Cristobal Balenciaga (Spanish, 1895–1972)
Wool, silk; L. at center back: 41 in. (104.1 cm)
Gift of Doris Duke, 1976 (1976.124.7a,b)
This day dress (a) is made of black wool, fully lined in silk. The fitted sheath style has long sleeves "cut in one" with the dress. Four inches below the round neckline is a horizontal bust seam. There are four vertical seams at the center front, center back, and two sides. A detachable matching panel (b), fastened with two buttons onto the dress at the back of the shoulders, acts like a cape. The panel hides the center-back hook-and-eye and snap closure.
The Spanish-born couturier, considered the supreme architect of twentieth-century fashion, is remembered primarily for his virtuosity as a tailor and for his use of fabrics with a stiffer or more structured "hand." Here, a simple, solid-colored day dress is transformed by seams and darts into a graceful arrangement.