Tag Archives: Embellishment

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?






Style Crush: Melissa McCarthy

So I’m probably the last person in the world to start watching Gilmore Girls! But start watching it I have. And I love it (no spoilers please, I’m on season 3!). I’ve loved Melissa McCarthy since seeing Bridesmaids – unbelievably I’d not really seen her in much before that – and it’s fun seeing her earlier in her career. Like most other people, I think, I thought she stole the show in Bridesmaids and I’m glad to see her career has gone from strength to strength. I’ve just looked it up and she was nominated for an Oscar and a Bafta for Bridesmaids!

I also love Melissa McCarthy’s style. She can totally rock a leather dress. And I really want the leopard print shoes! (not sure about her hair here though….)

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I reckon this outfit would be fairly easy to replicate and would be a great choice for holiday parties this year. Sequins are always a good choice for Christmas! There are loads of tunic tops and leggings patterns so you could totally use your go-tos to copy this.

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 I really, really love this outfit – the pleating on the skirt is great and it makes it a lovely shape. I’m digging cocoon-y shaped things at the moment. I love the simplicty of the blouse with the lux fabric. This could totally work for a work outfit, if you work in a fairly smart office.

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I definitely think pink is her colour, so I love this photo.

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This dress is quite simple, apart from the embellishment around the neck, but it looks great because it fits her so well. Again, I think this would be easy to replicate, maybe with the Colette Dahlia.

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I like this dress too, expecially styled with bright blue shoes! It’s pretty much all about the fabric, this one.

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I’m a huge fan of blue (as you’ll probably know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, or know me in real life!) so I love this. She does seem to stick to fairly simple silhouettes and showcases great fabrics and embellishments, which is probably why I’m drawn to her style – I love a shift dress.

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Having just said that, though, check out these sleeves! I think I may seriously have to copy this dress. I love the pleat on the skirt and the fabric – I’m loving pink at the moment. I think I could use one of the tutorials from Rosie Martin’s book to copy these sleeves, probably adding them to a dress pattern……though I don’t know which one! Any ideas?

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Speaking of pink……I love, love, love this jumpsuit! I’m glad they are still kind of in fashion as I’ve been meaning to make one or two for aaaages so fingers crossed I’m not too late!

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And speaking of jumpsuits. How amazeballs is this!? I love it all – the pleats, the leather and it has POCKETS!

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I do love yellow – mostly mustard on me, but all shades on those that suit them. I think I chose this photo because of the combo of her happy face and the happy dress. I like the nude underlayer too.

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I like the fabric and the style of this dress. I like the reddish-corally colour in the pattern and the cut of the dress looks great on her.

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I really love this lace top – again it has excellent sleeves. I think this might be the same skirt from the outit higher up with the silver blouse. I’ve still got some of my navy lace left over after making my dress for a wedding, so maybe I’ll copy this top!?

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I picked this photo because I love the colour blocking. I think it could be easily achieved with any shift dress pattern – I have the Colette Laurel and I think it could also work with Tilly’s Coco, and she even has a tutorial on her website on how to draft a contrast yoke.

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She can also totally rock a gown on the red carpet – though I like that most of the outfits I found and liked are a bit more edgy and rock and roll. Also weirdly both gowns I picked out are the same very pale pink colour!

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I like the textured fabric on this one particularly. And it’s pretty similar to the By Hand London Alix dress so I think I could rip it off!

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One of the other reasons I love Melissa McCarthy is because she lanched her own fashion line. She is certainly not alone in doing this in Hollywood but she did it from a standpoint of body positivity and trying to make clothes for women of all shapes and sizes. I read a quote where she said some days she wants to dress really girly and other days like a rock star and she had stopped being able to dress how she wanted on the high street. So she launched a label called Seven7. (Side note, this is why sewing is awesome, you can make any clothes you want to wear :D)

I really love this spangley skirt.

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She actually studied textiles at university and was going to go into fashion as a career….before having an amazingly successful acting career!

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I particularly like the top Melissa is wearing in this photo. And I like the spotty sweatshirt-y top on the left.

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I really like the fabric she used in this top. And how happy she looks 😀 I think I would look that happy if I had adorable dimples and a fashion line and a Hollywood film career!

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