Fitted suit by Balenciaga

Fitted suit by Balenciaga

Skirt suit
Designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga
Paris, France
Autumn/Winter 1954-55
Tweed lined with silk
Museum no. T.128&A-1982
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Given by Mrs D M Haynes and Mrs M Clark

This suit comprises a fitted jacket and slim-fitting skirt with a kick pleat at the back. It was shown in Balenciaga's Winter collection in 1954 as model no. 55. It reveals Balenciaga’s debt to his training in tailoring in Spain and his capacity for choosing fabrics fit for purpose. His suits were highly regarded and commanded high prices. In the early 1950s, a made-to-measure woollen suit from Balenciaga cost about £112, a sum well beyond the reach of most consumers.

He was adept at manipulating firm fabrics. The style of jacket relies for effect on careful fitting to the body in front and gentle fullness at the back, and in the setting of the sleeves. Balenciaga was renowned in the trade for inspecting and resetting sleeves that were not perfect. Tweed was a sturdy woollen fabric that appealed to Balenciaga because of the optical illusions created by the two or more colours in the indistinct flecked pattern.

In a survey of French couture houses compiled at this time, Celia Bertin wrote of Balenciaga, ‘I noticed long ago that women who wear his tailored suits seem to have them moulded on to their bodies, so much do the jackets appear wedded to their figures, while leaving them complete freedom of movement’.