Monday, February 12, 2007

My Great Balenciaga Adventure, Part 1

The only thing that would have made it more fun would have been if I could have put on the clothes myself.

First of all -- if you are at all interested in the work of the great Cristóbal Balenciaga, you should not miss this exhibit at the Meadows Museum, especially if you live within easy distance of Dallas. It is beautifully curated and the presentation is gorgeous -- many of the garments are viewable from 360º, and with Balenciaga's clothes that is especially important. All the garments are from the Texas Fashion Collection, an entity of whose existence I knew absolutely nothing until very recently. The exhibit catalog is this wonderful work:

by Myra Walker, curator of the collection and a fashion history professor at the University of North Texas. As far as I can tell, every garment from the exhibit is shown in the book, which is marvelous, and the essays accompanying them are wonderful. There is a warm and admiring forward by Hubert de Givenchy, a complete but not relentless history of Balenciaga's career, and many excerpts from the letters of Claudia Heard de Osborne, the Texas native who owned many of the clothes in the collection and a dear friend and loyal client of Balenciaga's for many years -- she wore his clothes exclusively from the late 1940's until he retired in 1968. De Osborne wished to be buried in one of her many Balenciaga ensembles because then, she said, "If my dear Cristóbal is waiting for me wherever we go when we die, he'll be so pleased to see me in his dress and coat." My only quibble about the book is it seems there is a disastrous shortage of proofreaders at Yale University Press. There are numerous typos throughout -- one quoted source's name is spelled two different ways within the space of seven sentences.

Here's one of de Osborne's dresses -- a delirious confection of cerise taffeta over white lace. At least once in my life I'd like to wear a garment this perfect.

Here's a link to a slideshow of pretty much all the garments in the exhibit. Do check it out. There are also works by André Courrèges and Emanuel Ungaro, both of whom worked with Balenciaga; and Hubert de Givenchy and Oscar de la Renta, who were greatly influenced by him.

This photo does neither of these dresses justice. Both are made of black velvet. The train on the left is covered with ermine tails. The dress on the right, which nearly brought me to my knees with its elegant perfection, has hand-embroidered beading, rhinestones and pearls. The velvet is the softest, inkiest black imaginable, the stones glitter against it like a supernova. It really did bring tears to my eyes. It made me understand this quote from Claudia de Osborne, from the letter she sent along with many of her beloved garments when she donated them:

"If you see any little drops of water on the dresses, they are my tears. I cried as I packed, as I loved each and every dress, coat, and cape. I hope you'll find everything I sent as beautiful as I think they are."

Claudia Heard de Osborne was a true Fashionista. She loved her clothes for their pure beauty as works of art, she loved them for the memories they inspired, she loved them because they were made for her by a dear friend she adored and admired. Her clothes reflected her identity -- an independent spirit, a perfectionist, a loyal friend, a gracious and discriminating connoisseur of beauty and quality. I wish I'd known her, and I hope there's a small part of me that's like her.

I'll write more about the symposium tomorrow. Right now I need to curl up with my book and do some more daydreaming.

Photos:, the Texas Fashion Collection.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Undoubtedly more than a small part.

The slide show is just incredible. I will share it with my 13 yr old daughter when she awakens--she is a fashion history lover. I can only imagine how the clothes look in real life!