'Sack' day dress, wool

Cristóbal Balenciaga for Balenciaga

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Balenciaga was the most exclusive fashion house in Paris immediately after World War II. The Spanish-born couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972), regarded by his peers as ‘the Master’, had moved to Paris from Spain in 1937. By 1952 he had 232 employees there and was producing 356 new designs per year. His clients, admitted to his salon only after a personal introduction, included many cosmopolitan women of different nationalities.

In the 1950s, Balenciaga’s designs became increasingly pared down, foreshadowing the simple geometry of 1960s fashion. In 1957 his 'sack' line created a stir, because it was so radically different from the constricting hour-glass shape that dominated fashion. This example shows how the dress hangs suspended from the shoulders like an envelope around the body, letting it breathe. For many, the first version of the sack was too radical, and in succeeding years, the designer reduced its fullness. It had a certain longevity, the skirt of this example being shortened by 7cm in the 1960s to bring it in line with new fashions.

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  • Title: 'Sack' day dress, wool
  • Creator: Cristóbal Balenciaga
  • Fashion House: Cristóbal Balenciaga
  • Date Created: 1957/1958
  • Location Created: Paris
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 90.5 cm front neck to hem, Width: 42 cm shoulder to shoulder, Length: 51 cm shoulder to cuff, Width: 55 cm armpit to armpit
  • Provenance: Bequeathed by Mrs Dittenhofer
  • Type: 1957-1958
  • Medium: Wool lined with silk

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