Vionnet Did It Before Paco Rabanne: The Disc Dress

Madeleine Vionnet is a designer who never fails to surprise me. Here, from the Spring of 1929, is one of her dresses for young women:

Vionnet dress trimmed with discs, 1929 .Sketches from Paris, The Delineator, April 1929, page 40.

Vionnet dress trimmed with discs, 1929 . Sketches from Paris, The Delineator, April 1929, page 40.

The title of the article is “Paris Keeps Evening Necks High and Hems Low for the Young Girl.”

The two dresses at top are by Vionnet; at bottoms, left to right, are gowns by Worth, Lucien Lelong, and Lanvin. April 1929. The Delineator.

The two dresses at top are by Vionnet; at bottom, left to right, are gowns by Worth, Lucien Lelong, and Lanvin. April 1929. The Delineator.

In the 1960s, Paco Rabanne became famous for his “Disc Dresses” — dresses made of plastic discs held together with metal rings. This one, dated 1965, is in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum:

Paco Rabanne Disac Dress, 1965; Photograph from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Paco Rabanne Disc Dress, 1965; Photograph from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Detail of disc dress construction, Paco Rabanne, 1965. Metropolitan Museum photo.

Detail of disc dress construction, Paco Rabanne, 1965. Metropolitan Museum photo.

For a better view of the Paco Rabanne photographs, visit the Metropolitan Museum’s online collection. Click here. The 1960s disc dress was usually worn over a bodystocking. It was made for dancing. It wasn’t made for comfort — nor quiet.

It looks like Vionnet attached her large, overlapping discs to a chiffon underlayer:

Skirt of Vionnet disc dress, 1929.

Skirt of Vionnet disc dress, 1929.

“Madeleine Vionnet uses rose chiffon over white satin for a winsome model with skirt of overlapping discs and scarf.”

I’m not saying Rabanne even knew about this Vionnet design. I’m just saying that, when it comes to using big discs on evening wear, Vionnet got there first.

The wittiest, and best known,  later variation on the disc dress has to be the one costume designer Lizzy Gardiner wore while accepting her Academy Award for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in 1995. It was made of hundreds of gold American Express Credit cards linked together in the style of the 1960s disc dresses.

I wonder if anyone has made a “disk dress” by wiring together old floppy disks.  Probably.

There is another Paco Rabanne disc dress (1967) in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, but the site may take a while to load. Click here.

 

8 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Couture Designs

8 responses to “Vionnet Did It Before Paco Rabanne: The Disc Dress

  1. I wonder what Vionnet’s disks were made of.

  2. Which goes to show that there really isn’t anything new in fashion!

  3. The ’60s dress reminds me of modern chain-mail, only more elegant. I made a shower curtain with sections connected by metal rings once (it was for a wedding present). There’s something fascinating about the combination of textiles and metal connectors.

  4. Christina

    I’m really interested in the illustrated Vionnet dress. I have never seen celluloid or gelatin sequins that large so I was wondering if you know of any evidence that supports that Vionnet used such large sequins?

    • It’s possible that they were metal, but one layer overlaps the other in the illustration, as if they were translucent — or maybe, just black pailletes. Metal would have been awfully heavy for a chiffon support. Of course, this is a period drawing of the dress, and may not be much more accurate than modern fashion sketches. (Butterick had an office in Paris for the purpose of keeping up with — and sometimes copying — the latest styles. Since many top level designers were illustrated on the same page, the original illustration in the Delineator was not very big. I put this interesting image out there for other researchers’ to follow up on. Betty Kirke is the expert; alas, I don’t have a copy of Betty Kirke’s Vionnet book — I have to use the one in my public library. Vionnet did go through a period of heavily sequinned designs in the 1920s. I’ll try to post a picture of one of them — but it’s nothing like the “disc” dress. Happy hunting!

  5. Pingback: A Sequinned Gown by Vionnet, 1924-1925 | witness2fashion

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