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Cocktail dress - Bal Masque
  • Bal Masque
    Saint Laurent, Yves, born 1936 - died 2008
  • Enlarge image

Bal Masque

  • Object:

    Cocktail dress

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1958 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Saint Laurent, Yves, born 1936 - died 2008 (designer)
    Christian Dior (designed for)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk tulle and boned silk, with bugle beads and satin ribbons

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Duchess of Windsor

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The Duchess of Windsor patronised top Paris designers throughout her life. Christian Dior was a particular favourite. She was sixty-two years old when she selected this black evening dress. It was called 'Bal Masque' and came from the 1958 spring-summer collection designed by Yves Saint Laurent for the house of Dior. The style of the dress is influenced by the bell-shaped skirts fashionable in the 1860s. This influence can also been seen in the way it has been constructed. This dress has a tightly fitted boned corset and a bell-shaped skirt supported by a layered petticoat.The lightweight overdress is made of a double layer of spotted black tulle. It is studded with sparkling black bugle beads which are arranged in festoons caught at intervals by 42 bows of satin ribbon. The dress buttons down the back.

Physical description

Cocktail evening dress of black silk tulle with beaded net tulle trimmed with black satin bows. The dress has a low round neck, elbow length sleeves and a bell-shaped skirt, and with the net caught in drapes by the bows. The edges of the neckline and the sleeves are trimmed with black beads and there is a band of black satin around the hem. The bodice of the under petticoat is boned and the skirt petticoat has several layers of net and gauze, stiffened and boned. The dress fastens down the backs with hooks.

Black is used in a series of contrasts of matt and shiny materials. The confection of tulle is embellished with a scattering of tiny jet beads and a series of black satin bows.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


1958 (made)


Saint Laurent, Yves, born 1936 - died 2008 (designer)
Christian Dior (designed for)

Materials and Techniques

Silk tulle and boned silk, with bugle beads and satin ribbons

Marks and inscriptions

'Christian Dior Paris Printemps-Ete Made in France 94460'
Label inside bodice


Circumference: hem

Object history note

Made for the Duchess of Windsor. Worn and given by the Duchess.

Historical context note

Dior's sudden death in 1957 threatened an international business empire. The fashion trade was of vast importance to the French economy, and its recovery after the war was helped immeasurably by Dior's success. Yves Saint Laurent's appointment as chief designer at the age of 21 presaged a shift in taste as the decade drew to a close and his 1958 triangular 'trapeze line' was hailed in the US as 'the first big change in female fashion since the New Look in 1947'. From Wilcox, C., ed., The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-57 (V&A Publications, London), p.56.

The success of the collection was aided by the presence of the world's best-dressed women, including the Duchess of Windsor.

Descriptive line

Cocktail evening dress 'Bal Masque' for 'Ligne Trapèze' of silk tulle with beaded net tulle trimmed with satin, designed by Yves Saint Laurent for Christian Dior, Paris, 1958

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

Mendes, Valerie. Black In Fashion. London: V&A Publications, 1999. p. 75
no. 74
Fashion : An Anthology by Cecil Beaton. London : H.M.S.O., 1971

Labels and date

'Bal Masque' short evening dress (robe du soir courte)
Yves Saint Laurent (born 1936) for Christian Dior
1958 spring/summer, Ligne Trapèze

This dress was worn by the Duchess of Windsor and designed by Yves Saint Laurent for his first season following Dior's death in 1957. The young designer paid tribute to Dior's predilection for complex constructions with a boned bodice and full skirt supported by numerous layers of stiffened net and gauze.

Tulle and net with beads and satin bows

Given by the Duchess of Windsor
V&A: T.125-1974 [22/09/2007-06/01/2008]

Production Note

Yves Saint Laurent for the House of Dior. Atelier: Jane. Original model: Victoire.


Tulle; Satin; Gauze; Beads




Evening wear; Fashion; Royalty; Women's clothes

Production Type

Haute couture


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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