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      "[Balenciaga's] inspiration came from the bullrings, the flamenco dancers, the loose blouses the fishermen wear, the cool of the cloisters."
 

BALENCIAGA:
Spanish Master...

 

...and the only woman in the room!

 

 

  

 

Mark your calendars--dresses like paintings or beautiful objects of design from the legendary couturier: Balenciaga: Spanish Master at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, opening November 19.

 

Curated by Hamish Bowles, Vogue's European editor-at-large, this historic exhibition explores Balenciaga’s Spanish influences for the first time: the Infanta gown, matador boleros, flamenco-inspired dresses, allusions to religious (a cape of red; so much more flattering on a woman than on a cardinal!) and regional dress.  The influences of artists from Zurbarán and Goya to Picasso and Miró.  Diana Vreeland had this to say about the Spanish Master: “...[Balenciaga's] inspiration came from the bullrings, the flamenco dancers, the loose blouses the fishermen wear, the cool of the cloisters."  Black lace in tiers, ruffles that recall the skirts of flamenco dancers and the paintings of Goya....

 


Evening dress and cape, 1952
Photo: Frances McLaughlin for Vogue

 

(And from our archives....) Ms. Vreeland (she of the marvelous aphorism Pink is the navy blue of India) once said: "People used to keep telling me that fashion came from the streets, but I had always seen it at Balenciaga first." 

 


Flamenco-inspired evening dress, 1951

Photo: Henry Clarke  for Vogue

 

Fashion history like art history now – looking at dresses, at the array of shapes, of forms, that are worn today, one recognizes in them the hand of Balenciaga.  Called the greatest couturier of the 20th century, Balenciaga thought his most important contribution to the history of fashion was a new silhouette for women.  Silhouette was everything, something that was like clay that he shaped and molded, widening shoulders, moving away from the hourglass and a restrictive waist.  He manipulated the waist, agonized over the cut of a sleeve for hours.  Colors from black to all the shades of brown (as if lifted from Goya’s Black Paintings), the characteristic black lace over shocking pink, flashes of brilliant hues as if stolen from tropical birds (peacock blues, flamingo pinks and oranges, the brilliant green of parrots).

 

The recognizable silhouettes then: the sack dress (hiding the curves, a woman freed from a restrictive silhouette); the square coat with the sleeve in one piece with the yoke (minimalist construction); the balloon jacket (a woman's head like a bud over a billowing silhouette, the exaggeration emphasizing the fragility of the form below); draped jersey (a dress that clings and wraps, a woman like a butterfly, protected); the babydoll dress (cute, sexy, an enduring summer staple); the marvelous bracelet sleeve (cut away to reveal opera glove or jeweled cuff); the bubble skirt or balloon skirt (beautiful upside-down tulips).

 

There were two strains evident in his work -- a tendency toward the lush and ornate (memories of embroidered and jewel-encrusted toreador's jackets, of Spanish lace and pomp) and then the 20th century architect, moving towards minimalism (playing with the waist or removing it altogether, the fabric free from all decoration, a certain pared-down aesthetic).

 

And Ms. Vreeland on Balenciaga for the third time: “In a Balenciaga you were the only woman in the room--no other woman existed.”  

 

See: Balenciaga: Spanish Master, November 19 through February 19, Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, New York

 

Read: Judith Thurman's marvelous essay on Balenciaga in Cleopatra's Nose - 39 Varieties of Desire

 

Explore Online: Cristobal Balenciaga, The Costume Institute at the Met online

 

 

Tags:  art  fashion  design  museums  color  spain 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





“In a Balenciaga you were the only woman in the room--no other woman existed.”

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