Fashion Backward

What transpires is a kind of pas de deux, but between a woman and a pleated dress by Madame Grès (autumn/winter, 1942), and pair of evening gloves with talons by Schiaparelli (1936), and the architecture of a bustle (circa 1885)—fifty-six items in all. And also between a woman and some deep loss and brief retrieval. The ceremony is at once technical and contemplative. She is their keeper, their vehicle, their lover, their guide. She seems, at times, to be in a swoon. At others, her eyes closed, she leans into the clothing and listens. Facing a mirror, she presents the pieces to themselves. Or she makes a fleeting appeal to an audience: I give it to you; you may not have it.

These exercises in reverence and ardor, in impeccable distance and propinquity, were enacted in “The Impossible Wardrobe,” staged at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris for

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