Every year for Christmas, my husband gives me a book on fashion. This year, I asked for this book. He ordered it, but then got notification that it wasn’t slated to be published until mid- to late-January. So imagine his surprise, and mine, when this book arrived in time for Christmas! After presents, while dinner was cooking, I tore into it. This is a book that, like Betty Kirke’s Vionnet will give more and more information at each sitting. The book showcases garments and details from over seventy Balenciaga garments with sumptuous photography and well-informed captions. Myra Walker is the director and curator of the Texas Fashion Collection at the University of North Texas. And what a treasure trove she curates! I’ll have to find an excuse to visit Dallas to spend time there.
The book is divided into six chapters:
Remembering Balenciaga, a memoir by Hubert de Givenchy
The Impact of Cristobal Balenciaga
Diary of a Collector: Claudia Heard de Osborne
Neiman Marcus: A Fashion Capital
Inside the House of Balenciaga in Paris
The Baleciaga Legacy Endures
There are also a forward, preface, acknowledgments and bibliography as well as a chronology of the House of Balenciaga.
The photography in this book is just stunning. There are photos from magazines and the Neiman Marcus archives, as well as editorial photography by Richard Avedon. The closeups are breathtaking in their clarity and focus on the details. But even more stunning than the photos are the clothes themselves. Balenciaga was truly a visionary and ahead of his time. Many, if not most, of the garments shown in the book could walk right out of the pages and down the street without looking out of place. His bubble dresses presage both LaCroix’ poufs of the ’80s and today’s descendents. His evening gowns would be chic in black tie settings today. There is one black dress, inspired by a priest’s casulla that stuns in its simplicity and beauty. And the facing page of the full garment shot gives an up-close detail of the jeweled embellishment that runs along the hem and up one thigh-high slit side seam. He referred to this dress as “A very sexy priest.” Yes, indeed. But the beauty of the dress is that its simplicity provides such a wonderful canvas. No overwrought ball skirts, no encusted beading, just masterly design.
There are lots of other dresses, gowns, suits and accessories. I could stare at this book for hours, and I will. In some ways, my favorite chapter is the one on his legacy. In this chapter, there are side-by-side shots of Balenciaga garments and contemporary designers’ works that are clearly inspired and influenced by Balenciaga’s work.
This is wonderful eye candy, and a must-read for students of fashion. Myra Walkers prose is intelligent and well-thought-out. This one is going to be on my bedside table for a long time.