Just One Piece: Pamela Golbin

July 4, 2022
Courtesy of Pamela Golbin

Based in Paris, Pamela Golbin brings an authoritative, intelligent, and sensitive perspective to fashion curating and book writing. Esteemed across the industry, she spent 25 years as the chief curator of fashion and textiles at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, staging some of the museum’s most successful exhibitions including Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and Fashion Forward, 3 Siècles de Mode. In 2018, Golbin pursued an executive education program at Harvard Business School before joining Jacquard by Google as artistic director where she developed an Arts & Culture residency. As a cultural thought leader, she is currently working on several special projects with yet another book underway. In this new series, timed to the first day of the Haute Couture collections, she tells the story of a couture piece she considers both beautiful and meaningful.

For my Haute Couture collection piece, I have chosen the perfect little black cocktail dress. Strikingly sober, the dress has a sharp mandarin collar, long raglan sleeves and twenty large hook-and-eye closures centre-front that add decorative detailing to the ensemble. Imagined by Christian Dior at the end of the 1940s, this design illustrates the iconic New Look silhouette with its rounded shoulders, pinched waist and full skirt. 

For today’s audience, there are no logos, no clever labels that pinpoint the designer and season, no clues to the status of its wearer; just the stealth wealth of timeless design cut in endless metres of rarefied wool. The skirt alone is composed of six metres of fabric at a time when restrictions had only allowed the use of three for an entire dress. Because of war period rationing and shortages, many were outraged at what was then considered such a display of luxury and opulence. 

But more than just a historical artefact, this piece has a very sentimental value for me. Before passing at 103 years of age, my Parisian grandmother, Mathilde, gave me this dress along with others from her wardrobe. When I first tried it on, what most struck me was its substantial weight! Knowing this, I was even more fascinated at how effortless she always looked when wearing it. Her lightness of being seemed grounded in fashion. The secret, she told me, “It’s all about finding the right balance for You”.

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