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Fashion
Hiro (b. 1930) Alberta Tiburzi in ‘envelope’ dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Harper’s Bazaar, June 1967 © Hiro 1967

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion

‘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)
Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) Evening dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1962. Photograph by Cecil Beaton, 1971 © Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

"The exhibition will draw mostly on the V&A’s fashion holdings – the largest collection of Balenciaga in the UK."

The V&A has opened the first ever UK exhibition exploring the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga and his profound and continuing influence on modern fashion.

 

It will be the first of its kind to look at his unique approach to making and will showcase pieces by his protégés and contemporary designers working in the same innovative way today.

The exhibition marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous fashion house in Paris. Rather than a retrospective, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion focuses in detail on the latter part of Balenciaga’s long career in the 1950s and 1960s, arguably one of his most creative periods as ‘the master’ of haute couture.

It was during these years that he not only dressed some of the most iconic women of the time, but also introduced revolutionary shapes including the tunic, the sack, ‘baby doll’ and shift dress – all of which remain style staples today.

Irving Penn (1917-2009) Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn wearing coat by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1950. © Condé Nast, Irving Penn Foundation

 

Highlights include ensembles made by Balenciaga for Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, dresses and hats belonging to socialite and 1960s fashion icon Gloria Guinness, and pieces worn by one of the world’s wealthiest women, Mona von Bismarck, who commissioned everything from ballgowns to gardening shorts from the couturier.

On display will be over 100 garments and 20 hats, many of which have never been on public display before. These will be accompanied by archive sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and catwalk footage revealing Balenciaga’s uncompromising creativity. In addition x-rays, animated patterns and short films on couture-making processes will uncover the hidden details that made his work so exceptional.

The exhibition will draw mostly on the V&A’s fashion holdings – the largest collection of Balenciaga in the UK.

The collection was initiated for the Museum by Cecil Beaton in the 1970s. Cassie Davies-Strodder, V&A exhibition curator, said: “Cristóbal Balenciaga was one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. Revered by his contemporaries, including Coco Chanel and Hubert de Givenchy, his exquisite craftsmanship, pioneering use of fabric and innovative cutting set the tone for the modernity of the late 20th century fashion.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is open now and runs until 18 February 2018. Admission £12 (concessions available). V&A Members go free. Advance booking is advised – this can be done in person at the V&A; online; or by calling 0800 912 6961 (booking fee applies).

 

Top Image – Hiro (b. 1930) Alberta Tiburzi in ‘envelope’ dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Harper’s Bazaar, June 1967 © Hiro 1967

Below – Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) Evening dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1962. Photograph by Cecil Beaton, 1971 © Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Bottom – Irving Penn (1917-2009) Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn wearing coat by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1950. © Condé Nast, Irving Penn Foundation

 

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