Madeleine Vionnet

Madeleine Vionnet



Madeleine Vionnet opened her own house in 1912. By then, she had already gone through a brief marriage and training with several dressmakers and couturieres. Madeleine Vionnet believed that "when a woman smiles, then her dress should smile too." A woman bound up in horse hair padding and whale bone corsets had no reason to smile and neither did her dress. Vionnet’s designs had none of that. She created designs for the natural female shape. She was influenced by Isadora Duncan and her modern dance movements.  Also, like Duncan, she was inspired by ancient Greek art where the garments appeared to float freely. Her apparently simple styles involved a great deal of preparation. It all started with cutting, draping and pinning fabric around miniature dolls. Then the design was redone in chiffon, silk or Moroccan crepe on models. Vionnet often used fabrics not commonly used in women’s clothing at the time such as crepe de chine, gabardine and satin. These were fabrics that, once cut on the bias, would cling and move with the wearer in such styles as the handkerchief dress, cowl neck and halter top. These were all part of the Vionnet repertoire. Madeleine Vionnet dominated haute couture in the 1930s, setting trends with her sensual bias cut gowns worn by such celebrities as Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo. In fact, the first nipple ever shown on the pages of Vogue was through a bias cut white satin Vionnet design in 1932. That’s definite foreshadowing of the trend in fashion.