Cristóbal Balenciaga

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A woman has no need to be perfect or even beautiful to wear my dresses. The dress will do all that for her.

Cristóbal Balenciaga

Known as 'the master' of haute couture, Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895 – 1972) was one of the most innovative and influential fashion designers of the 20th century. His exquisite craftsmanship and pioneering use of fabrics revolutionised the female silhouette, setting the tone for modern fashion.

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The V&A has the largest collection of Balenciaga in the UK, initiated in the 1970s by the photographer Cecil Beaton, Balenciaga's longstanding friend. Our collection includes examples of revolutionary shapes from the designer's golden age, the 1950s and 60s, such as the tunic, sack, baby doll and shift dresses – all of which remain style staples today.

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Background image: Spiral silk hat, Balenciaga for Eisa, 1962, Spain. Museum no. T.146-1998. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London