Tag Archives: Madeleine Vionnet

Biased in Favor of Vionnet and Ericson, Part 2

Vionnet , 1936. Metropolitan Museum photos

Vionnet , 1936. Metropolitan Museum photos

In Part 1, I shared bits of a marvelous lecture about Vionnet, given by Sandra Ericson in 2010.  I recently looked at Sandra Ericson’s site online, The Center for Pattern Design, (click here)  and found that there have been many changes — she has relocated from northern California to Oregon, she now sells patterns and specialized books online, and she offers lectures and seminars all over the country. (Back in 2010, she was getting ready for a seminar/workshop on Balenciaga. See her two-day seminars.  Vionnet is not her only specialty, but is the topic for a five day seminar/workshop.)

Her site says, “Each seminar and the instructor, Sandra Ericson, meet the qualifications for university level instruction for degree or non-credit fashion programs.  If inclusion in an accredited program curriculum is desired, please contact us for further compliance information.”

You can also watch her free online class in patternmaking “from sketch to pattern.” ) On my computer it took a very long time to load, but a long-ago class — in grad school — when I first learned about “pattern manipulation” was one of those life-changing moments.

The Most Expensive Gown in the World: by Madeleine Vionnet, in a Pebco toothpase ad. Delineator, Sept. 1931.

“The Most Expensive Gown in the World:” by Madeleine Vionnet, in a Pebco toothpaste ad. Delineator, Sept. 1931. “Though apparently simple, its classic loveliness is founded on the most intricate cutting and  molding to the body lines. By courtesy of Bergdorf-Goodman.”

When Ericson lectured at the de Young museum, she said the only way she publicizes her draping workshops is via her newsletter, so please visit her website if you want to subscribe to her mailing list. (click here, then scroll down to bottom of page.)

The lecture included plenty of visual material, with slides and half-scale versions of Vionnet designs from the early 20’s through the end of the 1930’s. Obviously, it’s hard to to do her lecture justice without her slides, but Ericson also recommended some books on the life and work of Madeleine Vionnet, especially Madeleine Vionnet by Betty Kirke (available from Amazon for as little as $76). Another, Madeleine Vionnet by Pamela Golbin, is also available for $75 or so, used.

Betty Kirke also wrote a “must read” article about Vionnet for Threads Magazine, which you can read online (illustrated).  It has some amazing pattern layouts!

Velvet gown by Vionnet, photographed by Edward Steichen. Advertisement in Delineator, 1925.

Velvet gown by Vionnet, photographed by Edward Steichen. Advertisement in Delineator, 1925.

Also just a click away is an article in Threads Magazine which shows half-scale reproductions of Vionnet designs. To read read “Vionnet in Miniature” (click here).

Vionnet draped on half-scale mannequins so that she could see the whole design at once. (Click here to see her at work.)

(Where can you get an affordable half-scale mannequin? Ericson ingeniously makes them from My Size Barbie dolls — and sells a pattern for turning a Barbie figure into a human figure for about $13. (See it here.) The doll is not included — they cost about $60 online.

These are notes I took at Sandra Ericson’s 2010 lecture on Vionnet — any errors are mine. The patterns used for illustration are not by Vionnet, but show her influence. My drawings are pure conjecture.

What I Learned in Two Hours

Ericson divided her lecture into “6 Principles of Elegant Cutting” – “epiphanies” she had while studying Vionnet.

Vionnet as Architect:  Vionnet thought of herself as an architect or geometrician. Her design goal was simplicity and integration. Integration: nothing is added that isn’t part of the whole (no trims, etc., that don’t have a function) and Simplicity: achieve the most design excellence with the least amount of “work” – that is , the fewest seams/cuts possible.

Vionnet gown photographed by Irving Penn.

Vionnet gown photographed by Irving Penn. This dress is four rectangles, worn on the bias. Collection of Metropolitan Museum

Vionnet’s Fabrics:  Ericson also gave a list of fabrics that work best for Vionnet’s approach:  those that have a balanced thread count, a loose weave (not synthetic, usually), twisted yarns, less friction (so they flow over the body), less dimensional stability (seek fabrics that do NOT keep a square well) and weight:  Rayon, silk, wool, crepe chiffon, georgette, twills, nets.

Anatomy and Style Lines: Vionnet stressed the importance of the geometry of the human body: Style Lines – places where the seams go – should coincide with the direction of the muscles.

Vionnet thought seams should follow the lines of our musculature. Anatomical drawing by Hugh Laidman, Vionnet gown photo: Metropolitan Museum.

Vionnet thought seams should follow the lines of our musculature. Anatomical drawing by Hugh Laidman in his book Figures/Faces; Vionnet gown photo from Metropolitan Museum.

Ericson’s Analysis of Vionnet’s Six Principles of Elegant Cutting

Principle 1:  Cut geometrically. Vionnet based her cutting on circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, and especially on the quadrant (quarter) of a circle.

