Culture Minister Barbara Follett has placed eleven Haute Couture dresses designed by the early 20th century couturier Madeleine Vionnet on a temporary export ban to give UK collections the chance to acquire them.
The dresses were purchased from Vionnet by a single British owner between 1929 and 1938 and are still in excellent condition.
They show the impressive range of Vionnet’s skill and qualities that made her ‘the designer’s designer’: precise cut, delicate construction and attention to finishing details.
The ruling to put back the decision until April 22 follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee of the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest. The committee commented that the dresses were of outstanding aesthetic importance and of outstanding significance for the study of the history of fashion.
Given a market value of £449,385.05, the period for a UK collection to acquire the dresses could be further extended until July 22 if a serious intention to raise funds to make a bid is expressed.
Madeleine Vionnet worked for several Parisian fashion houses before establishing her own couture salon in 1912. Her dresses were worn by famous names including Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn.
Vionnet is credited with inventing the biased cut that allowed the fabric to cling to and move with the female form and in 1925 British Vogue wrote: “The genius of Vionnet is expressed in the complicated cut of her gowns and the simplicity of their lines.”
Many of today’s designers have paid tribute to Vionnet’s contribution to fashion design including Ossie Clarke, Issey Miyake and John Galliano who were all influenced by her techniques.
Pamela Robertson, Reviewing Committee member said: “Madeleine Vionnet is not well known in the UK and is under represented in our public collections. As well as being beautiful objects with great public appeal, these dresses form a highly important research collection for students of fashion and social history.”
Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the dresses should contact the owner's agent through: The Secretary, The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, Wellcome Wolfson Building, 165 Queen's Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5HD or telephone 020 7273 8270.