Week 10: Timeless Essentials. The Life & Style of Jacqueline de Ribes

Jacqueline de Ribes costume exhibition in New York. 

When I got invited by my friend Julia to see the exhibition dedicated to the personal style of Jacqueline de Ribes at the MET museum, I did not know much about de Ribes. But after marvelling at every single exhibited dress and reading fascinating stories about the beautiful Countess Jacqueline, I was eager to learn more and share with you.

About Jacqueline de Ribes

The Countess Jacqueline de Ribes was born with her title in 1929 and married at the age of 18 to Vicomte Edouard de Ribes, a very rich banker who later became Comte de Ribes. The Countess was everything and more of what you might imagine a French aristocrat to be. She was raised in a lavish chateau with a myriad of servants and the best Parisian dressmakers willing to satisfy her every fashion whim.

By the 50's, the Countess de Ribes earned the title of  "Reigning Queen of Paris" and became the centre of attention at every gala and masquerade ball she attended (and she attended hundreds of them!). Early on, the Countess mastered the art of the grand entrance. She would plan every detail of her appearance thoroughly and was almost always ridiculously late even to the most important events.

LE BAL ORIENTAL

Tiepolo's fresco version for the ballroom in the Palazzo Labia, Venice. 

Tiepolo's fresco version for the ballroom in the Palazzo Labia, Venice. 

In 1951, de Ribes made quite an impression at the Venetian Ball du Siecle at the Palazzo Labia. Just so you can understand the extent of how difficult it was to stand out at that 1951 ball, I will give you a little glimpse into that night.

 

Le Bal Oriental was hosted by Charles de Beistegui. Invitations were sent out 6 months(!) prior to the event to give guests enough time to design their elaborate, over-the-top costumes. The ball's theme  The Banquet of Cleopatra was inspired by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's famous fresco in the Palazzo Labia that Beistegui, by the way, owned. The guest list included everyone who was anyone. Christian Dior attended the party in a costume designed by Salvador Dalí, and Dalí showed up in a creation by Dior. The majority of guests were dressed in lavish, opulent costumes made from exquisite fabrics and adorned with ridiculously expensive fine jewellery. The ball was the ultimate, exquisite masquerade, that could have rivalled one of Marie Antoinette's own parties.

Daisy Fellowes, with James Caffery as her page, poses in her Christian Dior Queen of Africa costume.

Daisy Fellowes, with James Caffery as her page, poses in her Christian Dior Queen of Africa costume.

Guests rehearsed their arrivals for days in advance of the ball.

Guests rehearsed their arrivals for days in advance of the ball.

In the middle of that visual feast appeared the young Countess De Ribes, un-fashionably late of course, but dressed in a white dress as seen on an 18th century painting by Pietro Longhi, accompanied by two identically attired women to complete her costume. Since then, her entrances were impatiently awaited.

Last Queen of Paris, Jacqueline, comtesse de Ribes, multiplied herself by commissioning matching costumes for two attendants.

Last Queen of Paris, Jacqueline, comtesse de Ribes, multiplied herself by commissioning matching costumes for two attendants.

The Ball Oriental. De Ribes costume

Jacqueline de Ribes would combine the unimaginable: creating looks so memorable people would discuss them for years, re-designed couture pieces and wore extravagant headpieces, doing so with immeasurable grace and confidence. Her father-in-law once described Jacqueline as a cross between a Russian princess and a showgirl from Folies Bergere.

de-ribes-style-icon-tribute
Jacqueline
“She would arrive at a fitting in a cabriolet,” recalls Valentino. “A mixture of great Parisian chic and the allure of a diva.”
Jacqueline de Ribes
The Countess photographed by Avedon

The Countess photographed by Avedon

The Countess was photographed by the most famous photographers of the time, including Richard Avedon who called her his muse. She was a patron of many designers including Dior, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent.

With her love of couture fashion, it was only a matter of time before the Countess launched her own fashion line. On her 53rd birthday she informed everyone that she was starting her pret-a-porter clothing line. Her husband, children and friend, Yves Saint Laurent, supported her and the line was a success. Unfortunately, due to health problems,  Jacqueline had to dissolve her fashion house in 1995.

At the age of 86, Jacqueline still turns heads and looks as elegant as ever. The MET exhibition dedicated to her style was a great success and I am happy to share a few photographs from the exhibition with you all. In the future, I would love to re-create some of the Countess de Ribes' iconic looks, but for now enjoy the fashion feast!

White dresses of the Countess de Ribes
Fashion de Ribes at MET
De Ribes fashion sense, parisian chic
Dress of Jacqueline 
orange-gown-de-ribs-gorgeous
“She was a real femme du monde. She had an art de vivre,” says Pierre Bergé. “I think she may be the last to know how to live like that.”
The Countess Jacqueline now