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

Skirt suit

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1954 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Balenciaga, Cristóbal, born 1895 - died 1972 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tweed lined with silk

  • Credit Line:

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

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition, case B30 []

This suit comprises a fitted jacket and slim-fitting skirt with a kick pleat at the back. It was shown in Balenciaga's Winter collection in 1954 as model no. 55. It reveals Balenciaga’s debt to his training in tailoring in Spain and his capacity for choosing fabrics fit for purpose. His suits were highly regarded and commanded high prices. In the early 1950s, a made-to-measure woollen suit from Balenciaga cost about £112, a sum well beyond the reach of most consumers.

He was adept at manipulating firm fabrics. The style of jacket relies for effect on careful fitting to the body in front and gentle fullness at the back, and in the setting of the sleeves. Balenciaga was renowned in the trade for inspecting and resetting sleeves that were not perfect.

Tweed was a sturdy woollen fabric that appealed to Balenciaga because of the optical illusions created by the two or more colours in the indistinct flecked pattern.

Physical description

Jacket and skirt of black and white tweed lined with silk. The suit is comprised of a fitted jacket with magyar sleeves and a slim-fitting skirt with a kick pleat at the back. The skirt is comprised of four panels gathered into the waistband. The hems are machine stitched but other details are completed by hand. The hems are only turned once and the raw edges are bound with silk chiffon and blind stitched into place.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


1954 (made)


Balenciaga, Cristóbal, born 1895 - died 1972 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Tweed lined with silk

Marks and inscriptions

'Balenciaga, 10 Avenue George V, Paris'
Label, black on white, inside back collar

Number hand-written (not clearly) on the back of label


Circumference: 96 cm bust, Circumference: 72 cm waist, Length: 77 cm skirt, Diameter: 50 cm skirt footprint

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

Jacket and skirt of tweed lined with silk, designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1954

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

French Vogue, September 1954. Photograph by Clifford Coffin
Hommage à Balenciaga. Lyon : Musée Historique des Tissus, 1985
Catalogue: Hommage a Balenciaga (Musee Historique des tissus Lyon: 1985), p. 73 and 74.
Miller, L., 'Balenciaga: master tailor' in Wilcox, C. ed., The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957 (V&A Publications, 2007), p.154-5 and pl.6.15-6

Labels and date

This classic Balenciaga suit includes many of his signature features: a stand-away collar, threequarter ength sleeves and a relaxed waistline. Like all couture garments this suit was made to the exact measurements of the client, a process which took up to three months and required up to three fittings. The film opposite shows how it would have been made.

Skirt suit
Wool tweed lined with silk
Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1954
Given by Mrs D.M. Haynes and Mrs M. Clark
V&A: T.128&A-1982 [27/05/2017-07/02/2018]
Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895–1972)
1954 autumn/winter

In a survey of French couture houses compiled at this time, Celia Bertin wrote of Balenciaga, ‘I noticed long ago that women who wear his tailored suits seem to have them moulded on to their bodies, so much do the jackets appear wedded to their figures, while leaving them complete freedom of movement’.

Tweed lined with silk

Worn by Mrs Opal Holt and given by Mrs Haynes and Mrs Clark
V&A: T.128&A-1982 [22/09/2007-06/01/2008]






Fashion; Women's clothes; Europeana Fashion Project

Production Type

Haute couture


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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