Dozens of Balenciaga’s couture gowns from the 50’s and 60’s were on display at the De Young Museum in San Francisco this Spring. I was lucky that my trip to the Bay Area coincided with the last week of the show. I absolutely love fashion exhibits, and over the years the De Young has presented some really amazing collections of 20th century designer fashion and historical costumes. To say I was excited about seeing this one, entitled Balenciaga and Spain, is something of an understatement!
This pink dress was one of the first gowns on display. I was hoping to take some photos of the exhibit and brought along my husband’s DSLR camera as it can shoot in very low light without a flash. Unfortunately the guards are draconian about not letting you take photos.
They won’t even let you take a photo of things on sale in the gift shop but I managed to grab a quick shot of this tote bag being sold as a souvenir. I thought it was fun.
My mother, sensing my distress, purchased the book on the exhibit for me.
This large coffee table book does a wonderful job describing the purpose of the exhibit, which was to show how Balenciaga was inspired by the traditional costume, flamenco dance, and art of his native Spain. Photos of Spanish court paintings are displayed next to vintage black and white photos of the garments to show how historical silhouettes and fabrics influenced his designs. Below the poof skirt and sheer pale fabric of the portrait panting was translated into a gorgeous mid-century ball gown.
The elaborate costumes of Spanish Bull Fighters also influenced Balenciaga’s designs.
Traditional Spanish costume worked it’s way into the designer’s aesthetic as well.
The dress on the left was one of my favorite pieces in the show. In real life the poof skirt was a gorgeous pale champagne color.
Unfortunately the book has only a few photos of the garments as they were on display, and as fun as the vintage photos are, the colors he used were so rich and beautiful I miss seeing them. If I lived in San Francisco I would have gone back with a set of colored pencils and tried to sketch out the garments, something I saw a few people doing during the show.
Did you get to see the exhibit on Balenciaga’s designs at the De Young? If so, what did you think of it? If not, have you seen any great fashion exhibits recently?