Inspiring Fashion: Balenciaga and Spain

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?

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23 Responses to Inspiring Fashion: Balenciaga and Spain

  1. TheStylishButterfly July 28, 2011 at 4:50 PM #

    Thanks for sharing THE highlight of your SF trip. I’ve never been to any fashion exhibits, but would love to.

    • Heather Fonseca July 30, 2011 at 9:11 AM #

      Fashion exhibits are fascinating, but they don’t happen nearly frequently enough for my taste! I try to attend any that happen here in LA, but it isn’t always easy to get to them.

  2. Kionon July 29, 2011 at 8:20 PM #

    I love the pink dress. Match that with some pearls and some really nice flats… I can definitely see it at a cocktail party…

  3. Heather Fonseca July 30, 2011 at 9:10 AM #

    @Kionon, Thanks for visiting my blog! Yes, that pink dress would look amazing with flats at a cocktail party!

  4. Terri July 31, 2011 at 6:32 PM #

    Sigh–I would so liked to have seen this exhibit in SF AND the McQueen exhibit in NYC. That is one of the drawbacks to living in the midwest–although I did get to an exhibit of Princess Di’s wedding gown and another on the religious symbolism of hats in the African-American community. This looks like a beautiful book.

    • Heather Fonseca August 2, 2011 at 6:52 PM #

      @Terri, I would have LOVED to see the McQueen exhibit, but I live too far away too!

  5. A Brit Greek August 1, 2011 at 12:55 AM #

    Thank so much for sharing these! I wish there was also an exhibition of all of Vionnets & even Schiaparelli’s work…

    Have a great week lovely!

    • Heather Fonseca August 21, 2011 at 4:02 PM #

      @A Brit Greek, I’m sure there will be some exhibits of both Vionnet and Schiaparelli somewhere one day! I’ll keep my eyes open for you. (:

  6. Dress Code: High Fashion August 4, 2011 at 10:17 AM #

    Congrats to being part of Links a la Mode, dear. You deserve it.

    *Hugs*, Jen

    • Heather Fonseca August 21, 2011 at 4:03 PM #

      @Dress Code: High Fashion, Thanks so much! I finally posted the links. I’ve been on vacation for a couple of weeks and I’m only now getting back on top of everything. I noticed you made it on too!

  7. Sharon August 8, 2011 at 6:34 PM #

    It’s like that at these exhibits . . . not wanting you to take any pictures. At the McQueen exhibit (which was so wonderful) the guards were watching like hawks eyeing prey. I did manage two photos by using my cellphone and a little video. But, honestly, even pictures could not have captured the essence of the exhibit.
    I suppose having had the opportunity to see it (when so many wish they could have) is what matters.

    • Heather Fonseca August 21, 2011 at 4:05 PM #

      @Sharon, Seeing it is really what matters, but I do wish if they won’t let you take photos that photos of the garments would be up on-line at the museum or something like that. My book is great, but not all of the dresses are photographed in color, which is a shame because the colors were so beautiful.

  8. A Brit Greek August 21, 2011 at 5:23 AM #

    Gorgeous girl, just checking in on you! Hope all is well with you!
    A Brit Greek recently posted..Fashionably Late: Joining IFBMy Profile

  9. Heather Fonseca August 21, 2011 at 4:00 PM #

    @A Brit Greek, Hello my dear! All is well with me. I just returned from a 2 and a half week vacation which was a lot of fun. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. mary jo August 23, 2011 at 8:47 AM #

    I love the deYoung and wish I had seen this. Hopefully it will travel!

    xo mary jo
    mary jo recently inspired: giorgione’s tempestMy Profile



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