This voluminous orange silk evening coat by Balenciaga comes from his Fall/Winter 1954-1955 collection. Unlike Dior’s popular “New Look” Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972) was using linear lines which fit loosely on the body. His manipulation of the waist dramatically revolutionized women’s fashion forever. Even Dior looked up to Balenciaga, famously calling him “the master of us all” and once stating that “Haute couture is like an orchestra whose conductor is Balenciaga. We other couturiers are the musicians and we follow the direction he gives.”
In this coat we see a marvelous example of how skilled Balenciaga was at making these voluminous styles still seem streamlined, flattering and not overwhelming on the wearer. His expert tailoring turned clothing into unmatched works of art.
The oversized statement cape collar of this coat flows beautifully in an outward role from the jewel neck-line like an inverted flower. The body of the coat is loosely gathered creating a gorgeous hovering waterfall effect and cape-like appearance at the back. The sleeves feature Balanciaga’s signature bracelet cut which was introduced so that women could show off their jewelry.
This coat was recently displayed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” exhibit which ran from May 10–October 8, 2018. This exhibit featured 150 outfits staged at three locations: the medieval galleries, the Costume Center, and the Cloisters in upper Manhattan. The show traced relationships between Catholic imagery and fashion and was the largest ever staged by the Costume Institute.
Aside from the physical display, a digital composite scan of this coat by Katerina Jebb was placed alongside El Greco’s Cardinal Fernando Niño de Guevara (ca. 1600) highlighting the similarities in shape of the Cardinal’s robe and Balenciaga’s design.
This piece remains in the Costume Institute collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: C.I.57.29.8.