This silk jersey evening dress, designed by Madeleine Vionnet in Paris, France in 1930, is significant both as an example of the work of one of the 20th century's most innovative designers and for representing the key elements of her style, including her use of the bias cut technique (cutting diagonally across the grain of the fabric so the fabric clings to the body's natural curves) and the unadorned elegance of her drapery inspired by classical statuary.
Vionnet (1876-1975), was renowned for her experiments with fabric. As observed in this dress, the straps, jewelled with aquamarine and clear faceted glass stones, set into metal mounts, are a typical Vionnet innovation combining jewellery and fabric into the one design. Vionnet was a superb technician and invented new pattern making techniques. She conceived her designs in three dimensions by draping fabrics on a small wooden model rather than sketching them on paper.
Vionnet can be compared in many ways to Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel and Paul Poiret, for her contributions to freeing women from layers of underclothing and corsets. Vionnet said, "I have tried all my life to be a physician of the figure?I wanted to impose on my clients a respect for their bodies, the habit of exercise and the practice of strict hygiene which would rid them forever of those artificial armours that deformed them". She aimed to make comfortable clothes that fell freely on the body using the shoulders and waistline as natural 'anchoring points'. For example, on this particular evening dress, the bodice is suspended by embroidered cross-over straps and the skirt falls from a gathered waist.
This dress is also significant as it forms part of a larger collection of costume and dress dating from 1910-1960s acquired by Australian fashion designer, Mr Chris Jacovides. Within this collection, the dress helps to demonstrate the specialist skills and techniques that are the backbone of the fashion industry.
Assistant Curator, Design & Society