New York Fashion Week ended on Friday, the 19th, and with it all of the shows, the parties and the promenades of the über stylish to and from their uber cars and limos. The frenzied rush all over town to multiple shows beginning in the early morning and the late nights for the after parties; all of it is over until September when it all kicks into high gear once again. Any withdrawal one might be feeling for haute couture and ready to wear can be assuaged with a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art this weekend, as Sunday is the last day of “Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style”.
The Countess Jacqueline de Ribes is considered one of the best dressed women who ever lived, along with Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Marella Agnelli, Lee Radziwill, and Gloria Guinness. These women typify old school style; the type of cool, unstudied yet cultivated chic that comes from being born into wealth and royalty (in most, but not all, cases), both European and American, and, of course, class, which, as today’s trendsetters and celebs make all too painfully clear, all the money in the world cannot buy. Place Kim Kardashian next to Slim Keith, Grace Kelly or the Countess de Ribes, and one would see the reality star transform into a gauche parvenu.
Jacqueline, comtesse de Ribes, her official title, was born in 1929, in France, and has been a member of the International Best Dressed list since 1962. Founded in 1940 by Eleanor Lambert, a central figure in the American fashion and public relations industries, as an attempt to boost the reputation of American fashion at the time, the list is now under the direction of Vanity Fair magazine. The Countess de Ribes is an aristocrat, a philanthropist, businesswoman and a fashion icon. She created ready to wear collections for twelve years, and on July 14th, 2010, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, decorated her as a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur at the Elysée Palace.
All that pomp aside, de Ribes’ love of style, grand elegance and dressing up is what really comes through at the Met show. Walking through the galleries of the Anna Wintour Costume Center, one gets the impression of a woman who lived clothes on the quantum level. Every single outfit is perfectly assembled; each piece of jewelry, hat, glove; the way she wore multiple huge shiny rings on one gloved hand, the fold of a gown that curves just right and the appropriate placement of a bejeweled belt buckle, all sublime. Feathers, furs, brocades, pearls, silks, satins, ruffles, none of it over the top or wrong. All of it divine perfection.
This is a collection from a woman who knew the difference between bals de légendes and galas; she was a participant at some of the most legendary parties of the century. She knew how to make an entrance and keep the attention on herself, and a few of the fabulous costumes she wore to these grand events are of her own design. The cosplayers of today’s Comic Conventions and Steampunk Festivals would just have to simply step aside and bow down before her. The Countess de Ribes did Cosplay before it was a thing.
Jacqueline de Ribes
The Art of Style
November 19, 2015–February 21, 2016
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028