Vionnet often began draping with a quadrant, sometimes with the tip cut off.

Vionnet often began draping with a quadrant, sometimes with the tip cut off.

Some of her early dresses were cut on the straight, seamed on the straight grain, and worn on the bias. Other gowns were formed from four identical pattern pieces, often cut as rectangles, worn on the bias. (See one by clicking here.) Sandra Ericson reproduced one and wore it:  a timeless design.

This 1920’s dress is tucked on the straight grain and worn on the bias:

Vionnet dress, 1926-1927. Metropolitan Museum photo.

Vionnet dress, 1926-1927. Metropolitan Museum photo. Click image to enlarge.

Some of her most influential gowns were based on a quarter circle, slashed to create a V neckline or an armhole, shaped by triangular inserts at waist or hip. . . .

Vionnet Nightgown with triangular inserts, 1930. Photos: Metropolitan Museum.

Vionnet nightgown with triangular inserts, 1930. Photos: Metropolitan Museum.

An astonishing number of 1930’s dresses are shaped by geometrical inserts which use bias stretch to achieve their fit — even these dresses from Sears.

Dresses from the Sears, Roebuck catalog, 1932.

Dresses from the Sears, Roebuck catalog, 1932.

It’s tempting to think this dress is simply a quadrant with a halter, but that was just the beginning.

Vionnet evening gown, 1936. Collection of Metropolitan Museum.

Vionnet evening gown, 1936. Collection of Metropolitan Museum.

A quadrant wrapped around the body. Vionnet added a side front seam.

Drawing:  A quadrant wrapped around the body and seamed below the waist at center back. However, Vionnet shaped her gown with a side front seam, just visible in the photo.

Principle 2:  Weight creates fit and form. (Rayon double crepe and 4-ply silk crepe are recommended.) Vionnet’s dresses won’t hang properly unless there is enough weight to pull the bias fabric down over the body. The weight of the fabric will usually do this on a full-length gown, but a knee-length dress will skim and stand away from the body, unless you find a way to add weight. However, Vionnet did this by integrating the added weight into the design, not by weighting it with chain.

Chiffon gown by Vionnet, 1926. Metropolitan Museum photo.

Chiffon gown by Vionnet, 1926. Metropolitan Museum photo. The trim weights the light chiffon.

She might use many tucks or applique to add weight on a light fabric, or fur at the hem, or a pattern of fringe.

Fringd evening gown by Vionnet. 1936. Photos: Met Museum.

Fringed evening gown by Vionnet. 1936. Photos: Met Museum.

Principle 3:  Any part can extend – into twists, ties, folds, loops. Think of a halter dress which is one long strip of fabric, covering the bust, twisting into a ‘knot’ below the breasts, continuing around the back and returning to the front to form the sash…. The folds and twists of fabric become the ‘ornamentation.’

Vionnet evening dress and jacket, wrapped and tied. 1935. Photos: Metropolitan museum.

Vionnet evening dress and jacket, wrapped and tied. 1935. Photos: Metropolitan Museum.

Butterick patterns 4199 (1931,) 4222 (1931,) and 4587 (1932) shown the twisted fabrics pioneered by Vionnet.

Butterick patterns 4199 (1931,) 4222 (1931,) and 4587 (1932) show the twisted fabrics pioneered by Vionnet.

Butterick 4546: "...the cape shoulders, the twisting that Vionnet has made famous, and the wrapping and tying that is very 'last-wordish' here now." Delineator, June 1932.

Butterick 4546: “…the cape shoulders, the twisting that Vionnet has made famous, and the wrapping and tying that is very ‘last-wordish’ here now.” Delineator, June 1932.

Twisted effects in a Kotex ad and a Butterick pattern, 1932.

Twisted effects: gown in a Kotex ad and a Butterick pattern, 1932.

Butterick pattern 4271, "Crossed and tied." January 1932.

Butterick pattern 4271, “Crossed and closely tied.” January 1932. “A frock with its decolletage made by crossing the bodice at the back and tying the ends round in front.”

Note how many of these thirties gowns use panels based on quadrants in their skirts.

Principle 4:  The design should integrate the closure. Vionnet liked closures to be part of the design, not added later. Often a pattern piece extends to become a draped collar, wrap behind the neck, and fall as a scarf or cape over the opening, so that there is no need for a closure.

Vionnet, 1920. The collar extends into a long scarf, whose weight helps keep the wrap bodice in place. Met Museum, NY

Vionnet, 1920. The collar extends into a long scarf, whose weight helps keep the wrap bodice in place. Met Museum, NY

Betty Kirke’s pattern taken from this dress can be seen here. Another view of the dress, showing a rectangular insert in the left side, can be seen here.  One Vionnet ‘suit’ which appeared to be a dress and cape was actually a single piece.

Principle 5:  Decorative details create silhouette, fit, and finish. Work them on the straight grain. Examples: several rows of pintucks on a crepe day dress appear to form an X from shoulders to hips. They are stitched on the straight, but worn on the bias, and contribute to the structure of the dress.

