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Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion V&A Exhibition

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by Caroline Haack (subscribe)
Fine art student and freelance writer from Paris, living in London.
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The new V&A exhibition
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A spectacular powdered pink dress slowly turns on itself, revealing a partly bare back, the two sides of which are connected by a pink bow. Behind it is the anatomy of the silk dress, revealing the secret of its impressive architecture: a corset concealed under the layers of fabric ensures the good fall of the panels of the dress. Said "La Tulipe", this silk creation is one of the hundred pieces signed Cristobal Balenciaga, Spanish designer of the eponymous house. Mostly from the private collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum of London and presented during the first British retrospective on the career of Balenciaga, this exhibition marks the 80th anniversary of the fashion house in Paris.

From the opening of the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibition, Spanish blood is felt: ornamented mantillas, dramatic flamenco dresses, embroidered chaquetillas jackets typical of bullfighters and sober cassocks with Catholic accents are as many reminders to the country of origin of the designer. Indeed, Cristobal Balenciaga was born in 1895 in the Spanish Basque Country and founded his Parisian couture house in 1937.

A series of four jet black dresses strikes the visitor, a skilful staging of the consecutive (and revolutionary) styles of the house: The dress Envelope and its strategic folds, the dress Amphora and its rounded back, the frocked lace dress Baby Doll, and finally the sober trapeze dress and its gummed size, which rises against the fundamental principle of the new look of Christian Dior in vogue at the time.

If the exhibition chooses to concentrate on the great years of the house - the 1950s and 1960s - are the scene of a real upheaval of the female silhouette by the Spanish couturier, who lays the foundations of the trapezoid silhouette of the 60s and the deconstruction of the clothing of the 80s. The history of Balenciaga is explored in its entirety, dotted with anecdotes to stand out during fashion conversations.
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