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Evening Dress

1950-1955 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

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'.
read 'My Years and Seasons' by Pierre Balmain Legendary French couturier Pierre Balmain (1914 – 82) spent his early years working in wartime Paris alongside fellow up-and-coming designer Christian Dior. This extract from his 1964 autobiography describes the 'Birth of Balmain', his very first fashion show.
Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Embroidered silk organza trimmed with sequins, rhinestones and ostrich feather plumes, boned, supported by silk, nylon and tulle, metal. It is highly likely that the ostrich feathers, 26-30 in total, are farmed and produced by a professional business that supplied the Paris haute couture trade in the mid-20th c.
Brief description
Evening dress of embroidered silk organza, designed by Pierre Balmain, Paris, 1950-1955
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.
Production typeHaute couture
Gallery label
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)
Credit line
Given by Miss Karslake
Object history
Donor states made for her aunt Hon. Mrs Pleydell-Bouverie by Balmain for a court ball in early 1950s.
Subject depicted
Association
Summary
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'.
Bibliographic reference
Wilcox, C., ed., The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-57 (V&A Publications: 2007), p. 136 and pl. 5.20
Collection
Accession number
T.176-1969

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Record createdJanuary 19, 2006
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