French couturier Madeleine Vionnet was born on this day in 1876. Born in Chilleurs-aux-Bois, about 75 miles from Paris, Vionnet was apprenticed to a local dressmaker at age 11. She spent several years in this first apprenticeship, moving to a small design house in Paris when she was 17. She later worked in London for several years, returning to Paris by 1901, where she worked first for Callot Soeurs and later for Doucet. In 1912, Vionnet opened her own salon, but closed the business at the beginning of World War I in 1914. After spending the war years in Italy, Vionnet returned to Paris and re-opened her couture house in 1918.
Though Vionnet began her training in the late 19th century, when artifice and decoration were the foundations of fashion, she developed a startlingly modern, deceptively simple approach to design. Many of her garments were based on simple geometric forms; square, circle or rectangle. The bias cut was integral to her work, and largely eliminated the need for shaping darts. Vionnet disliked corsets, and designed her garments to be worn without this confining undergarment. House models were encouraged to go without undergarments during fittings.
In honor of Vionnet's birthday, we're reposting a late 1930s Madeleine Vionnet evening gown embellished with metallic embroidery. We first posted this gown in October 2011, when the gown was on exhibit in the FABULOUS! exhibition.