Book: Balenciaga – Shaping Fashion

After I loved the Balenciaga exhibition at the V & A, I had to fight not to buy myself the book of the exhibition as I didn’t really NEED to carry it home from London! And then I was very fortunate to receive a copy for my birthday from The Boyfriend’s parents. And it’s definitely a good reminder of all the amazing clothes in the exhibition.

I would definitely recommend going to see the exhibition if you’re able to – it closes on February 18th. But if you can’t make it, then I would definitely recommend the book. I haven’t had a chance to read much of the words yet, but even having it for the pictures, it would still be worth it!

My mind is still blown by this beading!

I’m not entirely sure I knew what Balenciaga looked like until I looked through this book!

Kind of tempted to try to recreate this coat, for the lols!

In my whole life I don’t think I would ever get this good at embroidery!

I think I love this hat?!

This coat was in the exhibition – the engineering of it still amazes me. There are ribbons on the inside to hold everything together, but it looks so effortless it looks like it’s just draped on the model.

I LOVE this coat. Another recreation to add to the list….

This beading is mind-blowing.

This is a page of swatches of different fabrics and colours from 1967 – a sheet like this was made for each season to easily keep track of what was what and which model was wearing each outfit.

Although I love Balenciaga’s more out-there designs, I also love his more wearable pieces, like this tweed suit. I love the shape of the collar.

The House of Balenciaga had a ginormous building in Paris, which was featured in French Vogue when they included maps of all the big couture houses.

I really love this coat – it’s made of mohair and was described by British Vogue as ‘almost the equivalent of bubble bath in froth’. I would love to know what colour it is – unless it’s creamy white like the froth?

You can definitely see Balenciaga’s Spanish roots in this dress on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar.

This dress is really pretty and was a commission for a specific client.

And I find it even more amazing when you see what’s going on underneath the seemingly simple silhouette on the outside – there’s a whole corset and underwear inside the dress to give the wearer support.

Let’s not forget Balenciaga designed cabin crew uniforms, for Air France.

This is a semi-circular coat with rows and rows and rows of flounced lace attached to a net lining, over satin trousers. I don’t think it would seem weird for someone like Tilda Swinton to wear this on the red carpet now, and it was made in 1960!

This pink dress is possibly my favourite (or one of my 2 favourites) of Balenciaga’s designs. And, again, I love it more knowing what’s going on underneath the simple silhouette.

And finally I couldn’t not include this amazing feathered dress, which was designed by Givenchy, who was a pupil of Balenciaga and shared his high standards in textiles and construction. Again, this was made in 1968 but still looks so modern.

Did you manage to see the exhibition or are you going in the last couple of weeks? Do you have any favourite designers or books you love looking through for inspiration?

 

 

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?

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Designer Inspiration: André Courrèges

I realised it has been a while since I wrote a post about a designer I love, so today I bring you André Courrèges. I thought I’d try a slightly different format, too, and put the whole biography at the beginning (it’s all copied from Wikipedia, the shame!) and then put all the pictures, so you can skip the words if you just want to swoon at some amazing 60s fashion!

André Courrèges was a French fashion designer who only died last year but was one of the main designers of the 60s whose designs were influenced by modernism and futurism. He also “defined the go-go boot and along with Mary Quant, is one of the designers credited with inventing the miniskirt.”1

“At 25, after studying to be a civil engineer, Courrèges went to Paris to work at the fashion house Jeanne Lafaurie. A few months later, he went to work for Cristóbal Balenciaga.

In 1961, Courrèges launched his own fashion house. He became known for extremely simple, geometric, modern designs, including the “little white dress” and pants for women. They were often paired with low-heeled white ankle boots, a style that became known as the Courrèges boot, and evolved into the popular go-go boot.

