GABRIELLE OR THE GENIUS OF ACCESSORIES By PRINCESS BIBESCO, from “Noblesse de Robe”, Grasset, Paris, 1928

When dressing with so much attention and rigor, I would go as far as to say, with this austerity that characterizes Paris fashion, Gabrielle adds a surprising little extra that catches the eye: a spark, a dash, a final word without which there would never be the completed master-piece of a perfectly-dressed woman.

She excels in fine details, letting all her whim and fancy and imagination shine out, cautiously and controlled however, as Gabrielle is too classical to allow anything that would affect the purity of her outline.

Here she is dressed in a clean-cut and sober outfit, her “morning wear” that would appear poor to anyone who didn’t know how to distinguish between richness and preciousness. But to accompany this “convent habit” she takes a handbag, a large handbag that she carries under her arm. Its soft leather, gold clasp and tender and hermetic aspect, all suggest some kind of hidden luxury, of invisible jewels that Perrault’s “Donkeyskin” might have taken off with her in her flight.

And so, that’s how she is when she is simply dressed !

When she wears a ball dress nothing augments or encumbers, as it’s all about dancing with a partner and not making the array of lace and silk dance, somewhat like our grandmothers once did.

Gabrielle invents something that substitutes itself for a train, but could also be a cloud, that indispensable cloud which encircles a divinity. A phenomenal fan accompanies her putting in her hand: panaches, sprays of flowers and jets of water from Villa d ‘Este; the feathers thrust upwards only to full back downwards as if overwhelmed by their towering height, freshness and fragility.

And that’s how she is when she is lavishly dressed !

Usually, Gabrielle clutches a small hexagonal gold box in her left hand. She poses it on the restaurant table at lunch, and here, poses a question of elegance, as this personal possession changes the white tablecloth into conquered territory.

On the way, Gabrielle opens a small tan leather fan against the sun when the chrome of the automobile reflects a sharp flash of light. It’s also her protector again the dust on the splendid roads that lead to Rome.

ln her garden she carries a parasol, much like a tightrope dancer’s, to help her keep balance on the flower-lined pathways where the lily’s strong perfume could cause her to lose her footing.

It was she, who launched the fashion of wearing a silk handkerchief tied firmly around the wrist to staunch the flow of blood from a bite so as to continue on dancing.

It’s nothing really, but it had to be done.

The handkerchief was red so the blood wouldn’t stain it, or green in reference to the asp’s venom – O Cleopatra!

Sometimes a powder box hangs from her wrist by chains. She opens and shuts it like a reliquary. It helps her to recreate her own image and at the same time cover her forehead in ash that shares the same consistency but not the taste of liturgical dust.

She also has a little baton that she keeps in a gold tube, similar to a field marshal’s but only smaller. Inside is a red lipstick. She passes it over her lips, and in the night with the tips of her fingers she brings the spectacle of Aurora to her toilette.

All she brings us suggests an idea or an image. She never arrives alone or empty-handed. Sometimes, it might be a miniature umbrella that she introduces into the salons, or sometimes a heavy flower, worn in her buttonhole in autumn as a sign of the season: the order of the last worthy dahlia.

Women, who are only interested in dresses, will learn nothing from her if they don’t try to imitate her unpredictable whims and fancies, like her two-cornered scarf and the thin braid around her neck; the thousand little nothings that she transports and teases into shape and her way of wearing them together with the new gestures born from them. Their charm and beauty lie in the place that she accords them. This bracelet would be nothing without a glove that folds clown, also this scarf would be nothing appealing if it wasn’t knotted in a completely different and unexpected way over the shoulder.

Often an object’s secret of seduction is hidden in its volume. This cambric handkerchief would be nothing if it weren’t so small. Lost, this handkerchief seems like a snowflake that only melts in the hand of the one who catches it. This handkerchief says as much about the insignificance of the dew that quenches it, for tomorrow, it will be replaced without hesitation, by an enormous handkerchief overflowing from her pocket. ln an opposite way, this handkerchief speaks of the disproportion between cause and effect, making one think of the same thing, the extreme petiteness of the nose.

Bags, feathers, flowers, the hexagonal box, scarves, reliquaries along with the thousand objects she handles, brings to life, takes or leaves are ail only explanations about oneself, explanations that Gabrielle gives to those who listen.

She knows that in accessories lies personality, this indefinable force that is all that’s love and of which the foreseen loss makes the idea of death unbearable.

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