Madeleine Vionnet's greatest distinction as a designer was her discovery of the bias cut. Cutting patterns along the bias forces the fabric to cling to the body and move with it, which created her trademark look of draped, form-conscious clothing. When designer Issey Miyake first saw a Vionnet dress, it was like the first time he saw Winged Victory at the Louvre: "I thought then that the statue of Nike had been reincarnated in the dresses by Vionnet. She had captured the most beautiful aspect of classical Greek aesthetics: the body and movement." Vionnet's long career as a dressmaker and designer began with the 20th century. Always conscious of women's bodies and inspired in part by modern dancer Isadora Duncan, she soon dispensed with corsets and other constricting garments, and used barefoot models to present her first solo collection. Though simple, her dresses were never plain; the use of a Cartier necklace as a halter strap is a classic Vionnet innovation. This inimitable combination of comfort and glamour made Vionnet's clothes a favorite among European nobility, Hollywood royalty--notably Marlene Dietrich, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Katharine Hepburn--as well as socialites and other trendsetters. Close to a century after its introduction, the bias cut remains an important element in clothing design.
Madeleine Vionnet is a tall book that echoes many of the designs inside. It is filled with contemporary photographs of the clothing, period pictures shot by Man Ray and Steichen, design sketches, and, perhaps most interestingly, patterns for the clothes. The accompanying text traces Vionnet's evolution from an 11-year-old seamstress, through her days apprenticing at the famed Callot Soeurs couture house in Paris, and on into the design empire that secured her an enduring spot in fashion history.
From Library Journal
This oversized book is costume historian Kirke's singular achievement, over 20 years in the making, and includes interviews with Vionnet (1876-1975) herself. The sexy, slinky bias-cut dresses associated with the 1930s were invented by Vionnet to move with the body and show every curve. Over 400 illustrations?45 in color?include archival photographs and magazine illustrations. A unique feature is the inclusion of 38 cutting patterns produced between 1917 and 1938. Cutting clothes for a woman's body was a geometric puzzle for Vionnet, and chapters are arranged by the rectangles, quadrants, and triangles that composed the gowns. Even surface decorations and furs were intricately cut. The "queen mother of haute couture" retired in 1939, but designers ever since have looked to her for inspiration. This expensive book is well worth the price for fashion and design collections.?Therese Duzinkiewicz Baker, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green
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