© Julien Vidal / Galliera / Roger-Viollet
Photograph © 2016 The Museum at FIT.
Élisabeth, the Countess Greffulhe, wore this dress on May 30, 1894, to a garden party given by her uncle, Count Robert de Montesquiou. It was at this party that she met Marcel Proust. Writing for Le Gaulois
under the pseudonym “Tout-Paris,” Proust described her appearance: “Madame la comtesse Greffulhe was delightfully attired in a pink lilac silk dress printed all over with orchids and covered in silk chiffon of the same shade, her hat was in bloom with orchids surrounded by lilac gauze.”
Many years later, Proust was partly inspired by the Countess Greffulhe to create the fictional Duchesse de Guermantes. However, he transferred her love of pink and mauve to another character, Odette de Crécy, who first appears in his novel as the mysterious “lady in pink.” Orchids are also explicitly associated with Odette’s love affair with Swann.
Proust’s Muse, The Countess Greffulhe runs through January 7, 2016 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.
Garden-party dress, 1894
Silk taffeta printed with orchid motif, silk chiffon
GAL1964.20.7, gift of the Gramont family to the Palais Galliera
This exhibition was developed by the Palais Galliera, Fashion Museum of the City of Paris, Paris Musées.