Personal Style, Travel Notes

The Art of Style: the Jacqueline de Ribes Costume Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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The Costume exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum in New York are world-renowned–and justifiably so–for presenting designs of those who adhere to their own principles of individuality and style. Fortuitously, the Jacqueline de Ribes show at the Met coincided with my mid-December holiday trip, providing its own contribution of elegant, beguiling and noteworthy fashion statements. How could I not share some “eye candy” with you to brighten the first real days of winter!


Arriving early at the Met, just as the doors opened and before the crowds had descended, gave me the luxury of studying every piece from every perspective, reveling particularly in the details of an elegant ‘swan’s’ private wardrobe straight from her dressing room.

And luxury it was, for not only did this French aristocrat and annual presence on the International Best-Dressed List wear the creations of her Parisian couturier friends, the Vicomtesse de Ribes also became a designer herself. Four of the six designs I’ve chosen to feature here are from these collections, presented over a period during the 1980s.  And no surprise, she had a predilection for evening wear.

“Style is what makes you different; it’s your own stamp, a message about yourself.”

DESIGNER: Jacqueline de Ribes, 1988
Blue-Green Basket-Weave Silk Gazar

My favorite of all fabrics…the simplicity of the evening gown’s front view is in marked contrast to the volume and sweeping lines of the back details (their gracefullness enhanced by the selection of silk gazar as the medium to convey an ethereal lightness).

Even the simple twist at the shoulder, with an exquisite diamond pin of her own design…


…turns into a dramatic statement on the back, creating interest from every angle.


DESIGNER: House of Dior, Marc Bohan, 1979-80
White Silk Double-Faced Satin

Again, the elegant simplicity of a one-shoulder dress. But here, the detailing is merely a subtle gather of fabric meeting at the extravagant bow; the folds at the waist repeating the bodice detail add just that “je ne sais quoi” to an otherwise simple, refined ankle-length evening dress.


DESIGNER: Jacqueline de Ribes, 1988-89
Black Silk-Viscose Velvet and Black Silk and Metallic Chantilly Lace

Chic, feminine and sexy at the same time…not an easy task. Velvet straps tied in bow knots are the only accent on a deeply plunging V-neck back of translucent black lace.


“I totally disagree with Christian Dior, who once said that one could never look sexy and be elegant at the same time. It is just more difficult, that’s all.”

DESIGNER: Jacqueline de Ribes, 1971
Apricot Silk Crepe-Back Satin and Silk Organza

A generous silk organza “slip,”  with its own subtle ruffle, is the understory to a skirt generously embroidered with silver and gold seed beads to play up the scalloping. For the Bal Proust at the Baron Guy de Rothschild’s Chateau de Ferrieres, Paris, the Vicomtesse recut a Valentino toga gown to capture the Belle Epoque theme of Proust’s “Remembrances of Things Past.”

The Art of Style: the Jacqueline de Ribes Costume Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art


DESIGNER: House of Dior, Yves St. Laurent
Original Design 1959-60
Red Silk Faille

The French Court revisited! Since the conception of this exhibit almost eight years ago, the Vicomtesse has suggested the replication of one of her favorite Dior designs…from the 1950s. The request was carried out in 2015, in her preferred shade of red.

And lastly, the star of the show…

DESIGNER: Jacqueline de Ribes Inaugural Collection, 1983
Pink Silk Double-Faced Satin

The profile of the Vicomtesse echoes the single line of the enveloping ruffle, which both starts and ends at the back for a dramatic study in unanticipated bareness. And speaking of attention to details, the exhibit’s mannequin is positioned at the same angle in which the Vicomtesse, wearing this evening gown, appeared on the cover of Town & Country in 1983 (a publication which had decreed her “the most stylish woman in the world.”)


Combining the Jacqueline de Ribes show at the Met with the city’s dramatic Christmas windows turned my weekend into a fantasy of visual delights, for New York’s finest retail emporiums presented their own eye-popping versions of “costume.”

At Bergdorf Goodman…

Dresses - Design


And at Saks Fifth Avenue…


Here’s to style in all its incarnations.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

2 thoughts on “The Art of Style: the Jacqueline de Ribes Costume Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    1. Thank you, Ruth. That’s exactly how I feel! So glad you enjoyed such a fabulous Met Costume exhibit…from the comfort of your home. x, B.

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