A master of the rarefied tailoring and dressmaking skills necessary to achieve his artistic vision, Cristóbal Balenciaga was one of the few designers who could design, cut, sew, and fit. Not content merely to serve as the inspiration behind a collection, he participated as the prime craftsman as well. Balenciaga was seldom satisfied; he demanded perfection and reputedly spent days on a single dress, pulling it apart, recutting it, and altering it until it fit to his entire satisfaction.

Balenciaga imagined clothes as three-dimensional forms that encircled the body, occasionally defining its shapes, then billowing away again. Working with the Swiss fabric house, Abraham, he developed a heavily sized silk called gazar, a fabric with weight and body that allowed for such sculptural possibilities.

This opera coat, designed in the latter years of Balenciaga’s career, is constructed of his signature gazar silk. An example of the couturier’s minimalist design, it has a sculptural presence and is constructed with minimal seaming.


  • Title: Opera Coat
  • Creator: Cristóbal Balenciaga (Spanish, b.1895, d.1972)
  • Date Created: Circa 1960
  • Location Created: France
  • Credit Line: Museum Purchase: Gift of the Friends of Fashion
  • Accession Number: 2004.146
  • Type: Costume and Accessory
  • Medium: silk

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