Detail of Vionnet dresses from the 1920's. The fabric was tucked on the straight grain, but used on the bias. Mertopolitan Museum Photos.

Detail of two Vionnet dresses from the 1920’s. The fabric was tucked on the straight grain, but used on the bias. Metropolitan Museum Photos.

She also used fagoting (connecting pieces of fabric with openwork stitching ) – a square worked on the straight – which formed diamond shaped neckline and sleeve details in the (bias) finished garment. (This black silk dress from a private collection is not attributed to Vionnet, but it uses this technique.)

Black silk vintage dress with squares set on the bias and connected by fagoting.

Black silk vintage dress with squares set on the bias and connected by fagoting.

Principle 6:  Use inserts for specific shaping.

Suit, Butterick pattern 4316, Feb. 1932. The inserts at the hips are attributed to Vionnet.

Suit, Butterick pattern 4316, Feb. 1932. The inserts at the hips, and the skirt beginning above the waist,  show the influence of  Vionnet.

4316 skirt cut like vionnet text 1932 feb del

Can you visualize the skirt of No. 4316 beginning as a straight-grain section of a circle, with straight-grain squares inserted on the bias? (The squares seem to be incorporated into the bodice.) This dress fits closely over the hips without any visible darts to shape it, although there is a bust dart in the bodice.

Think of a satin 1930’s evening gown, very full at the hem, with triangular or rectangular inserts, with the points toward the center of the body. With the sides of the rectangle on the straight grain, the panel stretches horizontally. (Click here for illustration.)

Butterick evening patterns , from 1931 and 1932.

Butterick evening patterns , from 1931-32.

The dress on the right has inserts over the hips; the dress in the center seems to have a triangular insert in the bodice. Like the dress on the left, it follows Vionnet’s rule about seams following the muscles of the body.  Pure genius!

Butterick 3949. Delineator, August 1931.

Butterick 3949. Delineator, August 1931. The skirt is based on quadrants and inserted squares used on the bias.

This Butterick pattern is clearly influenced by Vionnet.  Here are some others: Butterick 3559 from 1931, Syndicate 201 from 1932, McCall 6316 from 1931, Vogue S-3453  from 1931.

Vionnet’s fabric was custom made, in widths up to 100 inches! However, you can create your own fabric by piecing straight to straight – just remember that Vionnet would want the new seams to be integral to your design!
Madeleine Vionnet never re-opened her couture house after World War II, because she knew that her body-conscious clothes were not suited to the military-influenced, shoulder-padded, boxy styles of the 40s, nor to the “New Look” with its elaborate understructures, which depended on reshaping the body rather than working with the body. However, she lived and continued teaching into her nineties, and it’s amazing to realize how much the “look” of the twenties and thirties owes to her – and how much later designers continued to incorporate her genius into the couture.

This lecture by Sandra Ericson was truly inspirational. Check out her classes, etc., at  The Center for Pattern Design

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Dresses, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns

Biased in Favor of Vionnet and Sandra Ericson, Part 1

 

Back of a gown by Vionnet, 1932. Photos: Metropolitan Museum

Back of a gown by Vionnet, 1932. Photos: Metropolitan Museum

I can’t look at 1930’s fashions without being constantly reminded of the genius of Madeleine Vionnet. She was a successful couturier in the 1920’s, when fashions were mostly tubular, falling with the straight of the grain, but it was Vionnet’s exploration of fabrics used on the bias — which allows woven fabric to stretch — that is, for me, the “look” of the thirties.

Dresses that cling to every curve and pour over the body like water . . . .

Vionnet bias silk and metallic lame gown, 1936. Photos: Metropolitan Museum.

Vionnet bias silk and metallic lame gown, 1936. Photos: Metropolitan Museum.

Diamond-shaped bias panels caressing the hips . . . .

Butterick suit pattern 4176. Delineator, Dec. 1931.

Butterick suit pattern 4176. Delineator, Dec. 1931.

“Mermaid gowns” that glide over the hips and flare near the hem . . . .

Butterick patterns 4093 and 4097; Delineator, Oct. 1931.

Butterick patterns 4093 and 4097; Delineator, Oct. 1931.

Jean Harlow in a slinky halter dress . . . .  All show the influence of Madame Vionnet.

In November, 2010, I attended a lecture on the techniques of Madeleine Vionnet given by Sandra Ericson, who runs the Center for Pattern Design. It was one of the best organized presentations I have ever heard — packed with information, and illustrated with slides and with half-scale and full scale Vionnet reproductions that Ericson had made. (Yes, we were allowed to touch them and examine them.)

As a member of an organization of costumers who work in professional, educational and community theatres, I took plenty of  notes and shared them with members who couldn’t attend. I will post them in Part 2 of this series.

