Tabulous Tastemaker: Cristobal Balenciaga

January 21, 2016

By Tab Byrum

Today we are celebrating the man who has been called the King of Couture, Cristóbal Balenciaga.

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Balenciaga was born on this day 121 years ago in 1895 in the Basque fishing town of Getaria, Spain. The son of a seamstress, Balenciaga learned a great deal about sewing and creating while spending time with his mother as a child. As a teenager, Balenciaga went to work for a local tailor as an apprentice and soon caught the eye of a local noblewoman, she eventually sent him to Madrid for formal training in tailoring, with this training Balenciaga would become one of the only fashion designers in history that could design, cut and sew all his own models with his own hands.

Balenciaga opened his first couture shop in 1919 in the Spanish town of San Sebastián, and eventually opened branch shops in Madrid and Barcelona and picked up clients from the Spanish royal family and aristocracy. Balenciaga was forced to close his shops during the Spanish Civil War and move to Paris where he opened a shop in 1937, but his full talent was yet to be reached or acknowledged. In 1951 he totally transformed the silhouette of women’s clothing by doing away with the waistline and broadening the shoulders, then in 1955, he designed the tunic dress and eventually the high-waisted empire line of dresses and coats.

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Model Dorian Leigh photographed in Balenciaga for Vogue in 1950. 

Balenciaga worked and designed until 1968 when he closed his fashion house and all his stores soon followed, he taught design classes and inspired the likes of Oscar de la Renta and Givenchy. Cristóbal Balenciaga died in March of 1972 at the age of 77, the Women’s Wear Daily headline for that day was “The King Is Dead”.

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A Balenciaga gown from 1967. 

Today you can see more than 1,200 pieces of Balenciaga’s work in the permanent collection of the Balenciaga Museum in his hometown, the collection is made up mostly of donations of garments by people such as Hubert de Givenchy and the family of Princess Grace. Here’s to an iconic tastemaker and designer, Cristóbal Balenciaga. 

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A 1950’s creation by the master couturier, Cristóbal Balenciaga.

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This is one of Balenciaga’s more famous creations, Dona Fabiola de Mora y Aragón was a Spanish aristocrat who married King Badouin of Belgium in 1960. The royal wedding took place in December so Balenciaga trimmed the wedding gown in ermine, somthing that would never happen today. I recently read that Queen Fabiola’s mother was the noblewoman who discovered Balenciaga and sent him to Madrid to study tailoring and design.  ( via )

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Balenciaga seated at his desk. ( via )

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This is Balenciaga for Vogue, 1952.

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Audrey Hepburn wore this Balenciaga creation in 1957 for Cosmopolitan Magazine. 

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This Balenciaga creation is from 1955, it’s made of gray linen and was a two piece outfit with ribbon running through the neck of the blouse ending in bows on the shoulders. 

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Balenciaga, 1955

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This gown appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in November 1960.

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A Balenciaga evening ensemble from 1955.

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This photo was taken by famed photographer Richard Avedon in August of 1950, the model is wearing a Balenciaga coat and the photo shoot took place on the Eiffel Tower. 

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I had to add this just because it’s one of my favorite moments from American Horror Story’s third season, Coven. 

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The Balenciaga Museum in Balenciaga’s hometown of Getaria, Spain.  ( via )

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A peek inside the exhibition at the Balenciaga Museum. ( via )

Unless otherwise noted, all images
are courtesy of Pinterest.
Image 1, Balenciaga in 1927 via

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