12 designs - from day wear to glamorous evening gowns - by the most outstanding designer of the 20th century at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin
After an apprenticeship as a tailor, Balenciaga, born in Guetaría in Northern Spain, opened his first couture house in San Sebastián in 1917. Further branches followed, first in Madrid (Eisa) and later in Barcelona. In 1937, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, Balenciaga left Spain and founded a new business in Paris. He had a resounding success with his very first collection. Cristóbal Balenciaga is one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. His elegant creations of almost sculptural simplicity are the expression of his constant search for perfection, both in the cut and in the workmanship. Unlike Christian Dior Balenciaga did not launch a new line every season, to which the customers had to adapt. He was interested in developing lines which produced fundamental solutions for his customers.
Olivegreen Ladies Coat
Paris, ca. 1963
He perfected successful ideas, such as the Sack line (1957) and the Empire line (1959) and returned to them time and time again.
This narrow coat with batwing sleeve is made from one piece of cloth. One seam under chest and arm was sufficient for Balenciaga to give the coat its three dimensional form.
This businesslike suit is lent a jaunty look by the addition of pocket flaps, while the collar away from the neck and the three-quarter length sleeved give it a very feminine appearance. The knee-length skirt is gathered around the waist by a wide waistband and falls straight.
This suit also illustrates Balenciaga’s minimalistic art of omission. The back and the sleeves consist of one piece, forming the round shoulders and the straight back, Balenciaga was aiming. The simple skirt is made of a single length of fabric worked as a parallelogram and thus has simply one diagonal on the back running seam, and the zipper has been inserted into this.
Ball Gown of Pink Taffeta Silk
Often inspired by historical models Balenciaga here offers a modern interpretation of the late 19th century bustle. For this short evening gown he draped the light, yet solid silk taffeta to lush bowl wrinkles. They coat skirt and corset and are taken back together to form a cascade.
The gown comes from the possession of Elisabeth Firestone (1897-1990). In 1921, she married Harvey S. Firestone Jr. of the American dynasty of tyre manufacturers. She was voted bestdressed woman of the year several times and counted amongst the long-standing customers of the house of Balenciaga.
Text: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Christine Waidenschlager
Concept: Christine Waidenschlager
Editing / Realisation: Merle Walter
Translation: Übersetzungsbüro Nastula / Catherine Hales and Stephan Schmidt
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz www.smb.museum