One of the things Ericson said about Vionnet’s draping technique (there is more about it in Betty Kirke’s book,  Madeleine Vionnet) was a real  “light bulb goes on over my head” moment for me.  Actually, since I had been draping and drafting patterns for 30 years at that point, I should probably call it a “Well, Duh!” moment.

Butterick evening gown 3696, with square bias panels over the hips. Delineator, February 1931.

Butterick evening gown 3696, with square bias panels over the hips. Delineator, February 1931.

Ericson (and Betty Kirke before her) pointed out that Madeleine Vionnet cut geometrically. Vionnet based her cutting on circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, and especially on the quadrant (quarter) of a circle. Her early 30’s dresses were cut on the straight, seamed on the straight grain, and worn on the bias. [More about that later.] Some of her loveliest bias gowns were based on a quarter circle, slashed to create a V neckline or an armhole, with triangular inserts, or were formed from four identical pattern pieces, often cut as rectangles, stitched on the straight, worn on the bias.

Nightgown by Vionnet, 1930. The quadrant has been slit at the top and sides, and triangles inserted at the sides. Photo: Metropolitan Museum.

Nightgown by Vionnet, 1930. The quadrant has been slit at the top and sides, and triangles inserted at the sides. Photo: Metropolitan Museum.

I think these concepts are worth writing about here.

Forgive me if I seem to be stating the obvious to some readers; I never took a sewing class until I started my MFA program. My Girl Scout leader taught us how to operate a sewing a machine and use a commercial pattern; after that, I learned mostly from making commercial patterns and following the instructions. So I knew enough to pay attention to “straight of grain” and “bias grain” when cutting out a pattern; I knew what the words meant, but not how they affected the outcome. It wasn’t until grad school, when I started draping fabric on a professional dressmaker’s mannequin (the kind that costs hundreds of dollars) that I had a clue.

The Basics of Fabric Grain (we’ll get to Vionnet in a minute…)

Everything that follows applies to simple, woven fabrics, not to knits or stretch fabrics.

Fabric is woven with vertical threads and horizontal threads, which wrap around the vertical threads at the sides — this is called the selvage (selvedge in the UK). The straight grain of the fabric runs parallel to the selvage and at a right angle to the selvage ( the cross grain.) If you draw a line from the top left corner of a square of fabric to the bottom right corner of a square of fabric, that line follows the bias grain.

The important thing about the bias is that it stretches. If you pull on a square of fabric with a hand at each side, or a hand at top and bottom, it doesn’t stretch much. But if you take hold of two opposite corners and pull, the fabric will stretch. That is why “bias tape” stretches, and bias cut skirts mold to the body.

bias x str grain

The Magic of Draping

Suppose that you have cut a simple skirt out of muslin. It has just a back and a front, and each is a quarter of a circle, with a slightly curved line at the waist.

skirt front

skirt front (quarter section — “quadrant” — of a circle)

If you pin the skirt front to a mannequin and pull the center of the waistline up just a half inch or so, an amazing thing happens:

Raising the center of the waist just a small amount will change the way the skirt hangs.

Raising the center of the waist just a small amount will change the way the skirt hangs.

The sides will move closer together, and the fullness of the skirt, which was evenly distributed, falls toward the center, directly under the place where you raised the waist.  Keep this in mind when looking at 1930’s dresses. The tiniest “tweak” at the waist will determine where the folds congregate — to the center, to one side, etc.

Front of skirt raised quarter circle088

 

A godet (a wedge of fabric usually shaped like a pie slice) is typically a section of a circle.  Often a godet  is inserted between two straight-of-grain panels, where it falls into evenly distributed folds like these:

Godets in 1930's dresses: Butterick 4222 (1931,) 4456 (1932,) and 5447 (1934)

Godets in 1930’s dresses: Butterick 4222 (1931,) 4456 (1932,) and 5447 (1934)

But, in the godet at the left, below, and the skirt at the right, the fullness has been “tweaked” to force the folds away from the center front. The fabric has been lifted a bit at the points of the yoke.

The godet of Butterick 4341 (left) and the entire skirt front of Butterick 4333 (right) have their folds falling from a point of suspension. February 1932.

The godet of Butterick 4341 (left) and the entire skirt front of Butterick 4333 (right) have their folds falling from their points of suspension. February 1932.

Playing with fabric’s behavior and making discoveries like this is one of the joys of draping.

Vionnet Influence, Butterick Pattern

In this evening ensemble from 1932, Butterick mentions the influence of Vionnet. Because the fabric has a vertical stripe, we can see the grain very clearly. The dress is cut on the lengthwise grain, following the selvage. The godets are cut on the cross grain. And the jacket hangs on the bias.

Butterick evening pattern 4546, Delineator, June 1932.

Butterick evening pattern 4546, “Floating Power,” Delineator, June 1932.

1932 june p 66 4546 vionnet jacket

Here is a later wrapped jacket by Vionnet in the Metropolitan Museum collection.

