Designer Inspiration: Cristóbal Balenciaga

A couple of weekends ago (the day after I went to the Great British Sewing Bee Live), I went with my Aunt to the Balenciaga exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It was a Birthday celebration for my Aunt, but I really wanted to go too, so win win! Fair warning, this will be a very photo-heavy post. Also I can’t remember all the things I read in the exhibition, so my comments may be few and far between! I’m definitely thinking I want to buy the book of the exhibition because I bet there is tonnes more information in there!

Anyway, here we go…….

His earlier clothes definitely had a Spanish influence, from his roots. I particularly love the matador-inspired jacket, above.

I feel like you could find this pink flowery dress on the high street this year! It has the statement sleeves that are everywhere at the moment (and which I’m coming around to!).

Lace was definitely something that popped up quite a few times – he was well-known for using lace, and slightly rejuvenating its reputation and making it cutting edge again.

This was definitely one of my favourite pieces – and I loved how they had x-rays of the garments so show all of the structure going on underneath what looks like an effortless, easy dress. They had a few dresses where they had a recreation, the x-ray and a video showing how the garment came together.

Love, love, love the fashion sketches!

I took a video of this dress because it was constantly rotating that that’s the only way to full see it all!

I kind of want to have a go at recreating this one! Maybe one day…..

This cape/jacket is amazing! I took a photo of the accompanying blurb so I’d remember how it  works – there are hidden ribbons underneath all of the pleats to hold them in place. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to ever put your arms down!

This is a recreation of an original which was black and impossible to photograph! It’s a bit bonkers, but I kind of love it.

This might be my absolute favourite one – again the original was black so my photos of it didn’t really come out, especially with the reflections from the glass to contend with. This recreation was done by Claire-Louise Hardie of Great British Sewing Bee fame.

I love how you can see there is a separate sort of binding on the hem, which you couldn’t really see in the black original. There was a video showing how this one was constructed, and I thought it would be on the V & A facebook page (as I didn’t get a chance to video the video) but it’s not there, sorry! It’s all one piece of fabric and the only seams are on the shoulders. It boggles my mind how that even works!

If my memory serves, this one shows the influence of Japanese fashion on Balenciaga, in the form of the kimono-style belt.

This is another one there they show all of the engineering underneath what looks like a simple shaped dress! The corset is inside out so you can see all of the boning in there.

This red dress had to be one of the most bonkers ones to see the construction of! It’s tied underneath to the wearer’s knees!

The video of how this one works is online, and is definitely worth a look!

Fabric choice is definitely key in so many of Balenciaga’s designs, and especially this one.

I didn’t know this, but he also made a bunch of really cool hats!

Throughout the exhibition there were photos of the original buyers wearing the designs that you were looking at, which I really liked. It made them seem like real clothes (and hats), that people actually wore, and not things just to be revered – though it’s great that so many of them survive, and in such great condition.

After the hats was a whole section on embellishments, which was AMAZING! I naively never think about the fact that designers in the past, and now, make their own textiles, by embroidering/embellishing/painting the fabric, I always think they bought the fabric like that and just cut it cleverly, but of course, that isn’t the case! This beading is amazing!

This ombre jacket/dress was particularly amazing because there was a video showing how the beading etc was done – it was recreated by the couture embroidery house Lesage.

This is the recreated piece of beading and embroidery. I would definitely recommend watching the video, least of all because it’s all done upside down, where the right side of the fabric is on the bottom of the frame. And the person does it so quickly, it’s mind-boggling!

This dress was all hand-embroidered! And the pieces were all marked out and only the pattern pieces were embroidered so as not to waste time embroidering bits that would be cut off, but it was done when the fabric was still flat, before the dress was assembled. The shape of this dress also is amazing – teeny tiny waste!

I strangely love the feather sleeves on this one, even though it’s a bit mad!

All of the flowers on this outfit were hand painted! The craftsmanship involved in this level of fashion is truly amazing! Makes it seem almost worth the crazy price tags!

The above suit definitely seems pretty tame compared to most other things in the exhibition, but I love how they displayed the tailoring tools, below. I had no idea the tracing wheel had been around that long!

This is one of the more famous dresses, I think, and it’s on the cover of the book of the exhibition. I love how well the brooch goes with the dress – there are also bejewelled shoulder straps, though it was tough to get high enough to take a photo!

Classic 60s shift/sack dress. Not sure about the hat though……

This part of the exhibition was definitely more about wearable clothes that he made for his many wealthy clients.

I love the scalloped coat, which was made for Ava Gardner.

 

On the first floor of the exhibition space were loads of designed influenced or inspired by Balenciaga. I was particularly exited to see this dress, worn by Tilda Swinton, which I wrote about in my post about why I love her! I can’t remember who designed it, let me know in the comments if you know! (I should have taken notes!)

Also very excited to see this Courreges coat, which I posted a photo of in my post about him! Courreges studied under Balenciaga, so it makes sense he was represented here!

This one has a clear inspiration, from a garment in the other part of the exhibition!

I weirdly love this look, and I’m not sure why. The trousers are totally wearable and not too out-there, but I love the whole thing.  Especially the shoes.

Bonkers but amazing!

This was definitely one of my favourite inspiration designs, it looks kind of like a ship.

And it’s slightly pointed at the front!

The beading on this one is amazing!

This seems to be the evolution of the trapeze shapes Balenciaga played with. I really like the strapping details on the back.

I really like this silver and black version of the pink ombre one.

This one is an even more crazy version of the one on the cover of the book.

The pink dress with the statement sleeves….

…which has a zip all the way down the back.

This tube-y dress was by a Japanese designer, I think, who plays with zero-waste fashion and using as few seams as possible. I’m keen to start looking into zero-waste sewing/fashion, so I found this really inspiring.

Phew! There we go! I definitely want to have a go at recreating some of these looks. Which is your favourite? Do you hate the more shapeless looks?

 

 

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2 Replies to “Designer Inspiration: Cristóbal Balenciaga”

  1. I keep going back through these photos, remembering just how magnificent these dresses are! I learnt so much going round the exhibition with you, seeing it through your eyes as a dressmaker, rather than just as a visual artist and fashion consumer. My favourite has to be the red and pink kimono shoulder day dress with the tiny waist! I think the Japanese designer was Yoji Yamamoto btw. Thank you so much for posting this, it really is a great record of the experience, and I hope it will encourage people to go and see the exhibition themselves. Also, not sure if I really merit a capital? love, The Aunt!

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    1. I remembered how great the exhibition ws going through all the photos again! Thanks for Yamomoto – I definitely should have made notes, though then I would have been even slower to go round! I now have The Boyfriend and The Aunt, it’s great 😀

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