Courrèges was also known for the miniskirt, which he explicitly claimed to have invented, accusing his London rival to the claim, Mary Quant of merely “commercialising” it. Courrèges presented short skirts (four inches above the knee) in January 1965 for that year’s Spring/Summer collection. He had presented “above-the-knee” skirts in the previous year, with his August 1964 haute couture presentation proclaimed the “best show seen so far” for that season by The New York Times. Valerie Steele has stated that Courrèges was designing short skirts as early as 1961, although she champions Quant’s claim to have created the miniksirt first as being more convincingly supported by evidence. Others, such as Jess Cartner-Morley of The Guardian explicitly credit Courrèges with having invented the miniskirt. Alongside short skirts, Courrèges was renowned for his trouser suits, cut-out backs and midriffs, all designed for a new type of athletic, active young woman. Steele has described Courrèges’s work as a “brilliant couture version of youth fashion.” One of Courrèges’s most distinctive looks, a knit bodystocking with a gabardine miniskirt slung around the hips, was widely copied and plagiarised, much to his chagrin, and it would be 1967 before he again held a press showing for his work.

Courrèges’s favoured materials included plastics such as vinyl and stretch fabrics like Lycra. While he preferred white and silver, he often used flashes of citrus colour, and the predominantly white designs in his August 1964 show were tempered with touches of his signature clear pink, a “bright stinging” green, various shades of brown from dark to pale, and poppy red.

In 1967 Courrèges married Coqueline Barrière, his design assistant. They had met while working together at Balenciaga, and worked together as a husband and wife team for the rest of his life.

In 1968 Courrèges sold a share of his company to L’Oréal in order to finance his expansion, which, by 1972, included 125 boutiques around the world. That year, Courrèges was commissioned to design staff uniforms for the Munich Olympics that year. He began offering menswear in 1973.”2

 

 

I thought I’d start with some of his wackier designs! This is surely not at all actually wearable, but I do still slightly love it. I guess you could wear a polo neck underneath and some thick tights or trousers?

(image source)

I really like this one too – I think it’s the funnel neck collars and the swingy shape. Again, this would be wearable with something underneath. Or I’m tempted to try to recreate it but with a contrasting colour instead of the transparent section!

(image source)

And now onto the slightly more ‘normal’ looking clothes. He has a good line in jacket/dress combos. I’m not sure these would be flattering on me as I have a long body compared to my legs and I feel these would accentuate that, but I do think the models look really cool. Especially with his trademark ankle boots.

(image source)

He definitely likes stripes! I like this double-breasted version of the jacket – and it has a matching striped lining to the skirt! Not sure about the hats though….


(image source)

(image source)

 As well as the short/cropped jacket and dress combos above, Courrèges also has a good line in dresses with matching long coats, like this cream and blue number. I love how the piping on the neckline of the dress lines up with the piping on the collar of the coat.

 

(image source)

I’m not really a brown person, but I like the combination of fabrics on this one.
 (image source)

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I like blue, and particularly navy blue, and particularly navy blue with white/cream, so this is amazing to me. I can’t really see the dress underneath, but I do kinda want to copy this outfit, even though I would probably never wear it!

(image source)

But actually this is definitely my absolute favourite of the long coats I found searching for images of Courrèges’ clothes. I wouldn’t make it in red, but I really might add this to my list of makes, once I vaguely learn how to draft things for myself – and learn how to draft something as complicated as a coat! Maybe I could pattern hack something, so I at least have a starting point. Maybe the Closet Case Patterns Clare coat (though it has raglan sleeves)? If you have any other ideas of a pattern I could hack to make this, please let me know! I have plans for another coat this year, but I could make this one early next year and still get some wear out of it!


(image source)



(image source)

The other main category of garments I found when researching Courrèges was, of course, shift dresses. He definitely seems to use really interesting seam lines and shapes to make his stand out from what was probably a very saturated market!

(image source)

I do really quite like the scallops on this one. And I like the orange, though it wouldn’t be a colour I would usually wear!

