Last night’s best dressed: viva la Vionnet!

21 October 2009

hilary swank carey mulligan

'When a woman smiles, then her dress should smile too,' said Madeleine Vionnet. And both Hilary Swank and Carey Mulligan were beaming from head to toe when they stepped out in gowns from Vionnet yesterday. In a fash-off between the Oscar-winning actress versus the rising-star ingénue, the pair wore matching gowns on the same night but proved that there’s no need for that dreaded ‘Uh oh, where are the canapés to hide behind?’ moment when said dresses are so red carpet-worthy. Although the stars both opted for Roman Empress-esque silhouettes thanks to the draping design of the frocks from the Resort 2010 collection, Carey added a floral brooch to enhance the rust red hue with a flash of gold and allowed those cape-like sleeves to flare out, creating a very current effect. But the style of these gowns has quite a history...

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The ladies, who were promoting their respective premieres (Hilary for Amelia, Carey for An Education) both perfectly channelled Madeleine Vionnet’s signature subtle-yet-sensual style. The designer, dubbed the queen of the bias cut and celebrated as the master of draping, modernised womenswear during the early 1900s. She created the essence of effortless elegance by throwing away the structured styles of the time in favour of fluid frocks via the invention of the handkerchief dress, cowl neck and halter top. In other words, it’s thanks to Madeleine that our bodies are no longer bound up in uncomfortable corsets and boning!

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Since Madeleine’s death, the classic French fashion house has continued to have a colourful and beautiful history. Sophia Kokosalaki briefly collaborated with the brand before leaving to focus on her own label and was replaced by former Hermès and Prada designer, Marc Audibet, until last year. It has since been brought back to life under new creative director, Rodolfo Paglialunga, who worked as Miuccia Prada's assistant for 12 years. Phew! So although it’s seen many ups and downs, the house’s unique heritage has ensured that it continues to thrive. As Karl Lagerfeld declared, 'Everybody, whether he likes it or not, is under the influence of Vionnet.' And just one look at the red carpet parade last night proves its prestige is set to stay.

For our exclusive interview with Rodolfo Paglialunga, click here.

- Jessica Vince


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