Dress, House of Balenciaga (French, founded 1937), wool, French


Design House:
House of Balenciaga (French, founded 1937)
Cristobal Balenciaga (Spanish, Guetaria, San Sebastian 1895–1972 Javea)
Credit Line:
Gift of Muriel Rand, 1964
Accession Number:
Not on view

This tubular, calf-length day dress of dark brown wool jersey is chemise-cut and tapered toward the hem. The sleeveless, elongated bodice hangs unfitted from shoulder to mid-thigh. The upper portion of the bodice has soft gathers at the neckline and back shoulder; the lower bodice is gathered into a "waistline" seam supporting the short, narrow skirt. The neckline has a wide, rolled, stand-away collar; two large "pocket" flaps are placed low on the dress front. The dress is unlined and has no fastenings. The fitted yoke lining of heavy black silk taffeta holds the neckline front and back shoulder.

In the mid-1950s, as couture made fashion news, Balenciaga achieved leadership status with the chemise. While still structured, but floating over the body, the fluid effect of the chemise became in Balenciaga's exaggeration the sack dress, forsaking the waist and anticipating the 1960s shift. In conceiving the chemise, Balenciaga applied lessons of suppleness he had long employed in his collars. Inspired by the kimono collar, he created a distinctive bias roll collar pushed back from the neck. In integrating this collar with the chemise silhouette, he pitched the amplitude front and back, allowing the yielding, floating form of the collar to complement the softness of the dress.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The World of Balenciaga," March 23, 1973–September 9, 1973.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Haute Couture," December 7, 1995–March 24, 1996.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Fashion Plate," October 21, 1971–January 15, 1972.

National Gallery of Victoria. "Fabulous Fashion (1907–67)," 1981.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion," May 6, 2009–August 9, 2009.

Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. "Balenciaga," September 22, 1986–December 8, 1986.

Musée de la Mode et du Textile. "Balenciaga," July 4, 2006–January 28, 2007.

Musée des Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs de Lyon. "Hommage a Balenciaga," September 28, 1985–January 6, 1986.

Musée de la Mode et du Textile. "Balenciaga Paris," July 4, 2006–January 28, 2007.