Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972) Spanish
Balenciaga was inspired by non-western clothing and religious-influenced or ecclesiastical garments. His clothes were known for their elegant starkness and austerity. This was most likely a result of his goal to reduce the decoration of garments to only the most essential.
Balenciaga was temperamental, secretive, and very private. Because of this, pictures of his work are very hard to come by. In fact, he would rarely let photographs of his collections be taken, expect for the few exclusive editorials in Vogue magazine by photographer Irving Penn. An example of his difficulty with the press: he chose to show his collections a month later than the other Paris houses, which caused a conflict for the foreign press who then needed to return because of his importance and reputation in dressmaking.
Luckily, you may have a chance to see Balenciaga’s work in person this year as the Met is hosting a retrospective of his work with the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute. The exhibition, Balenciaga: Spanish Master, conceived by Oscar de la Renta and curated by Hamish Bowles, has been open since November 19, 2010 and will run until February 19, 2011. For more information, see here and here.
His style, innovations, and influence on fashion:
- He is credited with showing the first “pillbox” hat in 1958, which became a fad when Oleg Cassini chose the style as part of Jackie Kennedy’s European-influenced wardrobe.
- Favorite colors were cinnamon, black, brown, white, turquoise, and deep rich red for evening.
- His signature fabric, a crisp silk gazar, was also a favorite of Hubert de Givenchy.
- Instead of padding, he used stiffened fabric to create the permanent shapes for his balloon-like silhouettes.
- Introduced the non-existent waistline with his 1957 “sack” dress, a style notably satirized on an episode of I Love Lucy.
- The balloon jacket, balloon skirt and the baby doll silhouettes were all his creations.