Madeleine Vionnet A Fashion Designer You Should Know

“The French designer was the first to combine effortless elegance with natural comfort.  She was known as the ‘Queen of the bias cut’–and yet she is now practically forgotten.”

 Design 1914

“Dianah Vreeland, for many years editor in chief of American Vogue and known for acid pen, called her nothing less than the ‘most important fashion designer of the twentieth century.’ Azzedine Alaia characterizers her as ‘the source of everything that lives on in our subconscious.’  And the legendary fashion journalist Suzy Menkes quite simply finds everything about her ‘utterly modern.’  One thing is certain: among connoisseurs of fashion, Madeleinne Vionnet, member of the Paris haute couture scene of the interwar years, is considered the ‘mother of all couturiers.’ For everyone else, Vionnet the fashion pioneer is hardly more than a name ong since forgotten.  Unjustly, for her artistic influence is still very much in evidence.”

“…the young Vionnet was actually the first desiger to banish the armor-like garment [the corset] from her creations.  At the start of the twentieth century, during the time with the fashion designer Jacques Doucet, Madeleine Vionnet designed feather-lightsoftly draped clothing distinguished not merely consistently with triangular inserts, circular cuts, vents, cowl necklines, and halter necks), but also with her exceptional feel for form and pattern, raised women’s couture to a whole new level.  This fashion architect’s most important innovation was the bias cut, in which the fabric is cut and worked, not as usual in parallel lines, but on the bias, at 45 degrees to the direction of the thread.

The bias of a textile runs at 45 degrees to both the warp and weft threads.

“This technique results in flattering clothes that flow softly around the body, following the wear own.  The symbiosis of body and clothes was in fact one of the most important principles in the work of this skilled couturier: ‘When a woman smiles, her dress must smile with her.’  In this context, it is not surprising to learn of her loathing of everything fashionable:  ‘There is something superficial and volatile about the seasonal and elusive whims of fashion which offendy my sense of beauty.’  And indeed, Vionnet’s love of the Greek ideal of beauty decisively influenced her working methods.

“Vionnet was fascinated by classical antiquity and its draperies.


Her fashion house was adorned with frescoes showing Greek beauties wearing Vionnet designs.  Inspired by the fall of the drapes in ancient Greek robes, she never created her designs as mere two-dimensional sketches on paper.

Her ‘fashion illustrations’ were models in simiple course cloth, displayed on an eighty-centimeter-tall wooden doll.  For the realization of her creations, however, she used more sophisticated fabrics such  as crepe de cine, charmeuse, and silk muslin.

“In spite of it all, Madeleine Vionnet, perhaps the most gifted fashion designer of the twentieth century, has found only a supporting role in fashion’s colective memory in comparison to her contemporaries Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaperri.  Vioneet may have discovered teh perfect cut, but she understood comparatively little about crowd-pleasing self-promotion.  Perhaps it was merely her reserved manner that ensured we know the clothes but not the woman who designed them.  And so her legacy today reains visible–yet nameless.”

Simone Werle. p. 15.

  • Publisher: Prestel (April 24, 2010)

About jackikellum

Jacki Kellum is a Fine Artist, a Designer, and also a writer. For one of her graduate programs, she wrote her thesis on William Blake. Like Blake, much of Kellum's work is about childhood and lost innocence. Also like Blake, Kellum strives to both write and illustrate her work. .
This entry was posted in 50 Fashion Designers You Should Know, Famous Fashion Designers, Haute Couture, Le Colis de Trianon=Versailles, Madeline Vionnet and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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