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Balenciaga in New York

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Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972)

There’s a wonderful exhibit in New York at the moment: a beautiful overview of the work of the great Spanish couturier Cristobal Balenciaga. It’s at the Queen Sophia Spanish Institute until the 19th of February, at which point it moves (slightly augmented) to the de Young Museum in San Francisco (it will be there from March 26 though July 4, 2011).

Curated by Vogue Magazine’s European Editor-at-Large, Hamish Bowles, the exhibit showcases more than 70 items by Balenciaga.

I’ve often asked people in the fashion world, people whose opinions I respect, to name their favorite designer. The response is, more often than not, Balenciaga. ndeed, the New York Times, in 1967, wrote “No one in the French couture can match him.”

While Balenciaga opened his couture house in Paris in 1937, it was Spain, as Hamish Bowles put it, “that cast the longest shadow.” To Diana Vreeland, Balenciaga’s “inspiration came from the bullrings, the flamenco dancers, the loose blouses the fishermen wear, the cool of the cloisters.”

And to quote Coco Chanel:
“He is the only couturier who knows how to cut in fabric, and mount it, and sew it with his own hands. The others are just draughtsmen.”

Indeed. See for yourself…

Kenneth King and I attended the exhibit’s press review. A number of photos follow; the first six are publicity photos from the exhibit. 

One of the showcases; photo by Kenny Komer.


Two black dresses; photo by Kenny Komer. The first dress clearly shows flamenco influences, while the second shows the growing abstraction of Balenciaga’s work.


An evening ensemble from 1960. The romper is of black silk charmeuse and the bolero of pink silk faille; photo by Kenny Komer

Two elegant evening looks; the exquisite lace on the one on the left looks lighter than…

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  1. User avater
    Jacquelyn | | #1

    I love his work its so effortless yet so complicated. I always wonder how to make the "chou" wrap from the Cocoon outfit.

  2. User avater
    kkegeland | | #2

    can't wait to see this in San Francisco!!

  3. sgbarnes | | #3

    I am tempted to go to the show but I live in Dallas. I did a report on him for a History of Costume class. I have been fascinated ever since. If I remember correctly, no one has figured out his formula for creating a sleeve. This is a wonderful article about a wonderful and inspiring designer.

  4. sgbarnes | | #4

    I am tempted to go to the show but I live in Dallas. I did a report on him for a History of Costume class. I have been fascinated ever since. If I remember correctly, no one has figured out his formula for creating a sleeve. This is a wonderful article about a wonderful and inspiring designer.

  5. woodruff | | #5

    He also often used that so flattering front waistline. It creates such a graceful line.

  6. Ryliss | | #6

    Thank you for the wonderful photos of the exhibit for those of us readers not able to attend. I hope to see future exhibits with your contributing editors Kenneth D. King and Susan Khalje attending. I would also like to see a follow-up technique detailed by Kenneth of one of Balenciga garments.

  7. User avater
    LuvThreadsMagazine | | #7

    What a show!

    Can NOT imagine you two pal'n around - what kind of scandalous comments were exchanged??

  8. suzannity | | #8

    Could you, please, recommend a good book to read more about his work and life?

  9. trish_at_dollymall | | #9

    Balenciaga has always been a huge inspiration in my life. I hope to make it to the San Francisco exhibition. I see that the show will be "augmented" there.

  10. SusanKhalje | | #10

    Suzannity wanted to know about Balenciaga books - happily, there are many of them, including these:

    Balenciaga and Spain will appear in the spring - it's by Hamish Bowles, who curated the New York exhibit.

    Baleniaga and His Legacy, by Myra Walker, accompanied a Dallas Balenciaga exhibit a few years back.

    And Balenciaga Paris, by Pamela Golbin, was the book published in conjunction with the large exhibit a couple of years back at the Musee des Arts Decoratif in Paris.
    So, plenty to read!!!

  11. trish_at_dollymall | | #11

    Balenciaga has always been a huge inspiration in my life. I hope to make it to the San Francisco exhibition. I see that the show will be "augmented" there.

  12. suzannity | | #12

    Thank you, for the recommendations!

  13. couturelady | | #13

    I thank you for showing these garments. I loved the Spanish feel that was put into the designs of each garments. Thanks for sharing.

  14. alb4ever | | #14

    The pinky-red dress on the left looks beautiful!!!

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