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Vionnet Part 3 – Perhaps the first to create gowns in this way

January 15, 2015

In Vionnet Part 3 we discover another reason why Vionnet may have been the first to create gowns in this way is that previously, with corsets and petticoats underneath, the top layer of your outfit needed to be stiffly structured too. Imagine draping a Grecian Goddess gown over all the ruffles of Edwardian underwear; you’d be able to see every seam of your corset.

In fact, you’d struggle to hide even the smoothest of seam free modern t shirt bras under one – so all that pesky underwear had to go. All of it. Vionnet really was a devotee of the natural body, and drew inspiration from lightly draped classical Greek and Roman statues which as we know show no visible pantylines.

Vionnet Part 3-When a woman smiles, her dress should smile with her

She intended that women should move freely and easily, yet still look elegant and beautiful. This is what she means by the quote, “When a woman smiles, her dress should smile with her”. Her dresses were very responsive to the wearer, and she ensured that any decoration they did have was carefully applied along seams or at strategic points so that the elasticity and movement of the garment was never interrupted.


So after the war, fashionable society finally caught up with her, and for twenty years her house was a roaring success with society women and film stars.


At her height, Vionnet was employing 1,000 people in her business, and she offered them not just tea breaks and paid holidays, but doctors, dentists, and even an on site travel agents who dealt with all her staff’s holiday plans for them. Nothing even approaching this was enshrined in law at that date.

Signature style

Although her signature style, (and the hundreds of copies of it that sprang up) became the epitome of 30’s Hollywood glamour, in 1939 her business closed. And though she lived until 1975, and was still interested in fashion right up to her death at the age of 98, she never started another venture. Perhaps she felt that things had moved on, and her ideas wouldn’t fit amongst the renewed enthusiasm for corsetry and structured clothing that re-emerged in the 40s and 50s.


Personally, I think she would have adored lycra, and found the possibilities of laser cutting endless. I like to imagine her dressing the little wooden mannequin in small scraps of jersey and neoprene, frowning thoughtfully as she laser welds them together in a gorgeous creation for the screen stars of today.




And here’s the sumptuous gown itself

Inspired by Grecian Nymphs – a 1931 design

Vionnet gown

Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra in Vionnet dress

Claudette Colbert in Cleopatra, gown designed by Vionnet

And another image of that, because why not