Cut Cut and Sew on the Straight Grain; Wear on the Bias

Another of those “Well, Duh!” moments for me.

BUtterick pattern for 1931. Vionnet Gown dated 1932. Gown photo: Metropolitan Museum.

Butterick pattern for 1931. Vionnet Gown dated 1932. Gown photo: Metropolitan Museum.

To illustrate “cut and sew on the straight, wear on the bias,” I’m rotating that Butterick evening gown 45 degrees.

The panels of the gown are sewn on the straight grain and worn on the bias.

The panels of the bodice are cut and sewn on the straight grain and used on the bias in the finished dress.

This beautifully made early 1930’s dress was butchered by having one sleeve torn off.  Luckily a collector recognized its quality (the squares were hand-stitched together!)

Vintage bias silk dress. ON the right, I removed the confusing shadow.

Vintage bias silk dress made with squares of fabric stitched together with fagoting. On the right, I removed the confusing shadow.

It is a bias-cut dress, and flows over the figure, clinging to every curve. But it was made of squares cut on the straight grain:

Squares with the seam allowances folded under and connected with fagoting.

Squares with the seam allowances folded under and connected with fagoting.

Before being made into a dress, the stitched-together squares were tilted 45 degrees:

black squares in position on dress

Now the dress has bias stretch in two directions.

Detail of black silk bias dress.

Detail of vintage black silk bias dress.

Detail of fagoting, which allows the undergarment to show through. Vintage black silk dress in private collection.

Detail of cross-stitch fagoting, which allows the undergarment to show through. These loose seams allow even more stretch. Vintage black silk dress in private collection.

In the words of the old gravestones: “Go thou, and do likewise.” Play with fabric. Experiment with bias. ( It’s O.K. to use a sewing machine!)

More about Sandra Ericson’s brilliant lecture on Vionnet  in Part 2.

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Filed under 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Dresses, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns

Dancing Shoes, December 1928

“… Never have the shops made it easier to select dazzlingly beautiful slippers to complete the Christmas and New Year’s formal costume.” — Lucile Babcock in The Delineator magazine, December, 1928, p. 61.

Top of article, "Dancing Data," by Lucile Babcock, The Delineator; Dec. 1928.

Top of article, “Dancing Data,” by Lucile Babcock, The Delineator; Dec. 1928.

Elegant shoes were featured in The Delineator in November of 1928, too. (Click here for shoes by Vionnet’s husband.) All these dancing shoes are made of fabric — fragile but practical, since fabric shoes don’t usually need to be “broken in.”

(A) is made of gold brocade trimmed with soft gold leather. (B) is "dramatic with gold kid and gayest embroidery." December 1928, Delineator.

(A) is made of gold brocade trimmed with soft gold leather. (B) is “dramatic with gold kid and gayest embroidery.” Dancing shoes, December 1928, Delineator.

(C) is "ready-to-dye" crepe de chine fabric. (D) is "silver and white brocade which may be dyed."

(C) is “ready-to-dye” crepe de Chine fabric. (D) is “silver and white brocade which may be dyed.” Dancing shoes, Dec. 1928, Delineator.

I928 dec p 61 text C and D dancing shoes

“There is paisley brocade, as gorgeous in its many colors as a Persian shawl, which chooses to collaborate with gold kid heels and straps — a vivid lovely accent for a white or off-white evening frock.”

(F) Gold or silver brocade dancing shoes from Arch Preserver. (G) Crepe de Chine pump made by Delman. Dec. 1928.

(E) Gold or silver brocade dancing shoes from Arch Preserver. (F) Crepe de Chine pump made by Delman. Dancing shoes, Delineator, Dec. 1928.

I928 dec p 61 text E and F dancing shoes

 “Gold or silver brocade twinkling with rhinestone buckles has elaborate new tendencies in plaided or flowered designs, and is as glamorous as the fabled slippers of the fairy tale.”

(G) "Persian brocade and silver kid. Dance magic!" (H) Black velvet with scarlet satin inserts. Dec. 1928.

(G) “Persian brocade and silver kid. Dance magic!” (H) Black velvet with scarlet satin inserts. Dancing shoes, Delineator, Dec. 1928.

I928 dec p 61 text G and H dancing shoes

“The suave beauty of velvet has a dozen new guises and disguises when it appears on the dance program. Embroidered, painted in flamboyant colors, moired or inlaid with satin in some fanciful arabesque, the velvet slipper adds an ornate look to the simple, stately, monotone frock of velvet or satin.”

(I) is labelled "Red and gold paisley brocade" but clearly is not. (J) says "Rhinestones sparkle on the strap of this pump." Dec,. 1928.

(I) is labelled “Red and gold paisley brocade” but clearly is not. (J) says “Rhinestones sparkle on the strap of this pump.” Dancing shoes, Dec. 1928.

If you don’t know the online shoe museum called “Shoe-Icon” — based in Russia — it has a large, well illustrated collection and an excellent library of shoe trademarks.  You can search for shoe designers by name or by trademark. (Translate into English by clicking at upper right of screen.) Shoes by the designers in this article are well-represented.

