Jean Dessés, The King of Chiffon

If Madame Grés is the undisputed master of draped silk, jersey, and chiffon, we will name Jean Dessés the 'King of Chiffon'.

Born August 6, 1904 in Egypt to Greek parents, Jean Dessés left his law studies in 1925 to work with a couture house in Paris. He opened his own fashion salon in 1937. Despite having to compete with the better known designers Chanel and Balenciaga, his first collection was a success.

Ice Blue evening gown with intricate draping and pleating on fashion illustration by Jean Dessés
Jean Dessés Fashion Illustration 1950

Drawing from his extensive travels after World War II and bowing to his Grecian heritage, Dessés built a reputation on his twisted sash and bodice marvels made of draped and pleated chiffon and mousseline.

His charm and winning personality gained him entry into the fashion elite realm with clientele like the Duchess of Windsor, the first Mrs. Aristotle Onassis, and society hostess Elsa Maxwell. He was commissioned to design the wedding gown for Princess Sophia of Greece.

Light peach ballgown with draping and pleating in multiple tiers designed by Jean Dessés displayed on dress form
Jean Dessés Ballgown 1953-1954
Gift of Joyce von Bothmer

His complex swag and draping techniques became his signature look. Only the most skilled dressmakers were allowed to finish the yards of double or triple tiered hems in a hand rolled finish.

The September 1951 Vogue hailed his richly pleated, tiered, and draped chiffon gowns as the "Fords" of his collection and "good for a lifetime."

Yellow cocktail dress with pleats and tucks designed by Jean Dessés displayed on mannequin
Jean Dessés Cocktail Dress1950's

Dessés favored cream, ivory, and pale pastels for his creations, often using two or three shades of one hue to complement the gown's design.

Magazine advertisement for Dupont Nylon  showing sheath dress designed by Jean Dessés
Jean Dessés 1953 Dupont Nylon Ad

Dessés began producing ready to wear fashions for the US market in 1949. His sheath silhouette added to his success and notoriety.

Model wearing suit designed by Jean Dessés in 1959 magazine advertisement
Jean  Dessés Suit 1959

Dessés was equally skilled working with stiffer fabrics such as gabardine, mohair, and wool for the simpler outline that became popular in the 1950's. Each design was impeccably tailored.

Valentino joined Dessés couture house in 1950 when he was only 18. Dessés' influence was evident in Valentino's debut collection.

Guy Laroche worked as Dessés assistant in the early 1950's before founding his own atelier in 1956.

Due to bad health, Jean Dessés retired to Greece in 1963. He died August 2, 1970.

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