Rekindling my love affair with Madleine Vionnet and her free-flowing style all over again.
Madeleine Vionnet trained in the well known fashion houses of Callot Soeurs (Callot Sisters) and Jacques Doucet. While there she discovered a way to work with fabric that sealed her destiny. Her influence is now seen in every slinky, body-skimming dress. She developed a style of three-dimensional cutting, using the three ways of fabric: lengthwise, crosswise, and bias. Cutting on bias is the practice of cutting cloth diagonal to the grain of the fabric that enables it to cling to and move with the wearer.
In 1912 she founded Vionnet, her own fashion house. She was one of the first designers (along with Poiret and Chanel) to liberate women from corsets. Her designs produced sensuously shaped, floating dresses with lowered waistlines that transformed Greek and Medieval inspirations into distinctly modern clothes made in silk, organdy, chiffon, velvet, and clinging lamé.
I love the thought that good old Maddy was an intensely private person, apparantly avoiding public displays and mundane frivolities and often expressing a dislike for the world of fashion, stating: “Insofar as one can talk of a Vionnet school, it comes mostly from my having been an enemy of fashion. There is something superficial and volatile about the seasonal and elusive whims of fashion which offends my sense of beauty.” Vionnet was not concerned with being the “designer of the moment”, preferring to remain true to her own vision of female beauty.
With her bias cut clothes, Vionnet dominated haute couture in the 1930s setting trends with her sensual gowns worn by such stars as Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo. Vionnet’s vision of the female form revolutionized modern clothing and the success of her unique cuts assured her reputation. She fought for copyright laws in fashion and employed what were considered revolutionary labor practices at the time – paid holidays and maternity leave, day-care, a dining hall, a resident doctor and dentist. Although the onset of World War II forced her to close her fashion house in 1939, Vionnet acted as a mentor to later designers, passing on her principles of elegance, movement, architectural form, and timeless style.