Madeleine Vionnet (1876-1975) was one of the great French couturiers of the 20th century. She started her training early when she left home as a preteen to become an apprentice to a dressmaker near Paris. At 18 she went to London, after a failed marriage and the death of a child. There she found work at Kate Reilly, a prominent London dressmaker. In the five years she was there Vionnet became the head of the Reilly workrooms.
Upon returning to Paris in 1900, Vionnet worked at Callot Soeurs for five years. She then went to Doucet, where she experimented with clothing that did not require a corset.
In 1912 she managed to save enough money to open her own house, but the venture was under-financed, and lasted for fewer than two years. She tried again in 1918, this time successfully. She began experimenting with the technique that would make her reputation — a new way to drape the fabric in a way that flattered many figure types — the bias cut.
Vionnet worked by designing on doll-like mannequins, cutting, draping and stitching the fabric directly on the figure. She was a masterful cutter, achieving through cut what others had to do through padding and darting. Vionnet retired in 1939.
Written by Lizzie Bramlett, fuzzylizzie.com