2 piece tailored suit in black silk spotted all over with tiny woven silver squares: SB waisted jacket with peplum incorporating 4 pointed tabs at back, rounded collar and revers, and fastening with 5 facetted black glass buttons; lined black silk and with woven label: Balenciaga, 10 Avenue George V, Paris'. Matching skirt in 2 panels with integral trained box-pleat panel and cb zip. For his AW 1948 collection, Balenciaga launched a 'loose back panel' - see English Vogue Oct 1948 Paris fashions article, pp.44-5. For his 1949 collections, Balenciaga continued to feature box pleats at the back of his skirts, and loose flying panels were a feature of many skirts in this year (see Vogue Export Spring 1949 pp.8&65). Womenswear Daily 4 Feb 49 wrote: 'Balenciaga Varies Back Panel Skirt: There are quantities of beautifully tailored suits with the loose back skirt panel.' French Vogue has 3 similar Balenciaga suits in 1949: March: a jacket with back tabs April: a skirt with the central box pleat attached only at the waist May: a sketch also showing the back skirt pleat Reputedly bought and worn by an heiress in Detroit, Michigan.
With Dior, Balenciaga is viewed as one of the twin masters of 1950s French couture, and is also often chosen as the designer most admired by other designers. Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972) was a master of construction, producing structured garments with a near perfect cut. Reopening his house in 1946 after the war, he rapidly established his reputation with crisp, distinctive outfits, often with a sharp geometric silhouette. This suit from 1949 approximates to the 'New Look' but is distinctively Balenciaga in its detail. In this year he focused on feature box pleats at the back of his skirts, attached as loose flying panels, and found on many of his suit skirtsr: Womenswear Daily on 4 February wrote: 'Balenciaga Varies Back Panel Skirt: there are quantities of beautifully tailored suits with the loose back skirt panel.' The jacket label from this suit shows Balenciaga's showroom address, a permanent feature of his labels. The tweed jacket and skirt below date from 1953, and the original promotional shot from 'Album Du Figaro', Avril/Mai 1953 is shown alongside. This is again typical of Balenciaga's tailoring, with a cleverly cut wool tweed jacket, boxy yet fitted. The printed silk cocktail dress is from 1960 and belonged to Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress. Hutton was a loyal and extravagant client of Balenciaga - in one season she bought 19 dresses, 6 suits and 3 coats, when a suit cost approximately a quarter of the average national male wage in the UK. The dramatic cerise 'flying saucer' hat from 1954 reveals the designer at his most provocative, but again strikingly simple in line.
L (jacket): 61cm
Place of creation
© Manchester Art Gallery