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Evening dress
  • Evening dress
    Balenciaga, Cristóbal, born 1895 - died 1972
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Evening dress

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1960 - 1961 (made)
    1960 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr and Mrs Loel Guinness

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition, case B32

Dresses in the Empire or Josephine style had a high waist-line under the bust. Balenciaga kept faith with this style, which was one of his favourites. The result was a number of outstanding designs, including the 'Amphora' dress shown here. Clever cutting and the use of a crisp silk created the cocoon-like back of the dress. Balenciaga finished the back with an enormous knotted sash. This extravagant feature is typical of his work. From the front the gown is a lean sheath with a strapless neckline. The neckline is slightly padded to stand away from the body.

Physical description

Strapless evening dress of black poult. The bodice is low-cut, and is made from two separate pieces of fabric seamed down the centre. These pieces continue around the back and fall into long, gathered strips, forming a false bow which drapes around the wearer’s back. The ‘bow’ is fastened beneath the gathers with a popper. The structure of the bow is formed by a dart beneath each armpit. The pieces forming the ‘bow’ are faced with another piece of poult. The top of the bodice is folded inside, creating a small distance between the front of the dress and the wearer’s bust. The inside of the bodice is heavily boned and structured.

The full skirt is made from two broad widths of poult, gathered at the back to create a ‘hobble’ effect, the gathers being concealed under the bow. It is ‘nipped’ up slightly at the back, near the hem. The skirt fastens at the back with poppers and hooks and eyes, beneath the bow. The skirt is unlined.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


1960 - 1961 (made)
1960 (designed)


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

Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions

Balenciaga, 10 Avenue George V, Paris
Label - black on white machine woven, side seam bodice.

Hand-written on back of label (difficult to read)


Circumference: 75 cm bust, Circumference: 64 cm waist, Circumference: 156 cm footprint, Width: 36 cm back

Object history note

Given by Mr and Mrs Loel Guinness [70/3752F].

Historical context note

Gloria Guinness (nee Gloria Rubio y Alatorre, 1912-1980) was an elegant socialite and writer of the mid 20th century.

Her third husband, whom she married in 1951, was Group Capt. Thomas Loel Guinness, a Member of Parliament (died 1989) and an heir to the Guinness beer fortune.

She was voted 'Best Dressed Woman' in the world by Time magazine in 1962 behind Jackie Kennedy in first place. (See Time magazine Jan 26 1962)

She owned seven homes, with a full wardrobe in each so that she would never have to pack or wait at customs. She spread her patronage widely, and amongst donations to the V&A of pieces by Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy etc., are pieces by lesser known couturiers such as Chaumont and Lafaurie.

Descriptive line

Evening dress of poult, designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1960.

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

Mendes, Valerie. Black In Fashion. London: V&A Publications, 1999.

Production Note

Made for the autumn/winter 1960-1961




Hand sewing


Evening wear; Fashion; Women's clothes

Production Type

Haute couture


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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