V&A | Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion

This week V&A opens the first ever UK exhibition to explore the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga and his continuing influence on modern fashion.

Opening on 27 May 2017, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion will be the first of its kind to look at Balenciaga’s unique approach to making. On show will be 100 garments and 20 hats, accompanied by archive sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and catwalk footage revealing Balenciaga’s uncompromising creativity, as well as pieces by his protégés and contemporary designers working with the same innovative style today.

Alberta Tiburzi in 'envelope' dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Harper's Bazaar, June 1967 © Hiro 1967
Hiro (b. 1930) Alberta Tiburzi in ‘envelope’ dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Harper’s Bazaar, June 1967 © Hiro 1967

The Shaping Fashion exhibition marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous fashion house in Paris.

Iconic pieces from V&A’s Balenciaga collections will trace the courturier’s influence on modern fashion design, from Molly Goddard to Simone Rochca, J.W. Anderson and Demna Gvasalia, among others.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion focuses on the latter part of Balenciaga’s long career. It was during the 1950s and 1960s that the designer hit his creative peak. During this period he not only dressed some of the most renowned women of the time, but also introduced revolutionary shapes including the tunic, the sack, ‘baby doll’ and shift dress – style staples which remain.

Highlights will 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 ball-gowns to gardening shorts from the couturier.

Haute Couture is like an orchestra whose conductor is Balenciaga. We other couturiers are the musicians and we follow the direction he gives.’  – Christian Dior

X-ray photograph of evening dress, silk taffeta, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1954. X-ray by Nick Veasey, 2016 © Nick Veasey


For the first time the V&A has used x-ray technology to take a forensic look at the hidden details inside Cristóbal Balenciaga’s garments. Read our story here.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion runs from 27 May 2017 – 18 February 2018 at the V&A and is sponsored by American Express. 

Seen at top: Richard Avedon (1923 – 2004) Dovima with Sacha, cloche and suit by Balenciaga, Café des Deux Magots, Paris, 1955 © The Richard Avedon Foundation


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