With Dior, Balenciaga is viewed as one of the twin masters of 1950s French couture, and is also often chosen as the designer most admired by other designers. Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972) was a master of construction, producing structured garments with a near perfect cut. Reopening his house in 1946 after the war, he rapidly established his reputation with crisp, distinctive outfits, often with a sharp geometric silhouette. This suit from 1949 approximates to the 'New Look' but is distinctively Balenciaga in its detail. In this year he focused on feature box pleats at the back of his skirts, attached as loose flying panels, and found on many of his suit skirtsr: Womenswear Daily on 4 February wrote: 'Balenciaga Varies Back Panel Skirt: there are quantities of beautifully tailored suits with the loose back skirt panel.' The jacket label from this suit shows Balenciaga's showroom address, a permanent feature of his labels.
The tweed jacket and skirt below date from 1953, and the original promotional shot from 'Album Du Figaro', Avril/Mai 1953 is shown alongside. This is again typical of Balenciaga's tailoring, with a cleverly cut wool tweed jacket, boxy yet fitted. The printed silk cocktail dress is from 1960 and belonged to Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress. Hutton was a loyal and extravagant client of Balenciaga - in one season she bought 19 dresses, 6 suits and 3 coats, when a suit cost approximately a quarter of the average national male wage in the UK. The dramatic cerise 'flying saucer' hat from 1954 reveals the designer at his most provocative, but again strikingly simple in line.
Full item descriptions:
"suit" [2008.8], Balenciaga, Cristobal
"suit" [2006.48], Balenciaga, Cristobal
"dress" [1992.100], Balenciaga, Cristobal
"hat" [1989.56], Balenciaga, Cristobal