Oscar de la Renta (American (born Dominican Republic), Santo Domingo 1932–2014 Kent, Connecticut)
House of Balmain (French, founded 1945)
silk, glass, feathers
Gift of Mercedes T. Bass, 2005
Not on view
The couture house of the late Pierre Balmain has always been known for the designs of quiet propriety and feminine elegance advocated by its eponymous founder. This tradition was reflected not only in the house ideal of the jolie madame but also in the character of Balmain's aristocratic clientele. When Oscar de la Renta became the creative director of Balmain Haute Couture in 1992, a more lushly expressive femininity was introduced into Balmain's signature restraint.
With this gown de la Renta pays homage to the late 1950s and early 1960s, the richest period of the house's history. But he has modernized the sleeves, bateau-neck, flared princess-line form Balmain favored, a paradign of formal attire at the time, by carving away the gown's neckline and armholes to suggest the nonchalance and ease of a tank top. The flaring skirt was engineered by seaming the silk organze "off-grain" and manipulating the direction of the Lesage embroidery to balance the light fabric ground and heavy crystal beading and fix the drape of the hem into graceful flutes. De la Renta's revision has refreshed the Balmain paradigm, lightened it, and even in the embroidery, introduced an airiness more in keeping with contemporary life.