from Dior, she requested then-designer Marc Bohan to take off a bow from the waist and increase the size of the bow on the shoulder. Bohan mused, “But is it truly mine?” To which the Countess responded,
“Your name is on it.”
Additionally, Countess de Ribes was well known for the wild costumes she would create for masquerade balls, often from a mix of cheap clothing and shredded couture gowns!
This costume was for an extravagant Arabian Nights-themed ball. It was made with tulle and chiffon from a Christian Dior gown and fur from an old coat that was presumably lying around her chateau.
Whether Jacqueline de Ribes created outfits with $2 T-shirts or $20,000 gowns, her art displays the richness of her imagination.