This biography of the prolific French designer Madeleine Vionnet is the type of present I hope to find under the Christmas tree: an elegant coffee table book with enough variety to keep me hiding from the relatives for hours. Vionnet opens with a convincing, yet imagined, interview between Golbin and the designer, who was nicknamed “the Queen of Bias” for pioneering the use of diagonally cut geometric shapes to drape her designs. (Think the slinky, sensual gowns of ’30s Hollywood.) The inner workings of her couture house are also detailed here, as is her design strategy. We learn how, guided by an interest in human movement, Vionnet created these dresses that were both uncomplicated and luxurious. Though the essays in Madeleine Vionnet are meticulous and informative, it’s the images depicting her garments that really elevate this biography from academic tome to art book. Photographs of her original designs, many donated by the designer, are beautifully catalogued across 200 pages and accompanied by sketches and close-up shots of intricate detailing and construction techniques. The book does Vionnet’s innovations justice by carefully chronicling her influence and her body of work. It will make a sophisticated addition to any couture enthusiast’s library.
by Pamela Golbin (Rizzoli)
Reviewed by Magenta Piroska (originally published in WORN Fashion Journal Issue 11)