I’m on a brief study abroad with my Fashion department and our first stay is in Paris. After a comedy of errors en route we finally made it to the land of chocolate croissants, Marie Antoinette and Madeleine. Our first appointment was at the Paris American Academy for a draping demonstration with Madame Pico.
Before our visit I had no idea who Madame Pico was, but if I had known she had anything to do with Madame Gres I would have had a stronger sense of what was coming. Madame Pico is fantastique! She spent her life working for different couture houses: three years working for Balmain, 24 years working for Madame Gres and 11 years working for Nina Ricci.
Madame Pico began by giving us a short background and history on Madame Gres from her childhood all the way through her death, which the press didn’t find out about until a year after she passed and her daughter allowed a journalist to meet with her. Madame Gres and her couture house was known for magnificent draping, a very intricate technique that can easily make the construction of one garment take over 130 hours.
Madame Pico began working for Madame Gres making bustiers where she gradually worked up to making the drape pleated skirts and then onto making the draped bodice pieces for many of Madame Gres’s couture dresses. In one 80-piece couture collection there may have only been three or four draped gowns, but because they were so highly regarded, they are the most remembered.
Madame Gres only used silk jersey from France for her draping and one skirt could easily measure to 13 meters. The couture house’s first couture collection was in July 1942 where instead of showing a wedding dress like most couture designers did, she showed three evening gowns in the colors blue, white and red, inspired by the French flag.
Madame Pico still drapes, but her work is no longer for other designers; she creates dresses and other draped garments for herself, her daughters and her granddaughters.
This dress took Madame Pico over 300 hours to drape, she said it was the hardest and most intricate drape she did while at Madame Gres.
Madame Pico fitting a bodice on one of our girls. This bodice is for a jumper she is making for one of her granddaughters.