In New York, an exhibition brings Dior and Balenciaga into dialogue

A dialogue of masters, two styles that sometimes overlap and wanted to leave behind them the ravages of war: in its new exhibition, the museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT) in New York brings together Dior and Balenciaga, leading couturiers of the 20th century.

Christian Dior (1905-1957), born in Normandy, and Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972), originally from the Spanish Basque Country, probably had little contact with each other, even though they were the same age, 42, when they launched their first collection, and even if these two adopted Parisians both participated in the French post-war revival.

But “they spoke the same language, lived at the same time and had practically the same clientele”, so they had to make sure “that they created clothes that would appeal” to a wealthy population in France and especially in the United States. , explains to AFP Patricia Mears, curator of the exhibition “Dior Balenciaga: the kings of couture and their legacies”, open since Wednesday and until November 6 at the MFIT.

– Duo –

The clientele was “hungry for beauty, luxury and needed to forget the trauma” of the war, explains Ms Mears, who is also deputy director of the museum of this prestigious fashion university.

Through sixty outfits, scrutinized in their form and their excellence, the exhibition revisits the work of the two sacred monsters.

“My objective is not only to show the work of these two creators, but to juxtapose them and ask questions: what are the differences and the similarities?”, explains Patricia Mears.

At first glance, it is difficult to distinguish who designed this dress or this costume. The pieces are therefore exhibited in pairs, side by side, to bring to light similarities and differences. Thus, the two evening dresses that open the exhibition have the same beige color, an identical silk texture and a fitted bodice that ends in a voluminous skirt.

Dior achieves this with a kind of corset and achieves the volume with several layers of fabric underneath. Balenciaga, whom Dior called “our master of all”, plays with gathers to give the desired shape. When the first piece weighs five kilos, that of the Basque designer weighs only one.

Dior’s work focused on sensuality and finish, but it also modernized the corseted forms of the Belle Epoque.

– “Indices” –

Balenciaga, born in a modest fishing village in the Basque Country, was simply considered the greatest couturier in the world.

“When you start training your eye, you start to find subtle clues like more structure in Dior or more fluidity at times in Balenciaga’s work,” explains the curator of the exhibition.

To illustrate the impact of the two masters, a third of the exhibition presents creations by other couturiers whom they have inspired or by successive artistic directors of the houses they founded. Like Yves Saint Laurent (1957-1960), John Galliano (1996-2011) Maria Grazia Chiuri (since 2016) at Dior, or Nicolas Ghesquière (1997-2012) at Balenciaga.

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