Thursday, 22 October 2009

"When a woman smiles...her dress should too..."

Today I got inspired. I stumbled par hasard  upon an exhibition in the Musee des Arts Decoratifs on Rue de Rivoli; it was about a French couturieuse called Madeleine Vionnet. She was also known as "queen of the bias cut" and "the architect among dressmakers".

Born in 1876 her creative life spanned the two World wars and she was an important contributor to the Modern movement. With the notion of looking back to look forward, Vionnet drew on Greek art, especially the form of the vase as an example of the female form, in order to create groundbreaking couture for the newly independent women in the period that followed the Great War.

Despite her humble background in Chilleurs-aux-Boix, Vionnet went from strength to strength as she moved from her home to London, and eventually to Paris; opening her own fashion house in 1922 after having worked alongside the Callot Soeurs.

Invention: the bias cut

Vionnet's work is characteristically subtle, elegant and fluid, drawing on a base of flesh tones, shades of stone and well-defined colours. Also, she frequently uses scatters of bugle beads, impossibly beautiful crepe and silk fabrics and forward-thinking cuts. After all, she was the inventor of the bias cut; which was revolutionary for women at the time. Quite literally the corset of the years that preceded the war gave way to the loose, independent and subtle second skin of Vionnet's elegant bias cut.

Quite aptly, thus, is Madeleine Chapsal's book about her named La Chair de la Robe (The Flesh of the Dress). Madeleine Vionnet's aim was to give women in the intermittent years of the two wars a seductive freedom. The seduction embodied in these dresses was that of subtlety: a draped neckline, a gaping back or shimmering swathes of fabric.

Her use of Greek art as an influence is apparent in the majority of her dresses as the woman appear like goddesses.