A Madeleine Vionnet evening gown from 1935

A few weeks ago I decided it was time for a real challenge:  1930s bias draped dresses.  And not just any old dress–I wanted to try my hand at creating one of the dresses represented only by line drawings in Betty Kirke’s Madeleine Vionnet.  I chose design #12 for its full, graceful skirt and elegant simplicity.  I thought I might be biting off more than I could chew with all the bias draping and circular cuts that I usually have no patience for.
I scaled up the line drawing and cut out a toile in poly satin.  It seemed to fit alright, but I knew that I couldn’t even begin to approximate the artful draping unless I was working with the real fabric on my own body.  So the toile languished in a corner as I built up the courage to work on such an unstructured project.  Plus–poly satin, ick!  It’s such an unattractive fabric, and I could barely see how the dress could possibly look good with the trial version made out of that.
Then last week I realized that if I wanted any chance of wearing this dress to the upcoming Costume College gala, I would need to get started, and quickly.  So on Thursday I bought some rayon jersey, which I had never used before–absolutely lovely stuff.  It’s inky black, drapey, and HEAVY.  By Friday afternoon, I was cutting out the pattern.  I decided to deviate from Vionnet’s pieced fabric lines and allow the width of my fabric to dictate where the piecing would happen.
I did most of the stitching on Friday, and stopped when I couldn’t go any further without the right belt buckle.  I knew I could never replicate the lovely carved ivory deer buckle, but I could approximate the look, and I found a vintage 1930s white Celluloid buckle on Etsy.
I attached the buckle on Saturday and by Sunday I was hemming.
Want to see the results?
I did make slight changes to my dress from the original.  First, I closed up CF almost all the way up to the neckline.  The original was kept open above the waistline.  Second, in order for the dress to sit a little better on my body, I decided to take in a little box pleat at CB right between the two shaped panels.  This helped define my waist a little more, plus it added a little more fullness to to the back of the skirt–and this rayon jersey drapes so deliciously that the whole look of the dress was majorly enhanced by just a little pleat.
All in all, I am so happy with how this dress turned out.  I feel so elegant in it!  And since it came together so easily I just want to snap up more and more rayon jersey and make one in every color.  Now, I just need more elegant evening events!  I may just have to pack this for my visit to Monte Carlo next May….
Don’t you love it when you tackle a project that seems daunting and formidable, yet it turns out to be the smoothest and most satisfying thing you have done in a long time?
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2 Responses to A Madeleine Vionnet evening gown from 1935

  1. Maggie says:

    That looks gorgeous!

  2. Wow, great job! I tried my hand at trying to draft this pattern for a final project, though I didn’t have the same luck in the time frame I had (luckily I still have the drafts to work on, teehee). Kudos to you, cause I have up and gave a video presentation instead lol.

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