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: Pierre Cardin

Pierre Cardin who was born in 1922 in Italy, worked under Schiaparelli and became head designer for Christian Dior’s tailleure atelier in 1947 and he’s still alive! He launched his own label in 1950 and was interested in geometric shapes, especially bubbles:

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The above dress is obviously one of the more extreme geometric designs, which is great in its way but I like his more minimal designs too, like the heart one below. I’m not normally a huge fan of hearts, but there’s something about the proportions and design of this that I really like.

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When I was first thinking about looking at Pierre Cardin, I of course, thought of him as a 60s designer, but having discovered he started his own house in 1950, then I found these 2 more 50s-style designs. You can already see his interest in structure and shapes.

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I love this dress worn by Mia Farrow! Although its shape is not geometric, the colours obviously are. She seems to have some rather funky tights too.

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I really love these bubbly dungarees! They look a bit boob-squashy but I guess boyish figures were in style in the 60s. I kinda want to make a copy of these! Maybe for SewDots…..

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And talking of dots, I love these totally circular pockets. And I’m always a sucker for mustard yellow!

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He seemed to use cut-outs quite a lot to give the geometric designs he liked. These ones look a bit like Star Trek uniforms to me, especially the orange on in the middle – maybe Cardin was the inspiration for the costumes (or vice versa)?

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I included these ones because glitter.

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I love all three of these dresses, especially the one on the left. Good hats too. Could do without the leering man, though……(It might be Cardin himself, I can’t really tell!)

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I like this monochrome offering and it seems a bit more wearable than some of the others, if the cut-out on the stomach wasn’t actually cut out!

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I quite like the half and half colours on this dress – and the way the navy sneaks onto the green side. Not sure it would be totally office-appropriate though…

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This seems to be one of the less extreme dresses, and I love it! I like the shaping of the placket-type-thing and the I guess quilted shapes on the bottom.

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With this one, I’m just curious how the collar stands up and was made! Not convinced about the colour….or the fabric, it looks almost shiny. I wonder what it is? Anyone know?

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I like how this one combines the cut outs and the structured designs. I kinda want to see a picture of it with the model’s arms down, I bet it looks a bit rubbish! Good boots though.

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Cardin was still designing clothes into the 80s (he’s moved towards designing cars and buildings and things as well as fashion). This bubbly coat seems to be from 1987.

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As with most designers of the 60s, Cardin released sewing patterns based on his designs. I’m not sure about the collar, but I like the shaping on the yoke and the swingy shape of the dress.

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I think this one looks much more interesting in the drawing than the photo – you can’t really see the seam lines in the cream. I’m digging the weird grey 60s hairdo too!

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I really like the shape of the neckline on this one, and clever how they’ve shown it colour blocked as well as all in one fabric.

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I really love this jacket – I may have to search ebay for a copy of this pattern! It might look a bit costumey but I don’t really care.

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You can’t beat a great 60s swing coat! And the collar! I wonder how they get it to stand up….

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Do you like Pierre Cardin or are his designs a bit too costumey do you think? I kind of like how extreme the clothes are, but I probably wouldn’t have the balls to wear most of them without toning them down or making them a bit more modern!

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Designer Inspiration: Mary Quant

My latest designer inspiration is Mary Quant – I thought I’d continue the 60s theme from my last fashion history post as I love it so! I also love her famous Vidal Sassoon haircut. Should I copy it do you think?

Mary Quant Hairstyle - Vidal Sassoon

Born in London in 1934, Mary Quant opened her first boutique (they always seems to be called boutiques and not shops!), Bazaar, in 1955 on the King’s Road in Chelsea. It was from the very beginning that the mini skirt idea started to take off – this is something new to me, I always thought this was definitively a 60s phenomenon! The jury is out about who actually invented the mini skirt (which includes very short dresses) – it could have been Quant, it could have been Andres Courreges, or John Bates. She herself said “It was the girls on the King’s Road who invented the mini. I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted. I wore them very short and the customers would say, ‘Shorter, shorter.'”1 What is true is that Mary Quant named it, after her favourite car – The Mini (obvs).

 

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Quant is also credited (by some) with inventing the coloured and patterned tights that were so often worn with the new shorter skirts and dresses. It could have been Balenciaga who showed harlequin tights in 1962. It basically seems like several people were having similar ideas in fashion at the same time – but Mary Quant seems to have been the one associated with inventing/ popularising the most innovations.

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Another of these innovations was hot pants. Here is Quant and Grace Coddington (of Creative Director of US Vogue and giant red hair fame – she used to be a model, and she features quite a bit in The September Issue, which I would recommend) modelling hot pants underneath dresses – I assume this was a thing?!