The shoes illustrated in this article came from I. Miller & Sons, J. & T. Cousins (click here for a very similar shoe — in color — at the Shoe-Icons site. ), Laird Schober & Co. (click here for a brocade shoe by Laird Schrober with rhinestoned heel, at Shoe-Icons,) Delman (Shoe-Icon shows many Delman shoes — click here), and Arch Preserver. (“Arch Preserver ” and “Foot Saver” shoes, advertised for comfort, were nevertheless sometimes very attractive. The brocade one shown above (E) has a slightly thicker heel than the others.

From a Foot Saver ad, Feb. 1929.

Woman’s Shoe from a Foot Saver ad, Feb. 1929.

Day shoe from Arch Preserver, June 1929. Delineator.

Day shoe from Arch Preserver, June 1929. Delineator.

It reminded me of this I. Miller evening shoe:

I928 dec p 61 dancing shoe II really like 1920’s shoes. They are usually beautiful and wearable (not too high) — and flattering. The thin straps that kept them on even during a Charleston are often a color that blends with the wearer’s stockings or legs — gold, tan, silver, bronze, etc. — so that the strap doesn’t visually “cut” the leg at the ankle. (See the white shoe with tan strap, above.)

Israel Miller’s shoes were worn by fashionable women from the early 1900’s through the 1960’s. Andy Warhol was a shoe illustrator for I. Miller & Co. ads in the 1950’s. The Historialist wrote about the Warhol shoe ads here.

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A Sequinned Gown by Vionnet, 1924-1925

Mrs. Reginald Vanderbilt (nee Gloria Morgan) in a sequin trimmed black velvet gown by Vionnet. Photo by Steichen. Pond's cold cream ad, 1925.

Mrs. Reginald Vanderbilt (nee Gloria Morgan) in a sequin trimmed black velvet gown by Vionnet. Photo by Steichen. Pond’s cold cream ad, Delineator, June 1925.

In answer to Christina’s question about the Vionnet disc dress— what were the sequins really made of? — I have to acknowledge that I only saw that dress in one source, Butterick’s Delineator magazine from April 1929. As Molly Ivins said of a former president, “There is nothing so dangerous as a man who has only read one book” — a good reminder for anyone doing research.

When I find interesting things in old magazines, I try to put them in the blog so that other researchers can take the information and build on it — assuming that my source was reliable. I do try to leave a trail that can be followed — Month, Year, Name of Magazine. I have no reason to doubt the Delineator fashion sketches more than I doubt modern sketches;  Butterick maintained an establishment in Paris for the purpose of reporting on the latest styles (and occasionally, copying them . . . .)

Butterick Ad, August 1924, Delineator.

Butterick Ad, August 1924, Delineator.

“For Butterick keeps a staff of experts in Paris all the time. Wherever new models are launched, there is a Butterick expert noting each successful model. Quickly that expert cables the news. Sketches, details follow by the fast steamer. Immediately patterns are made for each of the successful new dresses.”

It’s true that Butterick ran one or two pages of sketches of Paris designs every month. In the 1920s, they were usually done by the illustrator and designer Soulie. Since there were usually five or more drawings per page, they’re not terribly large. Whether the sketches were perfectly accurate would be hard to establish without getting sketches or photos of the same garments from other sources.  ( I don’t have access to Vogue online, but that would be a good starting place.)

Mrs. Vanderbilt, photographed by Steichen in a gown by Vionnet. 1925.

Mrs. Vanderbilt, photographed by Steichen in a gown by Vionnet. Delineator, June 1925.

I found this photo of Mrs. Vanderbilt in a full page ad for Pond’s Face Cream — a celebrity endorsement. I could not find this exact dress in Betty Kirke’s Madeleine Vionnet, but Kirke did have numbered photos of similar sequin- trimmed dresses from the same collection. (It’s easy to forget that Vionnet was not averse to decoration; she just insisted that it be essential to the design, not added gratuitously.) Here is a detail of the skirt:

Vionnet using sequins on a black velvet gown, Delineator, June 1925.

Vionnet uses sequins on a black velvet gown, Delineator, June 1925.

Christina’s question was about the size and material of the paillettes on the disc dress. All the photo above shows is that Vionnet used sequins heavily in the 1920s, and could have custom work like this done to suit her needs. (Kirke does mention that.)

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.

Whether the paillettes on the disc dress were celluloid or metal, I can’t say for sure, but “overlapping” metal that size would have been heavy for a “rose chiffon” support. (I suggested celluloid sequins; gelatin sequins have been used on clothing, but were unsatisfactory for several reasons — one being that they were water soluble….) So — if anybody finds out more about this disc dress, please let us know!

