The latest news from The Center for Pattern Design landed in my inbox recently. Located in beautiful St. Helena in northern California, the Center is a repository of all things related to pattern. Patterns and tools are available thru the website, and older sewing and pattern design texts are being republished thru the Center’s Antiquity Press.
Cutting Cloth, the newsletter from Sandra Ericson’s Center for Pattern Design, was chock full of interesting tidbits. Not only is there a CPD conference slated for October this year at the Art Institute in San Francisco, there is news of a Vionnet exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, running until January 2010. The museum is the recipient of 750 of Madeleine Vionnet’s toiles and all her papers. Sandra says this show is the first time since 1939, when Vionnet’s house closed, that her work has been shown.
Sandra has been studying the work of ground-breaking French couturier Madeleine Vionnet for years. Vionnet is considered the inventor of draping on the bias, and used a half scale dress mannequin to work out her ideas. She was one of the first early 20th century designers to set up a series of ateliers and industrialize her designs
This past January, Diva Emerita MaryBeth from The Stitchery and I were fortunate to be in Palm Springs at back-to-back Claire Shaeffer workshops. We did a 5 day workshop with Sandra Ericson on Vionnet style draping, followed by a Couture Tailoring Techniques in the style of Yves St. Laurent. The draping class was so much fun; Ms. Ericson packed a lot in to each day. In the mornings we were treated to a teaching presentation of Vionnet’s methods and work, then a daily ‘show and tell’ with garments as examples of the day’s topic. Each afternoon we worked on half size dolls (aka My Size Barbies pressed into service as mannequins) draping our own styles using Vionnet’s approaches.
Chronicle Books’ oversize book Madeleine Vionnet, with diagrams and photos is the go-to reference on Vionnet today. For those who are interested in looking at the historical context of her work, there is a lot about her place in the Cubist movement in the book Cubism and Fashion, by Richard Martin, that came out at the time of the exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC in 1999.
Vionnet lives on, with many of today’s designers taking pages out of her book, sometimes quite literally.
Now all I have to do is figure out how to get to Paris before January 2010.