By Caroline Hong
As I descended the last few steps to the lower exhibit room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the sound of classical waltz music welcomed me along with the sight of a projected collage on a wall. Images of a woman who exuded grace and class appeared and then faded while a group of museum-goers huddled around the digital projection, looking with fascination upon those pictures of Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, the international French fashion icon, whose numerous collections are currently on display. From stunning eveningwear that debuted at royal events to exotic gowns worn by the Countess herself at masquerade balls, the exhibit displayed de Ribes’s versatility in using materials such as silk crepe, lace, and velvet as a means of expression.
Even for someone such as I, who had no prior knowledge of what seemed like an exceedingly complicated and sophisticated culture of style, it was easy to step into this exemplary microcosm. De Ribes’s eye for both designing and modeling the multitude of outfits was illustrated by a wall full of magazine covers and spreads in which she had been featured, from Vanity Fair to Vogue. The exhibit created a persona for not only the Countess but also the culture of fashion she existed within. Her influence is evident in the display descriptions that detail her work with designers such as Christian Dior and Valentino, who often translated de Ribes’s visions into reality.
Behind the various outfits and costumes on display were slideshows of de Ribes wearing the very attire. The images portray de Ribes’s amorphous projection that has the ability to both adhere to every style, whether it be inspired by her own whimsy or exotic culture, and display a look and mood unlike any other.
I highly recommend this de Ribes exhibit, for it allows a perspective into the world of fashion through the renowned view of such a fashion icon’s brand and work. The exhibit organizes collections by theme, making it easy to navigate the 60 outfits that span the spectrum of haute couture, which is the designing and creating of usually trend-setting collections by fashion houses. This temporary exhibit, open through Feb. 21, 2016, is definitely worth visiting for a rare immersive opportunity into the culture of fashion.