Whether this is relevant or not:  Many years ago, one of my friends was building costumes for a Russian circus that was going to perform in Japan. She visited their costume shop in Russia, and saw an unfamiliar machine next to a stack of clear plastic shirt collar supports — the kind used for packaging shirts so their collars don’t get squashed in shipping. When she asked, she was told that the machine was for making sequins — the costume shop had to make their own out of any scraps of shiny plastic they could salvage. When she got back to the U.S., she mailed them a big package of colored sequins.

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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.

 

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Day Dresses for November, 1934

Butterick dress patterns for "High Noon," November 1934. Nos. 5961, 5955, and 5857.

Butterick dress patterns for “High Noon,” November 1934. Nos. 5961, 5955, and 5857. From The Delineator magazine. Photographer not named.

High Noon

“If you sit in the lobby of any smart luncheon place at high noon, you’ll see these smart women come in. The one who wears a tailored tweed dress, 5961 [left], with careful details — small collar, pockets, buttons, pleats, stitching.  The one who wears a black wool dress, 5957 [right], with slits in the streamline skirt and a shining satin sash.  The one who wears a bright crepe dress, 5955 [center], punctuated at neckline and wrists with black. There’s a look of Jodelle about the lovely, simple lines. . . . Cheney fabric. Delman shoes. Lilly Daché hat. Furs from Jaekel.”

Butterick 5961

Butterick pattern No. 5961, Nov. 1934, Delineator magazine.

Butterick pattern No. 5961, Nov. 1934, The Delineator magazine.

I confess that this is my favorite. It has so many great details, including that yoke extending into sleeves; the intriguing pocket shapes, copied on the skirt; and the big button accents. On the other hand, matching the large-scale plaid was undoubtedly easier for the illustrator than it would be for the home stitcher!

1934 nov high noon 5961 left top

“5961:  The kind of tailored clothes that came out of Paris are the kind with interesting details — stitching, slot seams, amusing pockets, slit skirts. As Agnes-Drecoll uses details, we used them in this plaid wool dress. For 36 (size 18), 3 yards, 54-inch wool.  Designed for 12 to 20; 30 to 42 [inch bust measure.]”

Not what we think of as a 'slit skirt' today: Butterick #5961, 1934.

Not what we think of as a ‘slit skirt’ today: Butterick #5961, 1934. It wouldn’t make walking much easier….

Butterick 5955

Butterick pattern No. 5955, with Lilly Dache hat. November 1934 Delineator magazine.

Butterick pattern No. 5955, with Lilly Dache hat. November 1934 The Delineator magazine.

“As Jodelle grows familiar, you recognize the simplicity of her lines. Like our dress with its convertible collar, they suit everyone. . . . Designed for sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 40 [inch bust measure.] “

Butterick pattern No. 5955, Delineator, Nov. 1934.

Butterick pattern No. 5955, The Delineator, Nov. 1934.

That’s certainly an interesting sleeve (although likely to swoop into the soup at lunch). The article gives no alternate view to explain how the collar is “convertible.” Here’s a closer look at the Lilly Daché hat, with its brim of pleated velvet:

Black velvet hat from Lilly Dache. 1934.

Black velvet hat from Lilly Dache. 1934.

I had to increase the contrast to show the hat details. According to Lizzie Bramlett, writing for the Vintage Fashion Guild, Lilly Dache’s first hat under her own name was also made of velvet. Fashion trivia fact: “In 1958 Daché hired Halston as a hat designer.”

Butterick 5957

Butterick pattern 5957, Delineator magazine, Nov. 1934.

Butterick pattern 5957, The Delineator magazine, Nov. 1934.

“5957  A new French house called Robert Piguet slit the skirts of trim wool dresses and filled them in with pleats. We make a dress like that and tie shiny satin around the waist. . . . Designed for sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 40 [inch bust measure.] ”

SLit with pleats in the style of Robert Piguet, 1934. The Delineator.

Slit with pleats in the style of Robert Piguet, 1934. The Delineator.

Writing for the Vintage Fashion Guild, emmapeelpants says that the house of Robert Piguet, founded in 1933, was “the training ground for Dior, Bohan, Galanos, Balmain and Givenchy. ” That’s quite an alumni group! Like Butterick No. 5961, this dress has broad shoulders and a yoke, which makes the upper body look wider (and the hips narrower by comparison. Also notice how much the length of the thigh is exaggerated in this fashion illustration.) 1934 nov high noon right 5957 thigh lengthThe finishing touch on this dress (described in the copy as “a black wool dress,” but illustrated in red) is an exceptionally long rhinestone dress clip at the neckline, added in the illustration to continue the vertical CF seam. 1934 nov high noon right dress clip

1930s rhinestone dress clip from RememberedSummers.

1930s rhinestone dress clip from RememberedSummers.

I thought this vintage clip was long — over 2 inches — but it’s nowhere near as long as the one illustrated. The collar of #5957 would look quite different without that big piece of jewelry.

