Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion at the V&A

Cristóbal Balenciaga at work, Paris, 1968. Photograph Henri Cartier-Bresson © Henri Cartier-Bresson, Magnum Photos via Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Haute couture is like an orchestra whose conductor is Balenciaga. We other couturiers are the musicians and we follow the direction he gives.” – Christian Dior

The exhibition celebrates the work of Cristóbel Balenciaga and his influence on modern fashion. It also marks the centenary opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sabastian as well as the 80th anniversary of his famous fashion house in Paris. Shaping Fashion is divided into three sections: ‘Front of House’, ‘Workrooms’ and ‘Balenciaga’s Legacy’. The ‘Legacy’ section features work from over 30 designers of the last 50 years who have been influenced by Balenciaga, including Hubert de Givenchy and Erdem.
Evening dress, silk taffeta, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1955 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The focus of Shaping Fashion is upon his most creative period during the 1950s and 1960s. During this time Balenciaga revolutionised fashion and created new shapes that are still style staples to this day, these include; the tunic, the sack, ‘baby doll’ and the shift dress.
‘Baby doll’ cocktail dress, crêpe de chine, lace and satin, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1958 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Highlights of the showcase include Balenciaga’s designs for Hollywood actress Ava Gardner and 1960s fashion icon Gloria Guinness. Over 100 garments and 20 hats are on display and are accompanied by archive sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and catwalk footage.
Spiral hat, silk, Balenciaga for Eisa, Spain, 1962 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
For the first time the V&A has used x-ray technology to take a closer look at the detail inside Balenciaga’s garments which reveal structures invisible to the naked eye. In many cases the patterns reveal that the main body of the garment has been cleverly crafted from a single piece of fabric, testament of Balenciaga’s expertise.
‘La Tulipe’ evening dress, gazar, Balenciaga for EISA, Spain, 1965 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion runs until February 18, 2018 at the V&A Museum, Cromwell Road
London, SW7 2RL

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