Vionnet, Madeleine. 1876-1975. Designer. Born in Aubervilliers, France. She Apprenticed to a seamstress at the early age of eleven. Vionnet worked in the Paris suburbs in her late teens before joining Kate O’Reilly, a London dressmaker, in 1898. In 1900 she returned to Paris and was employed by Mme Gerber, the designing member of callot soeurs. Vionnet joined Docet in 1907 and remained with him for five years. In 1912 she opened her own house, closing during World War I and reopening shortly after. Greatly favoured by pre- World War I actresses Eve Lavalliere and Rejane, Vionnet was one of the most innovative designers of her day. In the late 1920’s and 1930s she reached the height of her fame. She was credited with the popularization of the Cowl and Halter neck. She favored crepe, crepe de chine, gabadine and satin for evening dresses and day dresses, which were often cut in one piece, without armholes. She is a one of a kind designer who equalled her enormous technical contributions to haute couture. Vionett retired in 1939.
Chanel, Coco. 1883-1971. Designer, who was born in Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel in Saumur, France. Chanel made and sold hats, simple loose blouses, and chemises. Chanel’s clothes were designed to be worn without corsets and were constructed with fewer linings to make them lighter and less rigid. In early 1914 she was showing a simple chemise dress. In 1916 she began to make garments from jersey, a cheap fabric that was previously used for underwear. Later, demanded for this fabric and for a specially woven knit called kasha persuaded Chanel to manufacture them. In 1918 Chanel was producing cardigans and twinsets. She adapted men’s sweaters and showed them worn over plain, straight skirts. In 1920 she introduced wide-legged trousers for women, based on a sailor’s bell bottom which she called ‘yachting pants’. These were followed two years later by wide, generously cut beach pajamas. Chanel’s personal life brought her into the public eye and increased her influence on fashion during the post-World War I years. She herself wore the clothes that she designed and adapted from traditional menswear: belted raincoats, plain open-neck shirts, blazers, cardigans, trousers and soft berets. Favoring gray and navy-blue she also created a vogue for beige. Chanel became a celebrated figure, the archetypal garconne flat-chested, slender, wearing loose, comfortable clothes and sporting a short, boyish haircut.
She popularized the little black dress, sling back sandals and pea jackets. In 1929 Chanel opened a boutique in Paris salon to sell accessories such as bags, belts, scarves and jewelry. The fashion world was shocked to see revamped prewar fashions but more women than ever took to wearing the Chanel suit, and by the 1960’s it had become a symbol of traditional elegance, worn with a gilt chain bag and a string of pearls. The look is still extremely popular today. In 1983 Karl Laugerfield took over as designer for the brand, and remains in that position today.
1920’s fashion trends were primarily focused around the modern area and liberation for women. Iconically most suits that were designed in the 1920’s are based upon mens suits that we see today. This era was important because women began to shift from the conservative dress to wearing sportswear. Coco Chanel was one of the 1st women in the 1920’s to cut her hair to the popular “bob” style and wear trousers. She helped free womens fashion from standard forms and shapes. Also, during the 1920’s there were two designers who popped on the scene.
1. Jean Patou – French designer who introduced the 2 piece sweater and skirt.
2. Elsa Schiaparelli- (who I have written about before) Designed clothes so there was a awareness of the body and form beneath