Sharon Lorenzo reports from the Costume Institute at the Met

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The current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of the work of French designer, Jacqueline de Ribes, is the last effort of curator Harold Koda, who has brilliantly brought fashion to the world stage with the help of his assistant Andre Bolton who will succeed him, and trustee Anna Wintour of Vogue.  For fifteen years Koda has proven that fashion does indeed belong in an art institution as we value the work with the same five criteria: creativity, discipline, originality, intelligence and connoisseurship. [1]

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Encouraged by Oscar de la Renta to consider her work before his death, Koda and Bolton visited Jacqueline in her home in Paris where she related a few stories about her early interest in fashion. She used to watch her grandmother being fitted with pins for couture gowns, as she was raised in a noble family as Jacqueline Bonnin de Bonniniere de Beaumont. When in high school, she used glue and paper to make costumes for their school plays. At 21 she attended a ball with her first gown made of curtains, linens and coat hangers from her bedroom.[2]  Following her marriage to Vicomte de Ribes in 1948 she had two daughters yet worked part time as a design assistant for Oleg Cassini then Emilio Pucci. [3]

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This exhibition shows 60 of her works from everyday ready to wear to gowns for masked balls and theater sets.   On the international best dressed list since 1962, she received the Chevalier Legion d’Honneur award from French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010.   Called the Empress of International Café Society by Diane Von Furstenberg, de Ribes is pictured in numerous photos in the catalog and exhibition in her own creations, elegantly floating through a crowd like a swan with her head held high.   Fashion photographer Richard Avedon captured her profile in 1955, which some have compared to the ancient bust from antiquity of Nefertiti which resides in the Neues Museum in Berlin.  Like Nefertiti her timeless beauty is a show stopper.  She has been quoted saying that the following is her motto: “Fashion is temporary but elegance is eternal.”[4]

Nefertiti’s tomb has allegedly been discovered and is currently being excavated in Egypt.[5] The Egyptian people are very excited that the queen may be returning to the world stage.  Nefertiti is translated from the Egyptian as the beautiful one has come. That seems a fitting description for both goddesses. Jacqueline de Ribes has, like Nefertiti, left us a legacy of beauty and elegance for us to emulate.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style

November 19, 2015- February 21, 2016

 

Sharon N. Lorenzo

 


[1] Harold Koda, The Art of Style. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015, p. 14.

[2] Ibid, p. 125.

[3] Ibid, p. 12.

[4] Ibid, p. 14.

[5] CNN , October 1, 2015.

[6] Richard Avedon Foundation, 1955, and Neues Museum, Berlin, Germany.