By Ashley Gross
In 1876 God brought all women the saving grace from the corset. Coco Chanel? Guess again. Now don’t think that I’m downgrading Chanel, but there was one woman before her. Her name was Madeleine Vionnet. She started off selling underwear until she divorced her husband, moved to London, and worked for a dressmaker. Finally, she opened her own design house in 1912. Already known for using draping and light, airy fabrics she continued to mesmerize women with her new technique: bias cut. Biased cut dresses were her signature invention. Although lifeless on hangers, these gowns awed women with how they transformed on their bodies. Vionnet was quoted saying, “A woman’s muscles are the best corset one could imagine.” Which reminds me that my abs workout starts today.
At the height of her fame women like Josephine Baker and Jean Harlow were donning Vionnet’s work when they were off the silver screen. Unfortunately, World War II caused Vionnet to close her doors and Madeleine died in 1975 without reopening. It took sixty years, a lot of Lycra, grunge look, until finally in 2006 Sophia Kokosalaki reopened the design house that’s all about natural female beauty. Although she may not have been truly dedicated to the venture, considering she left the next year to start her own line. From then on out Vionnet has seen a slew of head designers, five in fact.The next one after Sophia was Marc Audibet who only lasted for one season. Taking Vionnet’s history and launching the motifs into modern graphics and colors, Rodolfo Paglialunga brought the design house up to speed with the likes of Carey Mulligan and Madonna.
Fast forward to present day Vionnet where Goga Ashkenazi is attempting to make Vionnet the same as it was in its heyday, but not without some struggles. She comes in with strong business sense, graduating from Oxford University, but she is still new to the world of high fashion design. Her spring collection showed some light and airy fabrics, very Vionnet 1920s, but some of the garments were not at all functional for women. Would Madeleine Vionnet have created garments that hindered female lifestyle? I don’t really think so. Vionnet has had a rocky revitalization, with a long list of hard to pronounce designer names, but Goga’s vision and determination may be what it takes to bring Madeleine Vionnet’s inspirational design aesthetic into the fashion future. I can’t help but be a little “biased” hoping so.
Forsey, N. (2013). Madeleine vionet reviving greek costume. Retrieved from http://natsfashionhistory.blogspot.com/2012/09/madeleine-vionnet-reviving-greek-costume.html (Grecian style gown)
Laguige, M. (Photographer). Vionnet spring 2014 ready-to-wear collection look 9 [Print Photo].
Retrieved from http://www.style.com/fashionshows/complete/S2014RTW-VIONNET(Photo of dark blue and white dress)
Madeleine vionnet. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.designerindex.net/designers/madeleinevionnet.html
Obaldia, D. Bringing haute couture to america. American Center France. Retrieved from
http://www.americancenterfrance.org/front/index.php?&lvlid=122&artid=106&pos=1&lang=en (Photo of cream colored 1920s dress)
Phelps, N. (2013). Vionnet spring 2014 ready-to-wear collection. Retrieved from http://www.style.com/fashionshows/review/S2014RTW-VIONNET/
Sandra. (Photographer). Vionnet fall 2007 ready-to-wear collection look 5 [Web Photo].
Retrieved from http://www.style.com/fashionshows/complete/F2007RTW-VIONNE (Photo of black dress)
Vionnet. In Voguepedia. Retrieved from http://www.vogue.com/voguepedia/Vionnet