(image source)

Fabric choice is definitely key for this cream dress, though, again, there are interesting seam lines and details. He seems to emphasise the seam lines with a sort of piping, as below. Does anyone know how it would be done?

(image source)

I put this one in to show how a dress with a massive hole in can become wearable with a polo neck underneath!

(image source)

Yellow is really moving up the list of my favourite colours to wear, after blue, of course. I really like the lines on this dress and the modest – for Courrèges anyway – cut out at the neckline. I like the faux wrap style of the bodice too, I think it’s really cute.

(image source)

And here is Diana Ross in an amazing yellow dress and coat – I particularly like the coat – and a slightly blue wig!

S(image source)

 

Whenever I do one of these posts, I really want to make a copy of pretty much every outfit I find! Which would be the one (or the first one) you would want to make/wear?

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Book: Decades of Beauty

A couple of weeks ago, The Boyfriend earned some real Brownie points by buying me this book from our local Oxfam. I saw it in the window on my way home on the Friday when they were already closed. He then went out on the Saturday morning to get bread and milk and came back with the book, before I had a chance to buy it myself! Aw!

I love this picture of the woman (in I think the 20s) running on the beach! Also fair warning, there are a lot of photos in this post!

The book takes you through each decade of the hundred years from 1890-1990, looking at fashion, beauty and hair trends as well as a brief outline of the historical happenings and social norms for each period.

Each decade gives you 3 style icons that typified the fashion of that era, or were perhaps a bit groundbreaking for their time. I love that Calamity Jane and Princess Alexandra are both there for the 1890s!

You also get hair and beauty trends for each decade – shame I’ve got such short hair, some of these look like fun! Especially the giant ‘do on the far left hand side!

Any clothing that requires first of all help to get into and second of all someone else’s foot in your back cannot be comfortable!

At least they weren’t likely to get sunburnt! I’m tempted to recreate one of these beach outfits…

I love this photo of women at work – in the US in 1908 – it looks like it’s some kind of textile work, though I can’t tell what they’re doing exactly – any ideas? The caption just says ‘women at work’. Helpful.

Here are the icons of the 1900s. The only one I’d heard of, shamefully, was Lillie Langtry – and that’s mostly because there’s a pub named after her in Norwich, where I went to university! Also one of my friends lived near Newmarket for a while and Lillie Langtry’s house was on the corner of the track leading to her house.

The below product looks like it will help you look healthy without needing make-up, presumably. But it contains arsenic, so I don’t think the ‘healthy’ glow would make you that healthy in the long run!

I refer to my above comment about corsets – no matter how much they might hope it, I’m sure it was no ‘a dream of comfort’! She’s so comfortable she’s taking a nap, after all!

And we think unrealistic body image is a new phemonenon……No-one could possibly have had a waist that thin and been still able to breathe, let alone admire oneself in the mirror.

Of course the 1910s was the era of the Suffragette and it’s good that this book covers the social context of each decade as well as the fashion and beauty trends.

This is the first decade where I recognise all 3 of the icons!

I love that in the earlier decades in the book there are fashion illustrations instead of photographs (obvs!). These ones are particularly great. There are also some designers who were particularly influential in each decade mentioned – I didn’t realise Lanvin was so early!

Also Elizabeth Arden started in the 1910s! No idea she – and the brand – were that old.

Oddly after I took all these photos of the book, I discovered a new podcast called You Must Remember This, all about the unknown and hidden stories from classic Hollywood. The first few episodes are random, but then she goes into themes – like dead blondes, blacklisted, stars at war – and one of the episodes is about this woman, Theda Bara. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but it was great timing because I thought she would be an interesting woman to know more about!

Black Ascot sounds super creepy, but I thought I would post this photo of the text that explains it – and how it influenced My Fair Lady!

 

I think 1920s fashion illustrations are definitely my favourites!

I love pretty much everything about this photo of Clara Bow – I especially want her shoes. And he hair actually – I’m thinking of growing mine out and this slightly frizzy ball might be achievable for me!

