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Madeleine Vionnet – French Couture in the 1920's

In Paris between wars, Madeline Vionnet transformed the face of high fashion liberating women from wearing corsets. The bias cut she used to hug curves was cut freehand without a pattern or even an initial sketch. Strangely enough, she preferred to confection doll-sized models of dresses before sewing full scale gowns.



She found inspiration in clean geometric lines and a balance between eccentricity and modernity. Beginning with the blank canvas of a sleek silhouette the dress could be adorned in frivolous detail: lace, ruffles, fur, silk cut into fish scales, tear drops of embroidery, tulle rosettes, scalloped hems like the edges of a cloud or long strings of fringe.

Art students and aspiring designers were grouped around the glass display windows at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs admiring Vionnet’s dresses as one would animals at the zoo. Sketchbooks splayed they feverishly reproduced the bones of her designs before the guard shooed them out at closing time. Unique and beautiful, Vionnet’s designs are as inspiring today as they were a century ago. Here are sketches of my favorites…



To read more about her work…

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