Tag Archives: Couture

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

Book: Couture Sewing Techniques

Every couple of weeks I pop into my local Oxfam bookshop to have a look at the sewing/craft section. There often isn’t much, but the other week I stumbled across this gem:

It’s a book written by Claire B Shaeffer who is an expert in sewing and construction techniques. She has a website and has designed sewing patterns for Vogue. This book has since been updated and revised, but this version is still really good! I’ve only had a flick through so far but I will read it in more detail!

I love the above photo showing personalised dress forms at the house of Christian Dior – that really is couture!

The first part of the book is a history of couture sewing and there are some amazing examples! Like the below dress, which I’m sure must have been the inspiration for the amazing one made by Cynthai Settje of Red Threaded. As of writing, the dress is her profile picture on instagram, and there are some amazing photos of it in progress and also finished!

And I couldn’t not post the photo of the classic Christian Dior outfit! If I had unlimited time and resources, I would definitely recreate this outfit, hat and all!

After the history chapter comes one on hand sewing techniques. I definitely need this! As I mentioned in my Dressmaker’s Ball dress post, I did a lot of hand sewing and did quite enjoy it, but I don’t think I’m very skilled at it. Also there are loads of different stitches for different places on garments so I’m thinking I’ll do a sampler or something to practice.

And who knew there were so many different needles! I guess it makes sense – there are different needles for different things on sewing machines, so I can’t believe I’d never thought that there would also be different needles for different hand sewing tasks!

And of course, there are as many threads as there are needles, for all the different things you could want to sew.

There’s a great section on all the different kinds of seam you could need. I like the look of this false french seam, though I can’t imagine sewing seams by hand would be strong enough!

One of the things I like about this book is how thorough it is – I would probably never think of all the things it covers, like interfacing. There would definitely be some helpful tips in here for properly tailoring a jacket or coat. It also mentions the non-fusible kind of interfacing, so I’d like to have a go with that when I do some proper tailoring.

The dress below holds its shape purely with interfacing!

The next chunk of the book looks at edge finishes like hems, facings and bindings.

I love, love, love this sketch by Christian Dior. I wish I could draw like that and show what a garment will look like with relatively few lines!

There’s a great section on buttons and button holes, including bound button holes, which I still haven’t done! I love the buttons below from a Schiaparelli jacket.

After all the sections on general techniques, Schaeffer shows you how to apply these (and other) techniques to actual garments.

I love this Dior skirt and jacket combo! Another one to copy one day…..

The below photo of a Balenciaga dress is from the dresses chapter. It shows the structure underneath a loose, billowy front to make sure it stayed where it should. I really want to see the Balenciaga exhibition at the V & A to see all the amazing things going on underneath the clothes!

Below is another Balenciaga dress, with structure to keep the shoulders in shape. Definitely getting some tips for next year’s Dressmaker’s Ball dress, assuming they run it again next year!

There’s a chapter on sleeves and there are loads of details about tailored and non-tailored sleeves. I like these diagrams that are scattered throughout the book,which show you how different elements are drafted and constructed.

Another useful diagram from this book shows all the details that go into a tailored jacket. I do really want to have a go at making something properly tailored either for me or for The Boyfriend – I did promise to make him a coat!

This is the section I’m possibly the most excited about! Definitely tips for my next evening outfit. If the Dressmaker’s Ball happens again next year, I definitely want to make something more ambitious, both in terms of construction and fabric choice, so hopefully this chapter will come in handy then!

I’ve not yet sewn anything with boning, so I definitely want to give that a go at some point. It actually would have helped to have more structure inside the dress I made for this year’s ball! Then I wouldn’t have needed the tape…..

The below photo shows embroidery done by machine! I have no idea how you would even do that! I think there must be some applique in there too.

And I hadn’t even considered beading before I came across this section!

At the end of the book there is a really great glossary of terms, which is super helpful. I can definitely feel myself turning into more of a sewing nerd after flicking through this book. I already think about it for most of my waking hours, and now I’m all enthusiastic to learn new skills and techniques and to make some more involved projects, rather than just churning out loads and loads of fairly basic garments, though there are some gaps in my wardrobe still so I will still be doing some of that!

What’s your favourite couture-type technique? Are there any techniques you’re dying to learn?

 

 

Save