7 easy steps to a Mme Grès drape

Turn off FB news feed & Twitter. Shun FB hate groups & cults. Believe only in trusted, verified sources — such as Mme. Bridget. As one of the last members of the Mme. Grès atelier, she taught me how to create Grès pleats. Here are 7 easy steps to make them.

  1. Cover the right side of the mannequin’s bodice with paper.
  • Line up two layers of silk organza over the pattern for one bust. Pin to hold.
  • Thread trace the pattern to the silk. Choose an embroidery needle.  Use one strand of contrasting thread.
  • Line up the lines of the dart. Join with ¼” running stitches. Choose an embroidery needle.  Use one strand of matching thread.  Start at the dart point.
  • Trim the dart down to ¾”. Press down.
  • Place the organza on the form. Match the CF and breast point.  Pin in several places to hold in place.

  1. Fold a 24” piece of ½”-wide rayon or silk fabric in half lengthwise.Press.
  • Start 2” beyond the CF point. Place the fold of the ribbon along the upper thread traced line.  Pin every 2”.  Continue until 2” beyond the SS.
  • Repeat for the bottom thread traced line. Make sure the binding pieces cross exactly at the CF point.
  • Join the binding to the organza with ¼” running stitches at the top and bottom of the long edge of each binding. Use one strand of matching thread.

  1. Press a 24”x24” square of silk jersey.
  • Mark the center of the crossgrain with pins.
  • Start 1 cm from one side at the center. Place a pin exactly at every 3 cm.
  • Start with the 2nd Bring each pin up to make a pleat.  Expose 2 mm of the previous pleat.  Remove previous pins as you fold.  Place a pin on the edge of each pleat.
  • Pick stitch the pleats in place along the centerline. Catch just a thread of the pleat fold as you stitch.  Make the underside as clean as the outside.

The first three steps should take you about 2 hours.

  1. Place the centerline on a straight line from the CF to the breast point.
  • Pin each pleat onto this line.
  • Start with the top half beyond the centerline. Fold under 3/8” of the top edge.  Gently stretch as you place it to hide the top edge of the binding fold.  Pin every 2”.
  • Place each pleat for the top. Make sure to stay on grain and leave only 2 mm of the previous pleat showing.  Keep the pleats smooth.  Stretch as you place.  Crowd the pleat as they approach the SS.
  • You should have only 3/8” fabric overlapping the centerline from bust point to SS.

 

This step should take you about 4 hours.

 

  1. Repeat for the bottom half of the fabric.
  • Fold under the remaining 3/8” of the bottom edge of the fabric to cover the bottom edge of the binding fold.

 

This step should take you about 4 hours.

  1. Chose a 1” fine curved needle.Use one strand of matching thread.  Start with the top half.  Backstitch two layers of pleats at a time.  Work from SS to CF. Be sure not to stitch through the paper.

 

This step should take you about 4 hours.

  1. Repeat for the bottom half of the fabric.

 

This step should take you about 4 hours.

 

Congratulations!  After 18 hours, you have completely one breast section of a Mme. Gres dress.  Now proceed to the other breast.  Then drape the rest of the garment.

Fabric shopping in Paris

Let’s be blunt.  Fabric shopping in Paris is very expensive.

Count your lucky stars if you live in Portland.  There you can get quality fabric at good prices at so many stores:  PFI Supply, Mill End, Josephine’s, Bolt, Whole 9 Yards.  By the end of our stay in Paris, we were begging for a JoAnn’s.  I kid you not.

When I was there studying at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, we were given a list of stores where we could buy class supplies.  Here’s a rundown.  One note:  Go in mid-January to mid-February or July when French shops are legally allowed to sell items for less than cost and use the word ‘Sale’ or ‘Soldes’ in their windows and ads.  Expect long lines.

Marche St. Pierre is in Montmartre district right below Sacre Couer, 18th arrondissement.

Marche St. Pierre is the main drag for fabric.  Its looks much like the fabric district in Los Angeles: Sidewalks lined with polyester.

Rue d’Orsel, the main street through the fabric district of Marche St. Pierre.

Two high points:  Tissus Reine, a full line of products and quality, though not all of the notions we have here.  Tissus Paris, a good variety of silks, though overpriced.  For example, a meter of silk habotai (called “pongee” here) sells for 23 euros or $26 versus $18 a yard in the U.S.  And that’s on sale.

La Reine, our most-visited fabric store.  Solde=Sale

Paris Tissus right below Sacre Couer.  Tissus=Fabric.  A good place for silk.

Two lesser points: Dreyfus with its five floors of so-so fabric.  Maison Blanc where they sell remnants (“coupons” here), 3 meters for 16 euros a meter.

Dreyfus.  Big store. Boring fabric at high prices.

Bourse-Sentier business district next to Les Halles shopping center, 2nd arrondissement.

There are smaller stores in the Sentier near the Bourse, Paris’ equivalent of Wall Street.  These are supposed to be wholesale, but don’t have wholesale prices.  Here we found hat supplies at Ultramod, knitting and embroidering supplies at Le Drogerie and ribbons at Mokuba.

Ultramod hat supplies and trims.

Hidden gems in Passy, 16th arrondisement and Rue du Faubourg St. Honore, 8th arrondisement.

To get the best fabrics, we had to go to Tissus Edre in Passy.  Here, I bought two meters of Chanel wool at about 55 euros a meter from the lovely Sophie.  We also went to Janssens & Janssens near Rue du Faubourg St. Honore where I bought Chantilly lace for a mother of the groom dress for 95 euros a meter.

Tissus Edre in Passy and its proprietress, Sophie — a special place.

Janssens on rue D’Anjou near the Faubourg when you absolutely must spend a boatload of $$$.

Designers who live in Paris have relationships and can buy from wholesale companies not open to retail customers like us as students.  Some of these fabric are milled in Italy.  But most are made in China or India, as are most fabrics worldwide today.

But it’s Paris.  Why do you need a fabric budget when you are here, in the city of light and fashion?

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