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Balenciaga Just Launched Fashion’s Most Exclusive Exhibition

The Woman Behind the Dress exhibition, Paris. Courtesy Balenciaga

Every year, Europe hosts “European Heritage Days,” which offer fashion, culture, and design houses, along with museums, the opportunity to open their doors to all with the aim to share their respective passion and savoir-faire. For this year’s edition, held September 16th and 17th, Balenciaga is hosting an exhibition of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s archives titled The Woman Behind the Dress.

The Woman Behind the Dress exhibition, Paris. Courtesy Balenciaga

Located in Paris, at 40 rue de Sèvres, Kering and Balenciaga’s headquarters, the exhibition highlights the maison founder’s remarkable savoir faire of dressing the female body, which invited the woman’s persona to express herself through couture techniques. 30 haute couture pieces on 20 morphological mannequins highlight Balenciaga’s mastery in sculpting cloth but also his observation and admiration for his client. And what clients. The maison managed to obtain archive pieces from a myriad of women. Philanthropist Mona von Bismark, known in her day as “the best-dressed woman in the world,” would purchase up to eighty models per season. The US White House Garden creator, socialite Bunny Mellon was another loyal client with a mannequin made to her measurements. Fixed in black ink on cotton cloth, it was used by the ateliers to work with the exact proportions of her figure. Meanwhile, a velvet dress with pearls adorning the neckline belonged to Princess Grace of Monaco—a made-to-measure dress for her 40th birthday. Legendary Oscar-winning actor Ingrid Bergman of Gaslight and Casablanca wore a dress from the 1956 collection that featured wadding on the hip and back, and shoulder pads to elongate the shoulder and support the straps. French model Helene Abecassis, who donated a set of archives to Balenciaga, has a dress on display that features a wide basque of pads to support the weight of the skirt.

The Woman Behind the Dress exhibition, Paris. Courtesy Balenciaga

Visitors will discover an exhibition that does not drown the viewer in clothes but rather offers space for thoughtful contemplation. Whether it is on Balenciaga’s development of lines that drew the evolution of the female silhouette to a more abstract view with volume and simplified cuts, or, consideration for the women he dressed, with this exhibition, which simply must travel the globe, the maison reminds the humble viewer that there is always more than the eye can see.

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