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Dior + Balenciaga: The Kings of Couture and Their Legacies

2022-07-21
Maria Grazia Chiuri for Christian Dior, white cotton T-shirt, blue synthetic tulle skirt, metallic thread and bead embroidery, spring 2017, museum purchase, 2019.56.1
Maria Grazia Chiuri for Christian Dior, white cotton T-shirt, blue synthetic tulle skirt, metallic thread and bead embroidery, spring 2017, museum purchase, 2019.56.1

Dior + Balenciaga: The Kings of Couture and Their Legacies features fashions by the two most important couturiers of the mid-20th century, Christian Dior (1905-1957) and Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972). Featuring approximately 65 garments and ensembles drawn solely from The Museum at FIT's permanent collection, it is the first exhibition to juxtapose the work of these legendary designers, side by side.

Cristóbal Balenciaga, evening gown, green and yellow printed silk taffeta by Abraham, 1961, Eisa label, Spain, gift of Margay Lindsey, 83.159.1
Cristóbal Balenciaga, evening gown, green and yellow printed silk taffeta by Abraham, 1961, Eisa label, Spain, gift of Margay Lindsey, 83.159.1

Dior + Balenciaga: The Kings of Couture and Their Legacies is an intimate, curatorial exploration and reevaluation of their work. The focus is on their innovative construction methods and the exquisite workmanship of their respective ateliers.

Left: Christian Dior, olive wool bouclé coat, 1952, gift of Sally Cary Iselin, 93.61.1. / Right: Cristóbal Balenciaga, purple mohair coat, circa 1950, gift of Doris Duke, 71.265.20
Left: Christian Dior, olive wool bouclé coat, 1952, gift of Sally Cary Iselin, 93.61.1. / Right: Cristóbal Balenciaga, purple mohair coat, circa 1950, gift of Doris Duke, 71.265.20

Although their backgrounds and methodologies were markedly different, Dior and Balenciaga concurrently produced fashions that captured the era's hunger for luxury and elegance and led the restoration of France's profitable fashion industry after the devastation of two world wars and a crippling economic depression. Together, they contributed to France's economic and cultural recovery, both launching their eponymous collections at age 42. 

Fashion enthusiasts will recognize Dior's exquisitely crafted dresses built upon corsets and crinolines and Balenciaga's brilliantly constructed and voluminous coats and dresses. Viewers may, however, be surprised to see remarkable similarities in some of the pairings, making immediate attributions less obvious. The couturiers' shared vocabulary can be seen in the juxtaposition of three pairings of garments in the introductory gallery: black dresses with asymmetrical buttons, boxy day suits, and voluminous evening dresses.  

The exhibition also presents numerous ways in which the two couturiers constructed garments differently from one another. For example, two beige silk evening dresses positioned at the gallery entrance are similar in color, fabrication, and silhouette. Balenciaga was a master couturier who crafted the volume and fullness of the skirt through the deft handling of fabric. Dior, by contrast, had to rely on built-in corsetry and layered underskirts to achieve volume.

June 1, 2022 - November 6, 2022 

www.fitnyc.edu