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“Ernestine Carter, an authoritative and influential fashion journalist of the 1950s/60s, wrote: “It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents. In recent fashion there are three: Chanel, Dior, and Mary Quant.””2

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After opening a second Bazaar store in 1957, Quant started to design more and more of the items she was selling, instead of merely ordering them in. “For a while in the late 1950s and very early 1960s, Quant was one of only two London-based high-end designers consistently offering youthful clothes for young people. The other was Kiki Byrne, who opened her boutique on the King’s Road in direct competition with Quant.”3

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From the 70s onwards, she moved away from designing clothes and concentrated on homeware and cosmetics – which she says are a part of fashion. According to her Wikipedia article, she claims to have invented the duvet – though a quick google tells me that Terence Conran was the first person to sell the modern duvet, or continental quilt, in Britain, having got the idea from Sweden.

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She was particularly known for monochrome colour-blocking.

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She also seemed to have embraced bright colours, like these dresses, in orange, mustard and red. I particularly like the mustard one, and I like the contrast collar, cuffs, hem and pocket on this one.

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Like so many designers from the 50s, 60s and 70s, Mary  Quant produced sewing patterns – I think it’s so cool how they all accepted people wanted to copy their styles so made patterns. I guess it probably wasn’t the same people who would buy the clothes and would make the clothes.

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I like the pose in the photos of this one!

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Not sure about this one to be honest!

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I like this one with the high collar and the pleated skirt. Not sure how flattering it would be on me – the drawing looks better than the photo.

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In 1966 she was made an OBE and in 2015 she was made a Dame. Not bad for someone who never studied fashion! Although she moved away from fashion design, for me – and I’m sure for many other people – the thing I will most associate her with is her mod designs of the 60s. I’m definitely going to look out for any of her patterns so I can recreate some of her looks!

 

 

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Fashion History - Early 1960s Designer Inspiration - Chester Weinberg Style Crush - Jean Seberg

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Designer Inspiration: Chester Weinberg

The other day I was scrolling through instagram, which is one of my favourite pastimes if I have 10 minutes to kill, and I came across this sewing pattern (I’m sorry but I can’t remember whose feed it was on):

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I immediately thought this was a fab 60s dress! (The photo might be slightly less fabulous, however!). I had never heard of Chester Weinberg so I did some googling, and it turns out he was quite a famous fashion designer in the 60s and 70s – he was up there with Oscar de la Renta! “With his daring yet elegant clothes and outsize personality, Weinberg was the undisputed darling of the fashion press, and he was equally beloved by the industry, winning a Coty Award in 1970—the fashion equivalent of an Oscar. He worked with a who’s-who of models, photographers, and editors, and dressed socialites and celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, and Nancy Reagan. As an instructor at Parsons School of Design, he mentored the likes of Donna Karan, Isaac Mizrahi, and Marc Jacobs.”1

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“Despite all this, his name today is familiar only to a handful of museum curators and vintage fashion aficionados. This is largely because, on April 24, 1985, Weinberg became the first fashion designer to succumb to AIDS. The tragedy of his premature demise—he was 54—was compounded by its terrible timing. Although he’d been working steadily, Weinberg was no longer famous, and his passing went unremarked by the public. Within the industry, his death was willfully ignored.”1

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I love these 2 coats – the green of the one above is just amazing and the blue below seems like one of those typically 60s colours. And look at the collar! I think I need a 60s coat in my future…..

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This might be my favourite of all the Chester Weinberg clothes I found. I’m trying to think of ways to recreate it. Any ideas of patterns I could use as a starting point?

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“The look of a Weinberg is familiar even to those who have never heard of him, for his designs were some of the defining looks of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Black-scarfed models in swirling, long black dresses topped by smock jackets in Jackson Pollock-like yellow silk or apple green mohair, a vivid wool gabardine suit with an empire waist, cinched by a wide contrasting belt, a gray geometric print dress, all are images of “mod.” At the same time, Weinberg’s designs were classically simple and elegant, with details like ribbons, princess seams, inverted pleating, and his signature ruffles. From a navy blue, silk dress with an empire waist to a wool crêpe chemise dress with black lace over a lining of light cocoa, vintage Weinberg is still fashionable.”1

You can see examples of the prints he used below.

I actually really like this fabric – and the style of the dress. I like the detail of the piping around the waist seam, so cute!

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This print is definitely right up my street! I like the high neckline and the high waistline.

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I can’t decide if I like this coat or think it’s awful……. I think I like the style but the fabric is….not my taste.

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“After his company folded, Weinberg designed dresses and sportswear for a company backed by Jones Apparel Group, cashmere sweaters for Ballantyne of Scotland, furs, costumes for the Twyla Tharp ballet As Time Goes By, and patterns for Vogue and Butterick.”1

Obviously I realised he designed sewing patterns, since that’s where I heard of his first, but I still think it’s awesome that a major fashion designed of the time make sewing patterns so people could make his fashions themselves at home. Maybe this is because it was way more common for people to still be sewing all their own clothes in the 60s than it is now. Are there any designers of a similar fame lever doing the same now?

Here is a selection of my favourites of his patterns – all the ones I found were Vogue, so I’d be interested to see any Butterick ones if you know of any. I think I may have to collect all of these – and then go full-on 60s with my clothes!

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This coat pattern might be my favourite – I’m clearly in a coat mood at the moment! If you need me I’ll be on ebay…….

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