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.

Exploring Cristóbal Balenciaga

Photo of Silk taffeta evening dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1955, Paris, France. Museum no. T.427-1967. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Silk taffeta evening dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1955, Paris, France. Museum no. T.427-1967. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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

Photo of Wild silk evening dress (detail), Cristóbal Balenciaga with embroidery by Lesage, 1960 – 2, Paris, France. Museum no. T.27-1974. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Wild silk evening dress (detail), Cristóbal Balenciaga with embroidery by Lesage, 1960 – 2, Paris, France. Museum no. T.27-1974. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of X-ray photograph of silk taffeta evening dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1955, Paris, France. X-ray by Nick Veasey, 2016. © Nick Veasey
X-ray photograph of silk taffeta evening dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1955, Paris, France. X-ray by Nick Veasey, 2016. © Nick Veasey

Photo of Evening outfit, designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga, embroidered by Lesage, 1967, France. Museum no. T.38 to C-1974. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Evening outfit, designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga, embroidered by Lesage, 1967, France. Museum no. T.38 to C-1974. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Evening gown and cape, Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1967, Paris, France. Museum no. T.39&A-1974. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Evening gown and cape, Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1967, Paris, France. Museum no. T.39&A-1974. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Photo of  'Baby doll' cocktail dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1958, Paris, France. Museum no. T.334-1997. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
'Baby doll' cocktail dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1958, Paris, France. Museum no. T.334-1997. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Hat, Cristóbal Balenciaga, straw, silk and elastic, 1950, Paris. Museum no. T.115-1970. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Hat, Cristóbal Balenciaga, straw, silk and elastic, 1950, Paris. Museum no. T.115-1970. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Skirt suit, Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1954 – 55, Paris. Museum no. T.128&A-1982. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Skirt suit, Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1954 – 55, Paris. Museum no. T.128&A-1982. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Learn more about Cristóbal Balenciaga

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