I absolutely love this! And it shows there must have been a bit of variety in the clothes people wore – there wasn’t just one shape or style that everyone wore, though there are, of course, similar elements.

Having said I loved the other photo of Clara Bow, I think that might have been in part because I can’t see her eyebrows. Check these out for a brow style! I’m not totally sold on them to be honest…

Another huge, famous make-up name which has been around much longer than I thought! Max Factor started in the 20s, who knew?

Having watched all of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries about 3 times, I knew from watching a clip talking with the costume designer that she was desperate to do a tennis episode because tennis – and the associated clothes – was hugely popular in the 20s, it was pleasing to see this photo in this book.

There’s not really much to say about these icons! Except I fancy wearing a tux one day. Maybe when I’ve sewn everything else I can think of, I’ll make myself a tux?!

I read a whole book about Jean Harlow a few years ago – she had a very short life and a fairly tragic end, but she did pack in quite a lot! She was the first platinum blonde bombshell.

I couldn’t not include a photo of my namesake! Shamefully I don’t know much about her except that she disappeared. Though recently it was in the news that they thought there was a photo of her and her navigator on an island in the Pacific. Curiouser and curiouser.

Of course in the 40s women went to war.

It’s funny to reconcile the above photo and the 3 women below – the reality of life for a lot of people during World War 2 and the continuing glamour of Hollywood.

I pretty much only know Veronica Lake from her hair, so it’s funny to see this photo in the book – maybe that really was what she was most famous for?

The advent of the bra much had been a huge relief for all concerned – though I’m sure I read somewhere that the bra Howard Hughes made for Jane Russell was incredibly uncomfortable, so maybe sticking to corsets wouldn’t have been so bad, at least temporarily!

I didn’t seem to take so many photos of the 40s. Weird. Well, onto the 50s…. I like the contrast in the 2 photos below – black and white vs colour, austerity vs plenty.

And we get 3 of the most iconic actresses of all time in one decade! I definitely have a soft spot for Marilyn Monroe – Some Like It Hot is one of my favourite films. It was also the biggest decade for the Hollywood musical, but that doesn’t really get a mention here.

Ah, Givenchy and Balenciaga. I’m going to see the Balenciaga exhibition at the V & A in September and I am really excited!

And onto my favourite decade 😀

I love how different some of the 60s icons are – Jackie Kennedy vs Twiggy vs The Supremes. All great, in their own different ways.

Edith Head is definitely someone I want to read more about – I read recently about the brown evening gown Bette Davis wears in All About Eve and how there was a mistake in the measurements so it ended up being off the shoulder when it wasn’t supposed to be. I bet there are loads of make it work moments like this throughout her career.

I think I might add all of these designers to my list of ones to cover in future posts.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but this has to be the most iconic haircut of the 60s. I might grow my hair into this finally, and take the plunge!

I kind of love/hate the 70s. Some of the style is great but some of it less so!

Possibly my favourite thing about this whole book is that Miss Piggy is one of the style icons of the 70s!

I might also cover all of these designers in future posts too.

It seems that the 70s was when jeans really took off, so I guess we do have one thing to be grateful to the decade for.

The photos for the later decades definitely got fewer….

Dynasty has to be the most quintessentially 80s programme.

The gown on the left, from the 80s I think must be Valentino because it looks quite like the gown Julia Roberts wore when she won her Oscar, which was a vintage 80s Valentino dress. Apparently this kick-started the trend to wear vintage dresses on the red carpet.

I feel like the 90s was kind of the start of fashion being comprised of multiple trends.

I think it’s fitting that the last photo I’m posting is of the Spice Girls, the most 90s of groups! Apparently Geri’s union jack dress was made by her sister out of a tea towel – if that’s true, it’s awesome that something made at the last minute became so iconic!

Do you have a favourite fashion history book?

Save

 

 

Save

Save