Lisa Fonssagrives Penn wearing coat by Cristóbal Balenciaga. Photograph by Irving Penn Condé Nast Irving Penn Foundation.
Lisa Fonssagrives Penn wearing coat by Cristóbal Balenciaga. Photograph by Irving Penn Condé Nast Irving Penn Foundation.
Model wearing Balenciaga orange coat as Magnin buyers inspect a dinner outfit in the background.
Model wearing Balenciaga orange coat as Magnin buyers inspect a dinner outfit in the background.
Pink silk evening dress.
Pink silk evening dress.

Balenciaga Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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Kids in Museums volunteer Daphne Stylianou reviews a first of its kind, family-friendly display looking at the legacy of the iconic fashion designer. 

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion traces the history, inspiration, and influence of one of the most prominent fashion designers.

This exhibition explores the work of influential Spanish couturier, Cristóbal Balenciaga. It features pieces crafted by ‘the master’ of couture as well as contemporary designers who continue to be inspired by his innovative legacy.

It is full of pieces crafted by ‘the master’ of couture as well as contemporary designers who continue to be inspired by his innovative legacy.

People of all ages can see that his designs are ahead of their time.

Balenciaga’s garments are elegantly futuristic with curved sleeves, balloon skirts, voluminous coats and capes, and eye-catching colour.

In the first part of the exhibition, we get a glimpse into the archives of Balenciaga’s atelier with photographs, sketches, fabric samples and catwalk footage.

A highlight for all was the behind-the-scenes look into how such garments are made.

The many hours, skilled hands and craftwork involved in the construction of these pieces unveil the intricate processes that are not usually familiar to consumers of ‘fast fashion’.

The many hours, skilled hands and craftwork involved in the construction of these pieces unveil the intricate processes that are not usually familiar to consumers of ‘fast fashion’.

Visitors can try their hand at pattern cutting and create their own mini paper plaid coat, which is a fun hands-on activity for everyone.

Modern audiences get a glimpse into the stages and skills of designing, cutting, tailoring, draping and dressmaking, crucial to the making process.

Look out for the x-ray images of the clothes that reveal the invisible details of the inner workings of the garment displayed next to the replica toiles and the actual dress. 

The V&A is holding several summer workshops for 13-19 year-olds for pattern-cutting and making garments, suitable for young designers.

The exhibition displays over 100 garments and accessories, including many of the iconic dresses so there’s plenty to look at. 

Balenciaga had a glamorous clientele but also famously hired diverse models of different races and sizes to wear and model his clothes.

“Haute couture is like an orchestra whose conductor is Balenciaga. We, other couturiers, are the musicians and we follow the direction he gives.”

– Christian Dior

The second part of the exhibition highlights Balenciaga’s enduring impact on modern fashion. From Coco Chanel to Oscar de la Renta to Simone Rocha, designers have voiced their admiration and inspiration for ‘the Master’.

From Coco Chanel to Oscar de la Renta to Simone Rocha, designers have voiced their admiration and inspiration for ‘the Master’.

The exhibition is an exciting and visual display of unique objects for young ages to enjoy, in a beautiful space. In the summertime, the courtyard is especially enjoyable.

The V&A is a great family-friendly museum with interesting permanent galleries alongside the temporary exhibitions where there is always something new to explore! 

The Balenciaga Exhibition runs at the Victoria and Albert Museum until Sunday February 18th 2018.

Price for under 12s: free, 12-17: £10 and over 17s: £12.

Opening times: 10.00 – 17.45, Friday: 10.00 – 22.00.

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