A real treat for fashion and dressmaking enthusiasts alike, the 'Shaping Fashion' exhibition unveils 100 garments and 20 hats, many of which are going on display for the first time. Sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and catwalk footage revealing Balenciaga's uncompromising creativity cast visitors back in time to the 1950s and 1960s, when the master of couture was at the height of his creative career. A number of Balenciaga's timeless shapes, including the tunic, the sack, ‘baby doll' and shift dress were born during this golden age of couture.
Show highlights include ensembles made by Balenciaga for Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, dresses, and hats belonging to socialite and 1960s fashion icon Gloria Guinness, and pieces worn by one of the world's wealthiest women, Mona von Bismarck, who commissioned everything from ballgowns to gardening shorts from the couturier.
For the first time, the V&A has used x-ray technology to take a "forensic look" at the hidden details behind Cristóbal Balenciaga's tailoring. These x-rays, made with x-ray artist Nick Veasey, show structures invisible to the naked eye, including dress weights strategically placed to determine the exact hang of the skirt in one of Balenciaga's most minimal designs, and boning in dress bodices, dispelling the myth that he did not use such structures.
For chief curator Cassie Davies-Strodder, the work that is on display by those who trained with Balenciaga, and more recent garments by Molly Goddard, Demna Gvasalia, and J.W. Anderson — who in the curator's opinion clearly reflect the "legacy of his vision today.”
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The V&A is home to one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of dress in the world, and regularly hosts cocktail parties, book launches and gallery events, which never fail to attract a smattering of London's glitterati.
Meanwhile, across the Channel in Paris, "L'Oeuvre au Noir" exhibition explores Balenciaga's penchant for black and his Spanish childhood — is currently running at the Musée Bourdelle until July 16.