Barbara Mullen is wearing silk crepe dress draped over one shoulder by Jacques Griffe, photo by Guy Arsac, Paris 1957.
As a boy, Griffe was taught sewing, first by his seanstress mother, and then by a local tailor. He then worked for and trained with Mirra, a couturier in Toulouse. In 1936 he went to Paris where he was employed by Vionnet. There he learned the art of draping and cutting the fabric the Vionnet way - using a small jointed mannequin. After WWII, Griffe worked briefly as an assistant to Molyneux, and opened his own design establishment in 1946. Though his collections were small, he gained attention in the fashion press. In 1950, he took over the house of Molyneux, who was retiring. Besides his couture collections, Griffe also did a ready-to-wear line, “Evolution.” Since he was equally able to sketch, he did both. Unlike his mentor, he was more of a colorist. He chose conservative colors— grey, brown, black, and checks in alpaca, wool jersey, crêpe, and broadcloth for suits and coats. Seen in them is the hand of a creative tailor—he was the first to introduce the boxy jacket, tunic, and cone-shaped coat of the 1950s. Aesthetically pleasing lines were imposed by his cut onto darts and seams used for fitting between the waist and shoulders. Decorative curved welt seams ending in an arrow were often used. His day and afternoon dresses were softer than his suits. Sleeves were often kimono cut; bodices often blouson. Asymmetrical clothing ended in drapes, scarves, or bows at neck or hips. Evening dresses were also soft, supple, and feminine. Gowns were sheaths, or had extremely elaborate full skirts, floor or ballet length that ended in harem or flounced hems. Skirt decorations were either shirred, bands graduated in size, repeated swirled ruffles, or petal-like panels of pleating. Griffe retired in 1968, and though his skill as a designer was second to none, he has, unfortunately, been largely fogotten in the 21st century.
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