Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion

Next month, the V&A will open an exhibition on the works of Cristóbal Balenciaga, exploring his profound influence on modern fashion. The exhibition marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous fashion house in Paris.

Model wearing Balenciaga orange coat as I. Magnin buyers inspect a dinner outfit in the background, Paris, France, 1954 © Mark Shaw, mptvimages.com

Model wearing Balenciaga orange coat as I. Magnin buyers inspect a dinner outfit in the background, Paris, France, 1954 © Mark Shaw, mptvimages.com

As 'the master' of haute couture, the exhibition will focus on the latter part of his career in the 1950s and 1960s, a period when he dressed some of the most iconic women of the time and introduced revolutionary shapes including the tunic, the sack, ‘baby doll’ and shift dress, styles that are still around today.

'Baby doll' cocktail dress, crêpe de chine, lace and satin, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1958 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

'Baby doll' cocktail dress, crêpe de chine, lace and satin, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1958 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Highlights will include ensembles made by Balenciaga for Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, dresses and hats belonging to socialite and 1960s fashion icon Gloria Guinness, and pieces worn by one of the world’s wealthiest women, Mona von Bismarck, who commissioned everything from ball-gowns to gardening shorts from the couturier.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion will be organised around three main sections: ‘Front of House’, including Balenciaga’s salons, behind the scenes in Balenciaga’s ‘Workrooms’ and the lasting impact of ‘Balenciaga’s Legacy’. The Balenciaga brand still references its founder today, yet his influence spreads far wider. The ‘Legacy’ section will feature the work of over 30 designers of the last 50 years tracing the influence of this most revered figure in fashion right up to the present day.

Oscar de la Renta, Spring Summer 2015 ready-to-wear, look 37 © Catwalking

Oscar de la Renta, Spring Summer 2015 ready-to-wear, look 37 © Catwalking

‘Haute Couture is like an orchestra whose conductor is Balenciaga. We other couturiers are the musicians and we follow the direction he gives.’
Christian Dior

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion runs from 27 May 2017 - 18 February 2018.
Victoria and Albert Musem, London