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Evening dress

  • Place of origin:

    Paris, France (made)

  • Date:

    1957 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Pierre Balmain, born 1914 - died 1982 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Printed silk, pleated and boned, with appliqué decoration, net and nylon

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Lady Diana Cooper

  • Museum number:

    T.50-1974

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

  • Image in copyright

Lady Gladwyn was the wife of the British Ambassador to Paris from 1954 to 1960. She hosted the state visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the Embassy in April 1957, and invited her great friend Diana Cooper to attend the dinner held at the British Embassy on Tuesday 9 April, at which this dress was probably worn. It was designed by Pierre Balmain (1914-82), and the bodice features the appliqué technique favoured by him.

Lady Gladwyn wrote in her diary: "The supper was, I think, just right for the occasion: cold salmon, chaudfroid of chicken, a salad, oranges and lemons filled with sorbet, and a wonderful Bollinger... The difficulty was to get rid of all the guests. They lingered on, and at half past one in the morning Cecil Beaton was still sketching Diana Cooper in the Ionian Room".

In 1971 the society photographer Cecil Beaton collected several of the dresses worn during this particular state visit to donate the V&A. These included the Queen's embroidered ivory gown by Norman Hartnell (1901-79), T.264-1974, Lady Gladwyn's lilac lace gown by Jacques Fath (1912-54), T.173-1974, and Baroness Alain de Rothschild's spotted tulle gown by Christian Dior (1905-57), T.121-1974.

Physical description

Full length evening dress of cream warp printed silk with large pink rose pattern. The bodice is strapless and trimmed with appliqué rose motifs below the bust line to the waist. The boned bodice is scalloped at the waist and pleated at the bust with V shaped centre front.

The bouffant skirt has fold pleats and a stud and hook fastening left of centre back. The underskirts are made of stiffened net and nylon.

Place of Origin

Paris, France (made)

Date

1957 (made)

Artist/maker

Pierre Balmain, born 1914 - died 1982 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Printed silk, pleated and boned, with appliqué decoration, net and nylon

Dimensions

Circumference: 86 cm bust, Circumference: 70 cm waist, Length: 119 cm skirt back, Length: 111 cm skirt front, Diameter: 95 cm skirt footprint

Object history note

Cynthia Jebb (Lady Gladwyn) was the wife of the British Ambassador to Paris, Sir Gladwyn Jebb, 1954-60. She hosted the state visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in April 1957, and invited her great friend Diana Cooper (the wife of the former French Ambassador) to the return state dinner held at the British Embassy on Tuesday 9th April, to which this dress was probably worn.

"The supper was, I think, just right for the occasion: cold salmon, chaudfroid of chicken, a salad, oranges and lemons filled with sorbet, and a wonderful Bollinger... The difficulty was to get rid of all the guests. They lingered on, and at half past one Cecil Beaton was still sketching Diana Cooper and Anne Norwich in the Ionian Room" - The Diaries of Cynthia Gladwyn, p.210.

Cecil Beaton collected several of the dresses worn during the events of this particular state visit – the Queen’s dress, T.264-1974; Diana Gladwyn’s dress, T.173-1974; and the Baroness Alain de Rothschild’s dress, T.121-1974.

Descriptive line

Evening dress of printed silk, designed by Pierre Balmain, Paris, 1957.

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

L'Officiel, March 1958, p.85
Image of a similar Balmain of the same season.
Vickers, H., 'Cecil Beaton' in Wilcox, C., ed., The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-57 (V&A Publications, London), p.165 & pl.7.9.
Her Majesty The Queen donated a 1965 Hardy Amies day ensemble and, to avoid causing ruptures in the world of couture, the Norman Hartnell dress from the April 1957 state visit to Paris, at which Beaton had been a guest. (pl.7.8). He had been invited by Lady Jebb (later Lady Gladwyn), wife of the British Ambassador in Paris, to sketch the return state banquet at which the queen had entertained president René Coty at the British Embassy in Paris. At the time, he had written to his hostess, saying 'The Queen triumphed over Hartnell's bad taste'. Despite this, he was delighted to accept the ivory satin evening dress, encrusted with beads, brilliants and gold. Beaton succeeded in acquiring several other dresses worn during the same visit. Lady Gladwyn donated the lilac lace evening dress [T.173-1974] by French designer, Jacques Fath. Lady Diana Cooper, Lady Gladwyn's (and Beaton's) great friend, donated a strapless Balmain gown of appliqué printed silk satin [T.50-1974]. Baroness Alain de Rothschild (Mary Chauvin de Treuil), the wife of one of the Rothschild banking brothers, gave a white spotted tulle dress by Dior [T.121-1974] (all pl.7.9).
Wilcox, C., 'Dior's Golden Age' in Wilcox, C., ed., The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-57 (V&A Publications, London), pl.2.15
Similar dress: Evening dress by Pierre Balmain. L'Officiel, March 1957.

Exhibition History

The Golden Age of Couture. Paris and London 1947 - 1957 (Victoria and Albert Museum 22/09/2007-06/01/2008)
Fashion: an anthology by Cecil Beaton (Victoria and Albert Museum 01/01/1972-31/12/1972)

Labels and date

Evening dress (robe du soir)
Pierre Balmain (1914–82)
Paris
1957

This dress was worn by Lady Diana Cooper, the wife of the former British ambassador in Paris, for the Queen’s state visit in April 1957. Lady Diana was a leading socialite of the time and a great friend of Cecil Beaton, who described her as a ‘tour de force of aristocratic beauty’. He persuaded her to donate the dress to the V&A.

Printed and appliqué silk

Worn by Lady Diana Cooper
V&A: T.50-1974 [22/09/2007-06/01/2008]

Associated names

Beaton, Cecil

Production Note

Made for spring/summer 1957.

Materials

Silk; Nylon; Whalebone

Techniques

Weaving; Sewing; Applique

Subjects depicted

Roses

Categories

Royalty; Fashion; Evening wear; Women's clothes

Production Type

Haute couture

Collection code

T&F

Qr_O120798
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