Not Quite Designer Fashions

You’ll notice that all three patterns are described with reference to specific Paris designers, but none of them claims to be an exact copy of a Paris design. “As Agnes-Drecoll uses details, we used them in this plaid wool dress.”  “There’s a look of Jodelle about the lovely, simple lines.” “Robert Piguet slit the skirts of trim wool dresses and filled them in with pleats. We make a dress like that . . . .” The Butterick Publishing Company maintained an office in Paris, partly for the purpose of reporting on the latest fashions. Back in the 1920s, it was raided by the French police on behalf of Madeleine Vionnet; they indeed found evidence that her dresses were being copied in the workshop. Vionnet sued. (Source: Betty Kirke’s brilliant book Madeleine Vionnet.)

 

 

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Introducing the Winter Mode, by Madeleine Vionnet, 1927

Introducing the Winter Mode, an Article by Madeleine Vionnet1927 nov p 27 Vionnet 500 dpi writes article 1749 1653

This brief article in The Delineator, published in November, 1927, page 27, is ostensibly written by the couturier Madeleine Vionnet. It may actually be the report of a translated interview; The Delineator also published an article “by Captain Molyneux” in the same series, but I have not yet photographed it. The curvature of the page of the bound volume makes the pattern descriptions at the sides hard to read, so I will transcribe them; they are not written by Vionnet, but are editorial comments on the winter modes and are illustrated by two Butterick patterns, not necessarily Vionnet designs. (The Delineator was published by the Butterick Publishing Company.)  You can read the article — the center column — exactly as printed:

Vionnet Headline and Introduction1927 nov p 27 Vionnet title“Madeleine Vionnet, the famous Paris dressmaker was the first designer to make the unlined frock, discarding the hooks and bones of the tight lining. The famous Vionnet V’s of her modernistic cut made intricate line immensely more important than obvious trimming. Vionnet’s versions of flares and fagoting and bias cuts imbue the basic principles of the new mode with a supreme distinction, an ageless quality, the results of Mme. Vionnet’s own philosophy of dress.”

Vionnet’s Article from 1927

1927 nov p 27 adj Vionnet top

1927 nov p 27 adj Vionnet ctr top1927 nov p 27 adj Vionnet ctr btm1927 nov p 27 adj Vionnet btmElegant Evening Dress, Winter 1927

Butterick dress pattern # 1749 and Evening Coat pattern # 1653, November 1927, Delineator

Butterick dress pattern # 1749 and Evening Coat pattern # 1653, November 1927, Delineator, page 27

Under the dress on the left, the text says,

1749 dress alone

” 1749 – Concerning the evening mode there is no supposition for all its ways are well established. It is a fashion of supreme elegance, of great formality and dignity. Is very feminine in appearance, brilliantly conceived and brilliantly executed. In general the smart evening frock is both long and short due to an erratic hemline which is high in some places and low in others, jagged with points of drapery or elliptical as in the bouffant dresses where the longer line rounds down in back. The decolletage of the season is the low cut oval. This is new and flattering but V and square lines are continued and the latter is particularly distinguished when held by jewelled shoulder straps. Jewels are, in fact, very much a part of all evening dress. White frocks and black frocks depend on them for relief, and not only are there necklaces, bracelets and belt and shoulder touches, but dresses area embroidered with jewels, notably in necklace lines. There is much drapery in the mode, mostly with a left-side tendency, and skirts flare, some of them in most original ways.

“The front flare of the frock above (Design 1749) rises diagonally in a scalloped outline and a wing of drapery breaks the hem. For size 36, 3 1/8 yards 35-inch all-over lace. Designed for sizes 32 to 35 (15 to 18 years) and 36 to 44.”

Evening Wraps: White, Black, and Pastel1653 coat alone

Under the coat on the right, the text says,”1653 – As to the evening wrap, it is very smart to match it to the frock, but if the wrap matches one of the frocks of the wardrobe and harmonizes with the others, that is quite in good style and very much less extravagant as the means one wrap instead of a series of them. White is, and has been for two seasons, the first color for evening, its continued vogue explained by the fact that a white frock and sun-bronzed skin is an intriguing combination.  All black, relieved by rhinestones on the frock and by ermine on the wrap, follows white in the scale of evening colors, after which come pastel shades, used so much by Vionnet.  Gray and yellow are sometimes seen and are interesting because they are new.  The evening frock this season is made of transparent velvet, metallic fabrics, Georgette, chiffon, lace, flowered or gauze lamé or tulle – tulle with a gold dot is new. The evening wrap may be a coat or cape of fur, velvet, metallic fabric or brocade. The little evening jackets that are so useful in chilly rooms, or as a means of turning an evening gown into one for afternoon, are of the fabric of the frock.

“The coat illustrated (Design 1653) has a flare across the front with the ripples thrown to the left. For size 36, 4 yards of 39-inch velvet and 2/3 yard of 9-inch fur for binding are required. Designed for sizes 32 to 35 (15 to 18 years) and 36 to 44 [bust measurement.]”

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