Evening Dress thumbnail 1
Evening Dress thumbnail 2
Not currently on display at the V&A

Evening Dress

1960s (made)
Place of origin

Evening dress and cape of cream figured silk.

Object details

Object type
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Dress
  • Cape
Materials and techniques
Figured silk
Brief description
Evening dress and cape of figured silk, designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga for Eisa, designed in Paris, probably made in Madrid, 1960s
Physical description
Evening dress and cape of cream figured silk.
Production typeHaute couture
Marks and inscriptions
'Eisa' (Label)
Gallery label
Evening dress and cape Silk damask Cristóbal Balenciaga (Eisa label), Madrid, about 1960 Given by Mrs Beatrice Cole and Mrs Myra Pearce, in memory of Miss Ava Gardner V&A: T.293&A-1990(12/05/2017)
Credit line
Given by Mrs Beatrice Cole and Mrs Myra Pearce, in memory of Miss Ava Gardner
Object history
Registered File number 1990/1420.

Donated to the Museum after Hollywood actress Ava Gardner's death by Mrs Beatrice Cole and Mrs Myra Pearce in her memory.

Ava Gardner moved to Madrid in the 1950s. She found Spain ‘unspoiled . . . dramatic . . .and so god-damn cheap to live in, that it was almost unbelievable’. She bought Balenciaga designs both in Paris and at Eisa, which may have appealed to what she called her ‘frugal side’. Gardner spent her final years living around the corner from the V&A and donated several of her clothes to the museum.

Gardner referred to her couture garments as her ‘babies’ and insisted on opening her wardrobes daily to let them ‘breathe’.

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. The coat carries a label, EISA. This was the label under which Balenciaga worked in Spain; the client resided in Madrid and was known to move in social circles that congregated around the cafe Chicote (opposite Balenciaga's premises) in Madrid.
Historical context
Cristobal Balenciaga was one of the major couturier of the 20th century, especially post war in the 1950s and 1960s. He was unusual among couturiers for running a house in Paris (from 1937) and three houses in Spain (in Barcelona, Madrid and San Sebastian). The houses in Spain probably benefited from the influx of Americans after the War when the Hollywood film industry discovered the benefits of using Spain as a filming location. Ava Gardner was one American who became devoted to Spain, moving to Madrid in the early 1950s and living there until moving to London, where she lived in South Kensington not far from the V&A, a museum she appreciated. She ordered clothes from both Balenciaga's Paris house and Madrid house. Those from the latter would have cost her substantially less then those from former.
Attribution note: Designed in Paris, made in Madrid
Accession number

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest feedback

Record createdFebruary 7, 2007
Record URL
Download as: JSON