Evening dress

Designer: Madeleine Vionnet (French, Chilleurs-aux-Bois 1876–1975 Paris)

Date: fall/winter 1938–39

Culture: French

Medium: silk, spangles

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Harrison Williams, Lady Mendl, and Mrs. Ector Munn, 1946

Accession Number: C.I.46.4.4a–c


In Jungian psychology, the appearance of black birds in dreams is considered a bad omen and allied to fear of misfortune. For the Romantics, they hovered over battlefields to feast on the bodies of the slain. As a chilling prelude to war, the birds on this dress swarm around the body of the wearer like ominous raptors. At the same time, they serve as criticism of the vanity and ostentation of le beau monde. Like the bird who cries cras, cras (tomorrow, tomorrow), the black bird symbolizes those who are caught up in worldly pleasures.