Museum at FIT celebrates Proust’s Muse, the Countess Greffulhe

Friday, September 23, 2016

On September 22, The Museum at FIT celebrated the opening of their newest exhibit, Proust’s Muse, the Countess Greffulhe, with an opening party at the site’s venue.

Guests in attendance included Dennis Basso, Hamish Bowles, Valerie Steele, Yaz Hernandez, Ike Ude, Loire de Gramont, Kyla Malbon, Victor de Souza, Afrodet Zuri, PJ Pascual, and Dennis Ting.

Attendees were in for quite a treat, as they got to enjoy one of FIT’s most aristocratic exhibits to date. The wardrobe of Élisabeth de Caraman-Chimay, Countess Greffulhe was opulent legend. The famous noble was celebrated for her “aristocratic and artistic elegance,” and was a fashion icon comparable to Daphne Guinness today.

Proust’s Muse is based on La Mode Retrouvée: Les robes trésors de la comtesse Greffulhe, an exhibition organized in Paris by Olivier Saillard, director of the Pallais Galleria, Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, which is the repository of the countess’ wardrobe. Steele, who is the Museum at FIT’s director and chief curator, organized the exhibit in collaboration with Saillard. She also contributed an essay, The Aristocrat as a Work of Art, to the French catalog.

“The Countess Greffulhe believed in the artistic significance of fashion,” says Steele. “And although she patronized the greatest couturiers of her time, her style was very much her own. Today, when fashion is increasingly regarded as an art form, her attitude is especially relevant.”

When you first walk into the exhibit, a drapey dress by Rick Owens inspired by Countess Greffulhe faces opposite a selection of photographs of the regal fashion icon. For those who are traditionally more interested in more contemporary designers, the Rick Owens dress was an excellent way to draw them in. Unlike FIT’s usual exhibits, which often feature popular designers known to your average fashionista like Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana and Rodarte, this exhibit pays homage to couturiers from a completely different era. Many, like Jean-Phillipe Worth, are the kind of designers who certainly left their mark on fashion, but are now known mostly to those who are fashion historians or those who have studied fashion history.

Upon entering the exhibit on the right, attendees are presented with a gown and coat by Vitaldi Babani. Hats, fans, gloves and heels are placed in a display case on the right. The garment shows Greffulhe’s preference for only the finest of fabrics like silk and satin.

The pièce de résistance of the exhibit was the front center piece, which was a couture “lily dress” with a princess line, a detail that was signature in many of her garments. It was one of the many dresses she owned that caused people to say her dresses resemble no one else’s. The piece is attributed to Jean-Phillipe Worth, one of the greatest couturiers of the era, who has several of his works on display. There was, of course, a few pieces by designers we would be more familiar with, like a wool, silk, and fur coat by Jeanne Lanvin that was the epitome of class and sophistication.

The Museum at FIT’s Proust’s Muse, The Countess Greffulhe, will be open through January 7.

Visit their website at

All photos courtesy of The Museum at FIT.



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