Balencia &

Balenciaga & Charles James
Sabrina Herzing
The 50’s
Cristobal Balenciaga: Bio
Balenciaga was born in Span in 1895. His mother was a seamstress who taught Balenciaga sewing
and cutting. At 12, he was already working as an apprentice for a local tailor, where he caught the
eye of local royalty who paid for his formal training in Madrid. He opened his first boutique in San
Sebastián in 1919, where he had immediate success. Other stores soon followed in Barcelona and
Madrid. His designs attracted high profile clients, including members of the royal family of Spain.
During the Spanish Civil War, Balenciaga moved to Paris and opened his couture house on Avenue
George V (1937). The French couturiers like Coco Chanel and Jeanne Lanvin considered his
designs revolutionary, within a few years of his arrival in France. In 1968, Balenciaga retired and
passed away in 1972, and is still regarded as the greatest couturier ever.
Cocktail Dress
spring/summer 1948
Silk, suede
Evening Coat
fall/winter 1950
Fall 1950
Cocoa colored
Evening Dress
fall/winter 1950
1950’s : day wear, wool, (1st) barrel line &volume, (2nd) 2piece tunic dress, (3rd) baby
Day Wear
Fall 1952
Wool and blouse
Evening Wrap
Pink silk faille
Day Dress
Evening wear
1957 collection
Day dress: wool & silk
Day cot: wool
Balenciaga’s work was influenced by historical styles: the costumes of the
young Spanish princesses from portraits by Diego Velázquez and the "jacket
of light" traditionally worn by bullfighters inspired a lot of his evening
wear. During World War II, Balenciaga developed his iconic square coat: the
sleeve was cut in one piece with the yoke. His designs became streamlined
and linear after the war, and this contrasted the curvy hourglass shape
from Christian Dior’s New Look. The utilization of fluid lines allowed
Balenciaga to alter the way clothing related to a woman's body. Waistlines
were dropped or raised, regardless of the natural waistline. He introduced the
balloon jacket (1953): an sphere that encased the upper body. Then he
created the high-waisted baby doll dress (1957), the gracefully draped cocoon
coat, and the balloon skirt. The balloon skirt was shown as a single pouf or
two; one on top of the other. Then came the sack dress (1957) and the
chemise (1958) had indiscernible waists, but both were considered
universally flattering. In these designs, he made a new feminine
silhouette. He continued to work into the 1960’s.
Career Cont.
In his work, Balenciaga’s use of fabric was
innovative. He liked bold materials, heavy cloths,
and ornate embroideries. Balenciaga developed
his own unique color combinations like black
and brown or black lace over bright pink. He
frequently used silk, suede, wool, satin
rhinestones, beads, and lace. With a Swiss fabric
company, he developed silk gazar: a stiffer
version of the pliable fabric that he used in suits,
day dresses, and evening wear.
Vintage Show
Charles James Bio
Charles James was born on July 18,
1906, in England. He began his career
by sculpting hats right on his clients’
heads in the shop he named, Charles
Boucheron. He began to have his hats
merchandised through a large
department store, in New York, and he
began designing dresses there. London
became his hew home in 1929 and for
the next ten years he spent his time in
London and Paris, with brief business
trips to Chicago and New York. James
married Nancy Lee Gregory in 1954,
and they had one son named Charles
James, Jr. After a life dedicated to his
art, James died in New York in 1978.
"Ribbon" ball gown, 1947
Silk: cream, yellow, and gray satin; blue faille; gray and pale green taffeta
Wedding dress, 1948–49
Pink and ivory silk taffeta
Suit, 1950
Mulberry wool broadcloth
Dinner suit, 1950
Gray wool flannel, gunmetal gray silk
"Swan" evening dress, 1951
Ivory silk satin; black marquisette; black fringe; multiple layers of tulle in
ombré tones of brown between layers of black tulle
Theater suit, 1951
Copper silk satin, black wool cashmere
Cocktail dress, 1952
Tobacco brown silk taffeta, brown jersey
"Four-Leaf Clover" ball gown, 1953
Silk: Ivory Duchesse satin; ivory faille; black velvet (velours de Lyon);
synthetic: nylon mesh
Ball gown, 1954
Emerald green silk satin
"Butterfly" ball gown, 1955
Silk: smoke gray chiffon; pale gray satin; aubergine, lavender, and oyster;
synthetic: white nylon
"Tree" evening dress, 1955
Silk: rose pink taffeta; white satin; synthetic: red, pink, and white tulle
"Diamond" evening dress, 1957
Silk: ivory satin: mushroom gros de londres; black velvet
In 1929, James designed his famous taxi dress with zippers on the
torso. He also created produced the Corselette (L’Sylphide) evening
dress and the two-pattern piece halter gown in 1937. La Sirene:
evening dress with a pleated front panel, was created in 1938. Then
the Figure-8 wrapped skirt followed in 1939. Charles James, Inc.
opened at 64 East Fifty-Seventh Street, New York City, in 1940. He
ignored wartime rationing with huge evening gowns and began
designing collections for Elizabeth Arden in 1944. After leaving Arden,
he established himself on Madison Avenue, most of the existing James
couture pieces were created here. James began designing collections
of dresses and separates for Seventh Avenue’s Samuel Winston in
1952, he designed and suits and coats for William Popper, James
designed furs for Gunther Jaeckel and belts for Bruno Belt (1953), and
he added a line of jewelry to be manufactured by Albert Weiss
(1954). He is mainly remembered for his spectacular eveningwear, but
his daywear was equally iconic.
Career Cont.
James’ designs were iconic and detail oriented
works of art, but he did not truly garnish his work
with trims. He manipulated fabrics to create
stunning silhouette. Throughout his career, he used
rich fabrics. In the 1940’s, he used classic evening
wear fabrics like taffeta and silk: crepe, satin,
taffeta. In the 1950’s, James experimented with
other rich fabrics for his evening and day wear. He
used velvet, chiffon, tulle, nylon mesh, jersey, silk
(satin, taffeta and faille), and wool (broadcloth,
cashmere and flannel).

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