Jewelista Hall of Fame: Jacqueline de Ribes

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Jacqueline de Ribes by Richard Avedon, 1962


“A great beauty in the classic European tradition, with her oval face, smooth dark hair, and marvelous elongated neck, the Vicomtesse Jacqueline de Ribes adds to all this some famously ornamental characateristics of her own. Her high cheekbones and long, tilted greenish eyes give her a mysterious, exotic look—accentuated by her dramatic eye makeup and the big jewelry she favors, often Oriental in feeling. Her figure is what the French admiringly call a “silhouette de mannequin”—tall, slender, lithe,” said Vogue about Jacqueline de Ribes, the subject of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest exhibit at the Costume Institute.

Jacqueline de Ribes, The Art of Style is a must-see for any Jewelista. One of the elite group of affluent beauties that writer Truman Capote referred to as the “Swans,” de Ribes dominated the best dressed lists for decades. Even at age 86, de Ribes continues to be a muse for the Parisian elegance and aristocratic style she conveys.

‘Queen of Paris’

This Costume Institute exhibition focuses on Jacqueline de Ribes, whose originality and elegance established her as one of the most celebrated fashion personas of the 20th century.  A muse to haute couture designers, de Ribes had at her disposal their drapers, cutters, and fitters in acknowledgment of their esteem for her taste and originality. Ultimately, she used this talent and experience to create her own successful design business, which she directed from 1982 to 1995. While the exhibition focuses on her taste and style, extensive documentation from her personal archives illustrates the range of her professional life, including her roles as theatrical impresario, television producer, interior designer, and director and organizer of international charity events.

“A close study of de Ribes’s life of creative expression yields illuminating insights into her strategies of style,” said Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who organized the exhibition. “Her approach to dress as a statement of individuality can be seen as a kind of performance art. When she established her own fashion house, her friend Yves Saint Laurent gave his blessing to the venture as a welcome projection of her elegance.”

Statement Jewelry

The exhibition includes about 60 ensembles of haute couture and ready-to-wear primarily from de Ribes’s personal archive, dating from 1962 to the present. Also included will be

her creations for fancy dress balls, which she often made by cutting up and cannibalizing her haute couture gowns to create unexpected, thematic, and conceptually nuanced expressions of her aesthetic, Koda said. These, along with photographs and ephemera, will tell the story of how her interest in fashion developed over decades, from childhood “dress-up” to the epitome of international style.

Be sure to take a look at how she accessorized—a true Jewelista icon. She favored oversized jewelry pieces which she loved to adorn her more spare gowns and suits with.

In 1999, Jean Paul Gaultier dedicated his haute couture collection to her with the title “Divine Jacqueline,” and in 2010, she received the Légion d’Honneur from French President Nicolas Sarkozy for her philanthropic and cultural contributions to France.

Designers in the exhibition will include Giorgio Armani, Pierre Balmain, Bill Blass, Marc Bohan for House of Dior, Roberto Cavalli, Jacqueline de Ribes, John Galliano, Madame Grès (Alix Barton), Valentino Garavani, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Norma Kamali, Guy Laroche, Ralph Lauren, Ralph Rucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Fernando Sanchez for Révillon Frères, and Emanuel Ungaro.


Looking for a glamorous piece of your own? Discover statement necklaces, earrings and rings at


The de Ribes exhibition runs through Feb. 21, 2016.

Mark your Jewelista calendars for this special Guided Tour:

Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style

Tuesday, November 24, 2:00–3:00 p.m.
Free with Museum admission

*All images courtesy of  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Jacqueline de Ribes by Roloff Beny, 1959


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