To be sure, Balenciaga made his own kind of splash, dazzling the public and fellow fashion designers of the 1940s and ’50s not only with his design ideas but with his tailoring and construction: He had the pattern-making skills to execute silhouettes that seemed to flout the laws of gravity, and the ability to embrace the female form by sometimes hiding it.
This distilled and rather more rarefied approach to fashion is shared in an online exhibition by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, renowned of course as the world’s largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design. The exhibit shows items of clothing and famous fashion photographs of Balenciaga’s designs, plus videos and even X-rays.
Balenciaga’s “golden age” is said to have been the 1950s and ’60s, when he gave birth to revolutionary silhouettes such as the tunic and the sack, baby doll and shift dresses, all of which remain style staples.
The “Tulip” dress shown below is also featured in black-and-white photos from its couture debut and in a video showing the pattern and construction that went into the famous confection.
All garments, even the simplest, are constructed of several pieces of fabric. These two images, above and below, are from a video that is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum online Balenciaga exhibit. Needless to say, the pattern pieces for this gown are far from ordinary. / From the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
More pattern pieces from the “Tulip” dress by Cristobal Balenciaga, as seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibit on the designer.
Balenciaga’s era was one in which women wore hats (men too, for that matter). Like his garments, Balenciaga’s hats were marvels of construction, almost architectural in nature.