Madame Gres (1903 – 1993) (pronounced Grey) was a Parisian couturier who created beautiful bias and pleated dresses, inspired by Grecian styles and lines. Her house, under the name of Gres, was opened in 1942 and she mainly used specially produced plain silk or wool jersey in golden beige, cream and red. During the Second World War, in Nazi occupied Paris, she made dresses with red, white and blue silk in an act of defiance, until they closed her down.
Although she was not commercially successful, becoming bankrupt in the 1980s, she discovered and developed techniques for draping on a custom dress form, the create fluidity, closely defined curves, and elegant shapes to flatter the female body. She didn’t always sketch her designs, but worked with yards and yards of silk chiffon or drapey jersey to create the structure and shape to enhance feminine curves. This would be done on the dress stand or directly on the wearer.
Let’s have a look at some of Madame Gres pleating close up. Tiny knife pleats are made in the fabric, each one pinned, to a roll or pad, along its length. Then the pleats are stitched down along their whole length, and finished neatly, to create a firm piece of fabric for the bodice. The lower end would be released to form the skirt.She avoided seams where ever possible.
The reverse of this piece shows how the piece was created. You can see the ribbon stay which prevents the pleats splaying out.
Gres produced a perfume, and also licensed some designs for Vogue and McCalls. Many of the patterns are of elegant structured day wear, but this marvellous draped evening dress is available as a digital reproduction in a large size.
I tried the Gres style pleating on the shoulders and across the sleeve of one of Nick’s “old” T shirts (not so old, and one of his favourites, but I liked the shape and colour). I will stitch these pleats down.
Here is another idea. I used a striped T shirt and gathered the fabric up fairly quickly, using the stripes for guidance. I will smock this T shirt, which has a skull pocket. I think the delicate “little girl” approach to smocking will contrast nicely with the darker shades, and slightly edgy look.
I have a few more transformations which I will share next week. Any one else making progress? In the meantime Sue Stoney has done a super job. Do go and have a look.