Fashion

Dressed in a Masterpiece: Sonia Delaunay and Her Wearable Art

Zuzanna Stańska 29 August 2022 min Read

Sonia Delaunay was a Ukrainian-born French artist and fashion designer, who spent most of her working life in Paris. Along with her husband, Robert Delaunay, and others, she co-founded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colors and geometric shapes. Her work extends to painting, textile design, and stage set design. She was the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in 1964, and in 1975 was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor. Her work in modern design displays concepts of geometric abstraction, as well as the integration of furniture, fabrics, wall coverings, and clothing.

sonia delaunay clothing Sonia Delaunay's clothing sketches
Sonia Delaunay, Fashion illustrations. WikiArt.

Delaunay had a Paris studio dedicated to creating textiles and clothing, and she opened a fashion house called – how could it be different – Sonia. She attracted wealthy clients: a woolen, embroidered coat was made in 1925 for the movie star Gloria Swanson, in geometric shades of rich, spicy reds, browns, and creams.

Left: Gloria Swanson wearing a swimsuit designed by Sonia Delaunay; Right: Sonia Delaunay, Coat made for Gloria Swanson, 1923-24
Left: Gloria Swanson wearing a swimsuit designed by Sonia Delaunay; Right: Sonia Delaunay, Coat made for Gloria Swanson, 1923-24. Pinterest.

For four more decades, Delaunay designed fabrics for the Amsterdam luxury store Metz and Co, and later for Liberty. By the 1930s she was aware of the possibilities of mass – and machine – production. She said: “In this way, fashion will become democratic, and this… Can only be welcome, as it will raise general standards.” Sounds like Zara, or H&M, doesn’t it?

Sonia Delaunay fashion, Simultaneous dresses.
Sonia Delaunay, Simultaneous dresses. Arte Morbida.

Two models wearing fur coats designed by Sonia Delaunay and manufactured by Heim. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, France.
Two models wearing fur coats designed by Sonia Delaunay and manufactured by Heim. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, France.

This film shows presentations of fabrics and dresses designed by Sonia Delaunay:

Beautiful, isn’t it?

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