Style & Design

9 Unexpected Things We Learnt At The Balenciaga Exhibition

By Sophie Oddo
12th Sep 2019

Whether you consider yourself a fashion connoisseur or not, there’s no denying that Bendigo Art Gallery’s exhibition, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, isn’t just for fashionistas.

Offering a glimpse into the life of the social elite of the mid-twentieth-century through iconic garments, archive sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and even catwalk footage, the exhibition boasts incredible historic insight. Here are nine things we learned when we checked it out.

#1 He Dressed The Best

We all know his garments drape the likes of Kendall Jenner, Jennifer Lopez and Emily Ratajkowksi today, but what you probably didn’t know was that he used to dress some of the world’s most glamorous women, including Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, 60s fashion icon Gloria Guinness and one of the world’s wealthiest women, Mona von Bismarck. 

#2 Spanish Flare

Born and raised in Spain, Cristóbal Balenciaga’s heritage largely influenced many of his iconic designs. Spanning from his iconic, wide-hipped ‘Infanta’ dress from the late 1930s, to flamenco dresses and even matador outfits. As opposed to looking within the fashion world, Balenciaga turned to his heritage, drawing inspiration from the Catholic Church, bullfighting, Picasso and Francisco Goya. 

#3 A Pioneer Of Shapes

One of the things Balenciaga was most renowned for was his passion for experimenting with new shapes, never before seen in fashion. From his 1950s volume filled ‘balloon hems’ that saw a rebirth in the 80s, 1950s ‘semi-fit’ dresses and jackets that were fitted at the front and loose at the back along with iconic shapes we know today such as the tunic, baby doll and shift dresses.

#4 Inventor Of The Sack Dress

In 1957, Christian Dior’s hour-glass-shaped couture was the height of fashion, no wonder the world was shocked when Balenciaga released his shapeless ‘sack dress’. Along with most of Balenciaga’s radical silhouettes, this shape eventually filtered into mainstream fashion, peaking as the 1960s mini-dress and still remaining a summer staple today.

#5 What Lies Beneath

Featuring a collaboration with x-ray artist Nick Veasey and a digital pattern making project with the London College of Fashion, the exhibition revealed the intricate hidden details and processes that made Balenciaga’s work so revolutionary. Our favorite is the x-ray showing intricate boning details in one of Balenciaga’s hooped skirts.

#6 More Than Frocks

With more than 200 pieces on show, there’s plenty more to see than just dresses at the exhibition. Feast your eyes on archive sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and catwalk footage, all giving a behind-the-scenes look into his workroom and salon.

#7 100 Year Celebration

The exhibition celebrates the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s very first fashion house in San Sebastian. Providing a timely reminder of how incredibly influential his work remains 100 years later, still splashed across catwalk, celebrities, social media and magazines across the globe.

#8 The Master 

Revered by his fashion counterparts, legends including Christian Dior and Coco Chanel began referring to him as 'The Master'. It's no wonder, with designers from all corners of the globe (still to this day,) channeling some of Balenciaga’s legacy work with a modern twist. 

#9 But Wait, There’s More

If the exhibition leaves you wanting more, you’ll be thrilled to know that Bendigo Tourism is hosting a plethora of new experiences to celebrate the exhibition and the long-awaited arrival of Spring. Make sure to treat yourself to the Spanish cocktail inspired by Balenciaga at Masons of Bendigo, or indulge in the Balenciaga inspired dessert tasting platter at Indulge Chocolate. You can also catch floral arranging workshops accompanied by floral cocktails at The Dispensary, gnocchi making class at Hoogah, Street Art ToursCourtyard Cinema and more.

Keen to see for yourself? Head to the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery to see all of the wonder and glory for yourself. But don’t delay, it’s only in Australia until November 10.

Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by Bendigo Tourism and proudly endorsed by Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

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