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Evening dress
  • Evening dress
    Balmain, Pierre, born 1914 - died 1982
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Evening dress

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1950-1955 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Balmain, Pierre, born 1914 - died 1982 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered silk organza trimmed with sequins, rhinestones and ostrich feathers, boned, supported by silk, nylon and tulle, metal

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Miss Karslake

  • Museum number:

    T.176-1969

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This evening gown was designed by Pierre Balmain (1914-82). The gown is embellished with ostrich feathers, sequins and rhinestones.

Working such a light-weight fabric required great skill, and would have been commissioned from a specialist workshop such as Lesage or Rebe. Balmain’s fellow couturier Christian Dior (1905-1957) explained, 'a ball dress may be entirely covered with millions of paillettes, or pearls, each one of which has to be put on separately'.

Physical description

Evening dress made from embroidered white silk organza. The dress has a strapless bodice and a heart shaped neckline. The very full skirt flares from a hip yoke which is high at the front and lower on the hips at the back. The bodice and skirt are trimmed with a feather pattern in silver sequins and rhinestones interspersed with ostrich feathers with rhinestone centres. The design is most densely clustered on the bodice, becomes larger and sparser on the skirt and ceases at knee level in the front and just above the hem at the back. There are ostrich feathers stitched around the bodice. The bodice is lined with satin and boned with 's' boning at the breast. It fastens with hooks and eyes and a zip. The skirt is mounted on a white silk underskirt over which is a small nylon bustle, a stiff nylon petticoat and two layers of soft nylon tulle. The waist has been extensively altered.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

1950-1955 (made)

Artist/maker

Balmain, Pierre, born 1914 - died 1982 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Embroidered silk organza trimmed with sequins, rhinestones and ostrich feathers, boned, supported by silk, nylon and tulle, metal

Object history note

Donor states made for her aunt Hon. Mrs Pleydell-Bouverie by Balmain for a court ball in early 1950s.

Descriptive line

Evening dress of embroidered silk organza, designed by Pierre Balmain, Paris, 1950-1955

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

Wilcox, C., ed., The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-57 (V&A Publications: 2007), p. 136 and pl. 5.20

Labels and date

EMBROIDERY

Paris was the home of a luxury trade in fashion goods. Entire streets were devoted to glove makers, shoe makers and furriers while feathers, floral accessories and ribbon work were worked by hand in small workshops, much as they had been since the 18th century.

Embroidery specialists created a range of samples each season. Once selected, a design remained for the exclusive use of the couturier. Hubert de Givenchy said these samples served as 'the springboard to creation'.

Gowns that were to be embroidered were usually simply cut to show off their sumptuous surface detail. Their embellishment required meticulous patience, for as Dior explained, 'a ball dress may be entirely covered with millions of paillettes, or pearls, each one of which has to be put on separately'.

Evening dress
Pierre Balmain (1914-82)
Paris
About 1950

This evening dress was made for a court ball. The pieces were embroidered and finished with feather-work by different workshops, then reassembled. The process of transforming a plain garment to the star of a collection could take up to a month. [41 words]

Silk organza with ostrich feathers, sequins and rhinestones, lined with silk, silk tulle and a stiff nylon petticoat

Worn by the Hon. Mrs Pleydell-Bouverie and given by Miss Karslake
V&A: T.176-1969 [22/09/2007]

Materials

Organza; Sequins; Ostrich; Glass; Silk; Nylon; Tulle; Metal

Techniques

Sewing; Weaving; Embroidering

Subjects depicted

Feathers

Categories

Fashion; Evening wear; Embroidery; Women's clothes

Production Type

Haute couture

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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