Classicism and Ornamentation

In 1923 Vionnet moved her couture house to 50 avenue Montaigne, where its salons were decorated in a classically inspired, modernist manner that formed a suitable backdrop to her work. The salon used for her seasonal shows contained frescoes that showed contemporary women clad in some of her most popular designs, intermingled with images of ancient Greek goddesses. Thus clients could measure themselves against classical ideals and see Vionnet's designs through the prism of a revered, idealized past. This placed her designs, which could seem so daring in their simplicity, within the context of classical antiquity's noble precedent and articulated the link between her own focus upon mathematical harmony and that of the past.

The various ateliers that produced her collections showed the diversity of her output and her ability to imbue a whole range of different types of clothing, from sportswear to furs, lingerie, and tailored clothes, with her ethos of creative pattern-cutting and subtle, supple silhouettes. Her daywear also relied upon the material's inherent properties and the possibilities to be explored in her integration of construction techniques and decoration. Discreet day dresses were pintucked in neat rows, whose spacing gently pulled fabric in toward the figure at the waist and curved diagonally across the body from shoulders, across the bust, around the hips, and round toward the small of the back to shape the dress. Thus Vionnet's garments were given shape while maintaining smooth, uncluttered silhouettes, and the tucks of materials created a pattern on the fabric's surface.

During the 1920s, when heavy beadwork and embroidery proliferated, Vionnet was committed to search for methods of ornamentation that took part in shaping the whole garment. Narrow pintucks were used to form her signature rose motif, its size subtly graduated to pull dresses toward the wearer's figure. For Vionnet such exact craftsmanship enabled her to challenge traditional methods continually. Even when she used beadwork, most famously on the 1924 Little Horses dress, she demanded an innovative approach. She commissioned couture embroiderer Albert Lesage to explore new ways to apply bugle beads to bias-cut silk, so that the flow of the fabric would not be interrupted and the images of glittering horses inspired by the stylized, representational forms on Grecian red figure vases would not be distorted by the beads' weight. Even thick furs and tweeds could be given greater fluidity and form through her manipulation of their drape and use of pattern pieces cut to sculpt and form around the figure.

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