In honor of the 2023 European Heritage Days (Journées Européennes du Patrimoine) on September 16th and 17th, Balenciaga presents The Woman Behind The Dress, an exhibition of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s archives.
This never-before-seen selection will be presented at 40 rue de Sèvres, Kering and Balenciaga headquarters in Paris. With The Woman Behind The Dress, the House celebrates Cristóbal Balenciaga’s special attention to the female body and the way in which personalities can express themselves through couture techniques. These “works”, personalized and transformed in infinitely complex ways, reflect the work of this great couturier.
His creations are renowned for their structural ingenuity and unprecedented attention to the women he dressed. The 30 Haute Couture pieces and the 20 morphological mannequins shown in this new exhibition highlight Cristóbal Balenciaga’s mastery in sculpting his creations onto bodies as well as his respect for the unique character of each woman who wore these masterpieces.
Over time, Balenciaga developed lines that evolved the dominant female silhouette, moving away from the socio-cultural norms of the time and introducing degrees of abstraction that shifted the focus, blurred the waist, generated volume and simplified the cut. His capacity of innovation, his knowledge of fabrics and techniques, his sense of proportion and measurement, and his vision and interpretation of the female body have earned him the reputation of being one of the most influential designers of his time - and of all time. Perhaps more than anyone else of his time, Balenciaga approached fashion as an opportunity to transform silhouettes, rather than perpetuate constraining ideals for women.
His attention to individuality is a source of inspiration for the House's current artistic director. "What he created on the body with the clothes was a bit like plastic surgery," noted Demna.
The unique pieces shown in The Woman Behind The Dress were made for royal families members, socialites, close friends of the House and artists, including the actress Ingrid Bergman, the choreographer Agnes de Mille, the philanthropist Mona von Bismarck, known in her day as the "best-dressed woman in the world", and the famous creator of the White House rose garden, Bunny Mellon - each with a singular elegance.
One of the displayed models, a velvet dress adorned with pearls at the neckline, was made-to-measure for Princess Grace of Monaco on her 40th birthday.
This model was first shown in 1966 on Cristóbal Balenciaga's favorite model, Danielle Slavik, who wore it again in 2023 for the 52nd Couture show designed by Demna, thus establishing a link with Balenciaga's heritage and legacy.
The Woman Behind The Dress reveals a particular sensitivity to the uniqueness of each individual's morphology and the way in which personality can be expressed through clothing. This detail is often overlooked, as fashion is usually presented in a standardized, one-size-fits-all format. With this exhibition, Balenciaga proposes a different way of seeing and appreciating clothes and the women who wear them.