The cocktail dress, a garment which first appeared in the 1930s, was enormously popular in the post-war years when middle class women were changing their outfits according to circumstances and the time of day. It is a shorter dress than the evening dress, with a low neckline, short sleeves and delicate ornamentation. It was frequently made in lace.
Here, the bodice hugs the body, with short puff sleeves, while the skirt is made from multiple strips and is full, as was characteristic of the 1950s. The New Look introduced by Christian Dior in 1947 was in fact characterised by soft, narrow shoulders, a rounded high bustline, a very defined narrow waist and a very full skirt, as a reaction to 1940s fashion which bore the print of rationing and austerity.

The dress is made from white mechanical lace woven on a Leavers loom, in imitation of Chantilly-type handmade lace. Commissioned from the prestigious Lesage embroidery workshops, this lace received meticulous treatment: first partially hand-painted in anthracite to give it depth, the lace was then embroidered with floral patterns and, notably, a pattern of dancing couples dressed in eighteenth century style. This embroidery is executed with sequins, twisted gold lamé threads, transparent beads, ribbons, silk threads and diamantes. The Maison Lesage has conserved a sample of this embroidery, which was one of François Lesage's first successes.


  • Title: Cocktail dress (front)
  • Creator: Cristóbal Balenciaga
  • Creator Birth Date: 1895-01-21
  • Creator Death Date: 1972-03-23
  • Fashion House: Balenciaga
  • Date Created: 1953
  • Location Created: Paris
  • Season: Winter
  • Type: Dress
  • Rights: Museum of Lace and Fashion
  • Medium: White Chantilly lace, shaded gray pattern, embroidered flowers and pairs of dancers.

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