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Cristóbal Balenciaga found inspiration in the voluminous draped costumes represented in seventeenth-century Spanish paintings, though his modern interpretations achieve more ethereal effects. In this gown from 1964, Balenciaga draped stiff silk gazar on the bias, resulting in a graceful, flowing form that retains a sculptural silhouette. Balenciaga’s designs of the 1960s favor sculptural forms that stand away from the body rather than conform to it, an effect he achieved through absolute mastery of his materials. Silk gazar was a favored fabric developed for him by the Swiss textile manufacturer Abraham. Gazar’s firm hand was perfectly suited to Balenciaga’s architectural shapes; it allowed him to create volume through the inherent properties of the textile rather than relying on a supportive understructure. The exacting cut, minimal structural seaming, and carefully positioned grain lines produce a precise effect: the open, petal-shaped form seen in profile resolves into a smooth curtain at the front and soft waves at the back.

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