The Victoria and Albert Museum has today confirmed that it will be presenting the first UK exhibition exploring the career and legacy of Cristóbal Balenciaga. 

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Evening dress, silk taffeta, Cristobal Balenciaga, Paris, 1955. (c) Victoria and Albert Museum. 

This first UK display devoted to the designer will look at his approach to making and will showcase pieces by his protégés and contemporary designers working in the same innovative way today.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion will mark 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.

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Flamenco style evening dress, Cristobal Balenciaga, Paris, 1961. (c) Victoria and Albert Museum.

But instead of being simply a retrospective, the exhibition will focus in detail on the latter part of Balenciaga’s long career in the 1950s and 1960s, considered to be one of his most creative periods as the ‘master’ of haute couture.

During this time, he not only dressed some of the most iconic women of the era but also introduced shapes such as the tunic, the sack, ‘baby doll’ and shift dress – all of which remain influential styles today.

Some of the highlights of the exhibition 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 ballgowns to gardening shorts from the couturier.

There will be over 100 garments and twenty hats on display – many of which have not been exhibited before. Visitors can also expect to see archive sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and catwalk footage, all revealing the designer’s creativity.

Most of the exhibition will depend upon V&A’s fashion holdings – the largest collection of Balenciaga in the UK. The collection was initiated for the Museum by Cecil Beaton in the 1970s.

Cassie Davies-Strodder, V&A exhibition curator, said: “For the first time, this exhibition will take a forensic look at Balenciaga’s most iconic ensembles from the V&A’s collections to reveal what made his designs so exceptional. His lasting impact on fashion will be explored through the work of those who trained with him and through recent garments by designers including Molly Goddard, Demna Gvasalia and J.W. Anderson who reflect the legacy of his vision today.”

The exhibition will be organised around three main sections ‘Front of House’, including Balenciaga’s salons, behind the scenes in Balenciaga’s ‘Workrooms’ and the lasting impact of ‘Balenciaga’s Legacy’.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion will be on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum from the 27th May until the 18th February 2018. For more information and to book tickets visit: https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/balenciaga-shaping-fashion

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