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Skirt suit
  • Skirt suit
    Balenciaga, Cristóbal, born 1895 - died 1972
  • Enlarge image

Skirt suit

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1956-1957 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Balenciaga, Cristóbal, born 1895 - died 1972 (designer)
    Ascher Ltd (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wool with silk lining

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs D.M. Haynes and Mrs M. Clark

  • Museum number:

    T.131 to B-1982

  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition, case B7 []

Balenciaga was the most exclusive fashion house in Paris immediately after World War II. The Spanish-born couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972), ‘the Master’ to his fellow fashion designers, had moved to Paris from Spain in 1937. By 1952 he had 232 employees and his house produced 356 new designs per year. His clients, admitted to the salon only after a personal introduction, included many cosmopolitan women of different nationalities. Some dressed exclusively in his clothes.

Balenciaga was a perfectionist in cutting and seaming, and was renowned for reworking garments even when they were being worn by a client. In the 1950s, Balenciaga’s designs became increasingly pared down, foreshadowing the simple geometry of 1960s fashion, as seen here. Balenciaga enjoyed the challenge of creating garments for older women. In this suit, the forgiving gathers of the skirt would conceal a less than perfect figure.

Physical description

Skirt, jacket and fringed scarf in charcoal wool, with silk lining.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

ca. 1956-1957 (made)

Artist/maker

Balenciaga, Cristóbal, born 1895 - died 1972 (designer)
Ascher Ltd (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Wool with silk lining

Marks and inscriptions

'Balenciaga, 10 Avenue George V, Paris'
Inside back neckline, white on black

'65361'
Number hand-written on the back of the label

Dimensions

Weight: 1.42 kg Skirt & Jacket

Object history note

Opal Holt was born in Canada in 1887 but lived in the US until the end of the Second World War. She travelled extensively between the wars and was in the first plane to land in Bali. She married Herbert Holt, a Canadian who lived a large part of his life in England, as her third husband in 1946. They came to England and Europe every summer and Opal Holt began buying clothes in Paris for her life in England, and for the Bahamas in Winter, over a period of about thirty years. She died in 1980.

Given by Mrs D.M Haynes and Mrs. Clark (nee Holt; Opal Holt's step-daughters).

Descriptive line

Skirt, jacket and scarf in wool, with silk lining, designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga, probably made by Ascher Ltd., Paris, ca. 1956-1957

Labels and date

ASCHER TEXTILES, LONDON

Balenciaga was a challenging client. He demanded exact colour matches and tested fabrics rigorously. Would, for instance, a perfect buttonhole be possible? London-based firm Ascher manufactured textiles in traditional smallscale Scottish mills. They earned international acclaim for their warm, light-weight mohairs, which were particularly suitable for women’s tailoring. Balenciaga was one of the first couturiers
to use Ascher wool and synthetic mix mohairs.

Skirt suit and stole
Wool by Ascher
Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1956–7
Given by Mrs D.M. Haynes and Mrs M. Clark
V&A: T.131 to B-1982 [27/05/2017-07/02/2018]
[Tailoring section]

Suit with matching scarf
Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972)
Paris
About 1956-7

Balenciaga favoured the dense tweeds made by Zika Ascher, the Prague-born British textile manufacturer who supplied many of the couture houses in the 1950s. Most designers found such fabrics testing, but Balenciaga transcended any difficulties. Similarly, he enjoyed the challenge of creating garments for older women. In this case, the forgiving gathers of the skirt would conceal a less than perfect figure.

Wool, probably supplied by Ascher Ltd

Worn by Mrs Opal Holt and given by Mrs Haynes and Mrs Clark
V&A: T.131&A, B-1982 [22/09/2007-06/01/2008]

Materials

Wool; Silk

Categories

Fashion; Accessories; Women's clothes; Europeana Fashion Project

Production Type

Haute couture

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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