The Countess Greffulhe is the subject of FIT’s new exhibit, aptly entitled Proust’s Muse: The Countres Greffulhe, through which we are offered a window into her world—through her wardrobe. It is, perhaps the Countess who explained the allure of style and her deeply personal connection to it, saying, “I don’t think that there is any pleasure in the world comparable to that of a woman who feels she’s being looked at by everybody. How can one live, when one can no longer provoke the great anonymous caress after having known and tasted it?” Though the Countess is, perhaps, best known as Proust’s muse—showing up in the faces of many a classic character—this exhibit aims to set the woman apart from the myth that has overtaken our perception. And it uses fashion as the lens through which to tell the narrative.
It is with clothing that we arm ourselves to face the world—it conceals the body and shows the version of persona we wish to portray. As such, there is something about looking at someone’s wardrobe that feels deeply intimate and personal. Being presented with so many garments in a single collection, one learns something about the mind of the wearer. “You really see her creating herself—transforming herself—into a work of art with these clothes,” says exhibit curator Valerie Steele.