Blogmas #7 | Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion


I thought I'd do a bit of a #throwbackthursday today and finally post about Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion at the V&A museum in London that I went to a little while back with my friend Amanda.  I'd kindly been given a ticket to the exhibition as a little thank you for something but I really wanted to go anyway. I'm not a massive fan of the brand as it is today but there's little trace of it here and mercifully not an IKEA bag in sight! However Cristóbel Balenciaga was one of the most innovative designers of the last century and was quite a private person so even the smallest glimpse into his design process and life was always going to be rather thrilling for anyone interested in fashion, design or history.



The exhibition is in a tiny area of Room 40 but despite it's small size it's packed with wonders. Downstairs you can see some of Balenciaga's original creations and learn a little about who owned the pieces, which is always fun. I especially liked seeing the ones that once belonged to Ava Gardner, even though she altered some of them to fit in with her tastes which takes away some of the beauty of the clothes I think - but then again she was such a star she was bigger than the clothes if that makes sense, even if they were made by Balenciaga. It was equally interesting to see how she made them her own, I love looking into personal style. I guess it's why we read fashion blogs innit? I was lucky enough to handle a vintage Balenciaga dress in the summer so I got to see exactly how shapewear was incorporated within the dress but some of the pieces on display have accompanying x-rays so you can see the built in corsets and how a dress maintained its shape and you can also see a dress displayed inside out. I know some people found this to be a bit gimmicky but there's definitely more than meets the eye when it comes to these pieces so how else is the every day person to see that these days?

It was difficult to get photos as the place was unsurprisingly packed - also, much of the V&A's collections are behind glass, which I totally understand, but at the same time find incredibly frustrating as it's difficult to get a proper view of items nevermind take photos. But here are the few where you can't see my own, less glamorous reflection in shot.



Upstairs was less intriguing for me personally. Comprising of designers who were and are inspired by Balenciaga, it includes a lot of modern pieces and although I can appreciate the workmanship behind them I just found most of it to be....ugly. I can see the attractiveness from a curators viewpoint of splitting the exhibition into two themes and I understand the practical reasons why the bits from downstairs had to be kept in those dim, glass casings (to protect vintage garments they often have to be displayed in low level lighting) but I didn't really like it. Downstairs is cramped and it feels like everything is squeezed in so there are details I'm sure I missed but upstairs is really bright and roomy with plenty of space to look around. This is a problem I've had with most of the temporary exhibitions in Room 40 but I can appreciate that the curators do have to work around practicalities. I guess I just didn't like most of the pieces on the upper floor, I mean there are some interesting things to see but overall I felt it was a bit 'meh'. But take a look for yourself, maybe you'll see what I mean? I suppose it just comes down to personal taste though.



The innovation is still there in the brand in some ways but for me personally it's lost a bit of the magic. I mean how glamorous and fabulous to have a built in corset and suspender belt in a ball gown? So although I didn't love the latter half of the exhibition it was truly special to see the work of 'the master' of couture up close and I'd say it's a must see if you're interested in fashion and fashion history. Also the whole area in general is beautiful at Christmas and the Natural History and Science Museum are next door so it makes for a good day out! I'll be back soon for the Winnie The Pooh exhibition because I'm clearly just a big kid at heart.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is on until 18th February 2018 and you can also watch videos from and about the exhibition here which are really worth checking out! Have you been to see it? What's your favourite piece here? Mine is the pale pink evening dress with the bow (it once belonged to Ava Gardner!)










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