Few have heard the name of Balenciaga in the early part of this 21st century. Yet fifty years ago, his clients included the Queen of Spain, the Queen of Belgium, Princess Grace of Monaco (Grace Kelly), the Duchess of Windsor, the Countess of Bismarck, Gloria Guiness (Harper’s Bazaar), Diana Vreeland (Vogue), and Pauline de Rothschild.
Christobel Balenciaga Fashion Prince for Royalty
Christobel Balenciaga: 50s Fashion designed for aristocrats, royalty, and the very rich in a time of elegance and sophistication
Christobel Balenciaga: Spanish Apprentice Tailor
Christobel Balenciaga Bio
Balenciaga’s mother was a seamstress and it was here that he learned the basics of sewing. He joined a local tailor as an apprentice and was noticed by the Marquesa de Casa Torres who became his client. She encouraged him to go to Madridto be more formally trained in the art of tailoring. He did, and soon he was worn by the world’s royalty, aristocracy,Hollywood(Yul Brynner), fashion icons, and anyone who could afford him.
Christobel Balenciaga Established Own Fashion House at Twenty Four
Like many designers before him, and after him, Balenciaga established his own ‘house’ and at the age of 16, opened a couture workshop in San Sebastian inSpain. At age of 24 he followed this with a fashion house in the same city. Five years later, he expanded toMadrid, and here he stayed, his influence spreading over the next 17 years. In 1937, with the outbreak of civil war inSpain, Balenciaga relocated toParisand established a house of Haute Couture. It was now that he created the ‘Barrel’ style, the jacket with the one-cut shoulder and sleeve.
Christobel Balenciaga: Invented the Sack Dress
During the 50s, when the waist was intrinsic to the dress, this master visionary removed it and invented the sack dress. In doing so, he set the stage for many designers that came after him, including Quant, Ungaro, Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, and Scherrer. His inspirational designs included the creation of the ‘square coat’ in which the sleeve and the shoulder were cut from one piece, the combination of black and brown, and the renowned Empire line dress, in which the waist was elevated to the bust.
The Official Website for the House of Balenciaga
The house of Balenciaga has seven fashion seasons per year and they can be seen on their website. The site also has archives going back to 1990.
Christobel Balenciaga: Trapeze dress
In 1957, Balenciaga created the Trapeze dress, cut into the wait with a natural flare following the line of the body over the hips. A year later, the creation of the famous ‘Pillbox’ hat crowned him with international success as every lady on the block rushed to put the hat on her head. In 1963, he brought out the cape-jacket, a jacket with a cape like sleeve that is currently making a come-back.
Christobel Balenciaga: Vibrant Colors and Vogue Magazine
Color was often his trademark, with vibrant greens, yellow, reds, chasing aquamarine blues, matte blacks and nutmeg browns. He was aware of shape, of texture, of movement in his designs, and brought them all together to create a statement for women. He used flamboyant fabric, embroidery, soft silk, and edged dresses with glove leather. He remarked that, “A woman has no need to be perfect or even beautiful to wear my dresses, the dress will do all that for her." Diana Vreeland followed up with that with her remark, “In a Balenciaga, you were the only woman in the room. No other woman existed.”
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Christobel Balenciaga: 60s Pret a Porter
As with many others, Balenciaga also had his perfumes, his scarves, and his purses. This addition to his empire came about in 1968 and even the Queen of England was known to purchase the occasional Balenciaga trifle. By the late 60s, his popularity had increased to the degree that ready-to-wear manufacturers began to copy his design en masse, and he became despondent, believing that the star of couture was fading. In the late 60's After three decades in Paris, Balenciaga retired, closing his fashion In Spain and France. He was 74.
Balenciaga Bags and Purses, Balenciaga Perfumes, Balenciaga Sunglasses
Today, a Balenciaga bag is not only a high fashion item but a high status item. In addition, Balenciaga Perfumes can be found at Nordstroms. Their best perfume, according to reviews, is Paris. Saks Fifth Avenue stock some amazing Balenciaga sunglasses. The screenprint below is from the spring/summer 2013 summer collection from the Balenciaga website.
Screenprint of the Balenciaga Spring/Summer 2013 collection on their website.
Christobel Balenciaga: " The only couturier able to design, cut, assemble and sew a dress together entirely by himself."
Master of Fashion, Prince of Royalty.
Balenciage accrued many honors in his lifetime, most notable of which was the French bestowement of Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur in 1968. Four years later he died in Valencia, Spain, mourned by many of his clients, and remembered in the words of Coco Chanel as the “only couturier able to design, cut, assemble and sew a dress together entirely by himself.”