Cristobal Balenciaga (Spanish, 1895–1972)
Light-blue silk satin
Anonymous Gift, 1973 (1973.139)
This is a deceptively simple evening dress designed in 1962 by Spanish-born couturier Cristobal Balenciaga, considered the supreme architect of twentieth-century fashion. Remembered primarily for his virtuosity as a tailor and for his use of fabrics with a stiffer or more structured "hand," Balenciaga generally sheathed the body in a self-supporting armature of cloth. In this extraordinary example, he manipulated a luxurious silk satin on the bias. With the exception of the back scarf panel, this gown is cut-in-one, like a piece of soft origami. The fabric is seamed at a diagonal in the back but lacks any darts for fit. In its economy, Balenciaga's gown is like the single panel constructions of the peplos, but its technical sophistication is unlike that of any preceding form.