The Costume Institute’s Fall 2015 exhibition, Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style, will focus on the internationally renowned style icon Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, whose originality and elegance established her as one of the most celebrated fashion personas of the 20th century. The exhibition will be on view in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Anna Wintour Costume Center from November 19, 2015 through February 21, 2016.
“A close study of de Ribes’s life of creative expression yields illuminating insights into her strategies of style,” said Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who is organizing the exhibition. “Her approach to dress as a statement of individuality can be seen as a kind of performance art. When she established her own fashion house, her friend Yves Saint Laurent gave his blessing to the venture as a welcome projection of her elegance.”
The thematic exhibition will feature approximately 60 ensembles of haute couture and ready-to-wear primarily from de Ribes’s personal archive, dating from 1959 to the present. Also included will be her creations for fancy dress balls, which she often made by cutting up and cannibalizing her haute couture gowns to create unexpected, thematic, and conceptually nuanced expressions of her aesthetic. These, along with photographs and ephemera, will tell the story of how her interest in fashion developed over decades, from childhood “dress-up” to the epitome of international style.
A muse to haute couture designers, they placed at her disposal their drapers, cutters, and fitters in acknowledgment of their esteem for her taste and originality. Ultimately, she used this talent and experience to create her own successful design business, which she directed from 1982 to 1995.
While the exhibition will focus on her taste and style methodology, extensive documentation from her personal archives will illustrate the range and depth of her professional life, including her roles as theatrical impresario, television producer, interior designer, architect, and director and organizer of international charity events.
Designers in the exhibition will include Giorgio Armani, Pierre Balmain, Bill Blass, Marc Bohan for House of Dior, Roberto Cavalli, Jacqueline de Ribes, John Galliano, Madame Grès (Alix Barton), Valentino Garavani, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Norma Kamali, Guy Laroche, Ralph Lauren, Ralph Rucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Fernando Sanchez for Révillon Frères, and Emanuel Ungaro.
Countess Jacqueline de Ribes (born 1929 in Paris to aristocratic parents) is seen by many as the ultimate personification of Parisian elegance. She was, with the American and Italian beauties Gloria Vanderbilt and Marella Agnelli, among the small flock of “Swans” photographed by Richard Avedon and written about by Truman Capote in 1959.
Married at age 19 to Édouard, Vicomte de Ribes (he became the Count de Ribes upon the death of his father in 1981), the traditions of her in-laws precluded her from becoming a career woman. An independent spirit, she channeled her creativity into a series of ventures linked by fashion, theater, and style. In 1956, de Ribes was nominated for Eleanor Lambert’s Best-Dressed List. At the time, she had only a handful of couture dresses, as most of her wardrobe was comprised of her own designs, which she made herself or with a dressmaker. Four more nominations followed, and resulted in her induction into the International Best-Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1962.
Photographed by the world’s leading talents including Slim Aarons, Richard Avedon, David Bailey, Cecil Beaton, Robert Doisneau, Horst, Jean Baptiste Mondino, Irving Penn, Francesco Scavullo, Victor Skrebneski, and Juergen Teller, her image came to define an effortless elegance and a sophisticated glamour.
In 1999, Jean Paul Gaultier dedicated his haute couture collection to her with the title “Divine Jacqueline,” and in 2010, she received the Légion d’Honneur from French President Nicolas Sarkozy for her philanthropic and cultural contributions to France.