Jacqueline de Ribes Gets Her Own Show at the Costume Institute

She’s regarded by many as the most stylish woman on earth. She was photographed by Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, and was rhapsodized about by Truman Capote. Yves Saint Laurent, a friend, hailed her as a fashion icon, and Jean Paul Gaultier dedicated a couture collection to her. Yet Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, 85, is relatively unknown by younger generations. The Costume Institute is attempting to change that with its fall 2015 exhibition, a revived autumn program snugly sandwiched between its monolithic spring exhibitions.

What sets the countess apart from other 20th-century style icons is the zeal with which she’d take shears to her precious couture, altering priceless garments to fit with her individual taste — the unthinkable, basically. “A close study of de Ribes’s life of creative expression yields illuminating insights into her strategies of style,” says Harold Koda, curator-in-charge of the Costume Institute who spearheaded the show. “Her approach to dress as a statement of individuality can be seen as a kind of performance art.”

Along with 60 couture and ready-to-wear items — Pierre Balmain, Madame Grès (Alix Barton), Yves Saint Laurent, Emanuel Ungaro — from de Ribes’s personal collection, the exhibit will also showcase photographs and ephemera that tell the story of her privileged upbringing in France, yet also her voracious work ethic. At a time when women were not expected to hold a job, de Ribes set an entrepreneurial course for herself, one that included fashion and interior designer, as well as screen and theatrical producer.

Jacqueline de Ribes: the Art of Style, Nov 19, 2015 – Feb 21, 2016, Metropolitan Museum

Jacqueline de Ribes, by Richard Avedon, 1955

Jacqueline de Ribes for Vogue, by Pierluigi Praturlon, 1969

Jacqueline de Ribes at the Oriental Ball, 1969

Jacqueline de Ribes in Dior, by Mark Shaw at her home in Paris, 1959

Jacqueline de Ribes, by Richard Avedon, 1955

Leave a comment