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  • Dress
    Balenciaga, Cristóbal, born 1895 - died 1972
  • Enlarge image


  • Place of origin:

    Spain (made)

  • Date:

    1957 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Balenciaga, Cristóbal, born 1895 - died 1972 (designer)
    Eisa (designed for)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs S. Hammond

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition, case B34

Balenciaga did not believe in change for change's sake. He worked methodically from season to season on specific ideas to refine and perfect them. Throughout the 1950s he worked on the lean line known popularly as the 'sack'. This dress is one variation on this theme. It has a slim, semi-fitted outline with a round neck, elbow-length sleeves and a belt. This dress is made in plain weave wool. The back is draped and shaped like a cocoon. The EISA label identifies it as the product of one of Balenciaga's Spanish outlets in Barcelona, San Sebastian or Madrid. Spanish clothes were less expensive than their Paris equivalents. They were made in less costly Spanish fabrics and business overheads in Spain were lower than in France.

Physical description

Day dress of fine plain woven black wool cut almost in-one, and with a barrel/sack effect draping from the top arm seam down and into the skirt at the front, slits in side of dress to draw it together. The dress is joined at the back with a zip. With belt. Semi fitted, the gathering above the waist takes the emphasis away from the wearer's waist. The back is loose but the front is fitted.

Place of Origin

Spain (made)


1957 (made)


Balenciaga, Cristóbal, born 1895 - died 1972 (designer)
Eisa (designed for)

Materials and Techniques



Circumference: 65 cm waist, Circumference: 91 cm bust, Length: 63 cm skirt, Diameter: 43 cm footprint, Weight: 40 cm Across Back, Length: 52.3 cm Sleeve, Circumference: 86 cm Hem, Length: 30 cm zip, :

Object history note

This dress is an EISA (Balenciaga's Spanish arm) creation, similar in line to his autumn/winter 1956 Paris couture line, as seen in French Vogue, October 1956, p.74. This shows the dissemination of his designs through his Eisa branch, without, however, compromising ambitious construction techniques.

If the cost of his Paris salon was out of reach, there were other ways to buy a Balenciaga design. Some were sold less expensively under Balenciaga’s label Eisa in Spain, where labour costs were lower and cheaper fabrics might be used.

Descriptive line

Day dress and belt of fine plain woven wool, designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga for EISA, Spain, 1957

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

Wilcox, C., ed., The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957 (V&A Publications, London: 2007), p.146.
Mendes, Valerie. Black In Fashion. London: V&A Publications, 1999.

Labels and date

Like many of Balenciaga’s pioneering designs, the ‘semi-fit’ initially met with hostility. Journalist Carmel Snow recalled the audience ‘sat there hating them . . . Why should a woman look like a
house?’ Balenciaga introduced his semi-ajusté suits for women in 1951. They were fitted in the front but loose at the back. In this semi-fit dress, a panel extends from the hem, balloons in the middle and
is gathered at the back of the neck.

‘Semi-fit’ day dress
Cristóbal Balenciaga (Eisa label),
Spain, 1957
Given by Mrs S. Hammond
V&A: T.234-1982 [27/05/2017-07/02/2018]

Cristóbal Balenciaga was regarded by many, including Christian Dior, as ‘the master’. He moved to Paris from Spain in 1937 and by 1952 had 232 employees. The house produced 356 designs per year – less than half of Dior’s production of 815.
Balenciaga was the most exclusive fashion house in Paris, and clients were admitted only after a personal introduction. The Countess Bismarck dressed exclusively in his designs, down to gardening shorts, and locked herself in her room for three days when he retired.
Balenciaga was renowned for reworking the sleeves of his garments even when they were being worn by a client. Cecil Beaton wrote: ‘Balenciaga uses fabrics like a sculptor working in marble.’

Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972) for EISA
1957 autumn/winter

This dress shows Balenciaga's mastery. The skirt is cut from the same piece of fabric as the sacked back and also the sleeves. The dress is a feat of minimal cutting with few seams but great complexity.

Plain weave wool

Given by Mrs S. Hammond
V&A: T.234-1982 [22//09/2007]

Production Note

The dress has the label EISA, identifying it as the product of one of Balenciaga's Spanish outlets, Barcelona, San Sebastian or Madrid.
Attribution note: Very high-end ready-to-wear




Day wear; Fashion; Women's clothes; Europeana Fashion Project

Production Type

Ready to wear


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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