Female Fashion Designers: In honor of International Women’s Day

Posted by on Mar 9, 2013 in Fashion | 0 comments

Female Fashion Designers: In honor of International Women’s Day

When the topic of “influential female fashion designers” comes up the name that is inevitably mentioned is Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Please don’t mistake me, Chanel started a fashion revolution and is a perfectly inspirational example of the rags to riches story. She even made it to Time magazine’s list of  100 most influential people for the 20th Century. Impressive and admirable.

However, can you think of any other women who made vast contributions to the world of fashion and society in their day? In celebration of International Women’s Day, I want to bring to light the contributions of a few incredible women. Let me tell you about some of my favorites.

Image thanks to 2ferb.blogspot.com

Image thanks to 2ferb.blogspot.com

After taking a class on the history of fashion and costume design, I concluded my favorite designer from the 20th Century is Madeleine Vionnet.  If I could go to lunch with three people from the past, she would definitely be one of them! Nicknamed “the architect among dressmakers” and the “Queen of bias cut,” Vionnet is a French designer who introduced the world to bias cut fabric. Using the natural body as a canvas, Vionnet would drape malleable fabrics to create her designs rather than cutting all fabric on the grain. Every fabric has a grain line. If you pull on the fabric along the grain line the fabric don’t budge, but if you pull on the fabric along the diagonal, the fabric will often stretch.

Using a fabric’s bias to create a soft, draped look is something that was done in Togas by the Grecians thousands of years prior then not used until Vionnet introduced the concept in modern clothing. She had to close her first couture shop after the start of WWI then in 1923 opened a second shop commonly called the “Temple of Fashion.”

I believe the efforts of Vionnet and Chanel worked hand in hand to change fashion trends from distorting the body to fit a specific shape to embracing the beauty of the natural woman and designing dresses accordingly. The company Vionnet still exists today.


Another inspiring woman, Elsa Schiaparelli, is someone that we can all learn a lesson or two from. Struggling with divorce, illness of her only child, death of her father and severely limited finances, Schiaparelli rose above it all. After working odd jobs to pay the bills, and moving around to visit different physicians for her daughter, Schiaparelli found herself working under the direction of the talented Paul Poiret (a very influential man in the fashion world).

Image thanks to www.fashionencyclopedia.com

Image thanks to www.fashionencyclopedia.com

The first piece created by Schiaparelli that rapidly gained popularity was a pullover. She first wore it herself then others wanted it. Vogue France published an article entitled, “The elegance of the handmade pullover,” which helped her become more widely known. Schiaparelli’s biography states, “The outdoor sign reads « Schiaparelli for sport », clothing is colorful and decorated: pajamas for the beach and ensembles in terry cloth for the seaside, jodhpurs for skiing. Widening her collection for daytime and eveningwear, she confirms the end of the Roaring Twenties: « Shoulders are higher! », the bosom is back in place, skirts are longer, the waist is repositioned. The more the body is respected, the more the dress acquires vitality. The House signature pieces include tweed suits, pant suits, evening dresses.”

Someday I hope to make a positive impact on the fashion world big enough to be remembered. If not, then I hope to spend my life ensuring the recognition of those that do.

There are many women who have made a difference in the fashion world in the last 50 years: Donna Karan, Miuccia Prada, Ann Taylor, Anne Klein, Tory Burch, Liz Claiborne, etc. Maybe soon I’ll write about the 21st Century ladies and their contributions. Stay and find out!

Have a beautiful day!

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