Madeleine Vionnet was born into an era of breath-stealing corsets and poufy bottoms, yet envisioned a style inspired by Grecian art to free the female body from bondage! Born in France, in 1876, her debut into the fashion world at the age of 11 was that of a seamstress’ apprentice. However, the refinement of her technique in couture and luxuriousness of her dresses undoubtedly budded while receiving further training with the renowned fashion house, Callot Soeurs, and also with Jacques Doucet, another great French designer, lover of feminine styles and luxury. In 1912, she opened her own boutique bearing her last name. Unfortunately, with the onset of Word War II, Vionnet Boutique was forced to close in 1939; it was reopened in 1988, thirteen years after her passing, by the Lummen Family. In Spring/Summer 2007, the Lummens, then owners of the label, launched the first collection in 67 years.
Above: Madeleine Vionnet’s dress from 1938 is made from silk tulle, panne velvet and horsehair with a silver lamé underdress and Lesage embroidery.
In recent news, Matteo Marzotto, a Milanese luxury goods tycoon, has bought the label and plans “to bring back to life an idea of fashion that is contemporary without forgetting its history; reinvigorating the extraordinary and innovative elegance that marked Madeleine Vionnet’s work”. She is known for all that and more; being also the founder of the bias cut. Vionnet knew what worked on the female body, and actively flirted with the concept of showing off a bit of arm and even (Oh my!) some cleavage. These liberties of ours are easily taken for granted, but back in the day, women were to be carefully packaged into tight corsets, and were to blush at the sound of any obscenity; the reddening of their cheeks were obviously taken into consideration and would offset the color scheme of their gowns. I kid. Those gowns are gorgeous in their own right, but Vionnet Boutique was known for housing clothes one can imagine wearing today; it’s also a plus that they allow you to breathe. As the Vionnet Boutique passes from hand to hand, let us hope that it retains that mystical essence of her designs that has made her arguably one of the most influential designers of the 20th century.
Evening dresses by Madeleine Vionnet circa 1938, Silver lamé and ivory silk net and Pale pink and silver lamé and pale pink silk net (Image via Met Museum)
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