Vionnet, Madeleine

Vionnet, Madeleine, 1876–1975, French fashion designer. She worked for Parisian and London dressmakers and designed for the Callot Soeurs and Jacques Doucet houses before opening her own studio in 1912. In the 1920s she created a fashion revolution by introducing the bias cut, a technique that enables fabric to cling softly to the body while moving with it. Eschewing corsets and other constricting undergarments, Vionnet dominated haute couture in the 1930s with sensually draped garments that were inspired by Greek, Roman, and medieval styles but brought suavely and sexily up-to-date. Characteristic Vionnet styles include the handkerchief dress, cowl neck, and halter top. By 1940 she had retired, but her bias cut and her urbanely sensual approach to couture has been a strong and pervasive influence on contemporary fashion designers. The Vionnet line was revived in 1988.

See biography by B. Kirke (1991, repr. 1998); studies by J. Demornex (1991 and 1996).

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