So, Where Was I?

Next up was a Balenciaga sarong dress from the 1960s that had more than a little in common with the Gertie Bombshell Dress. Both seemingly gentle dresses were kept up by an impressive amount of bodice corseting. In fact, I was thrilled to see how much my corset had in common with an haute couture corset:

There was one significant difference. The Balenciaga dress had suspenders sewn in, also:

The next Balenciaga item was hands down my favourite item of the day. A coat!

The buttons are Chinese knots. The velvet isn’t quilted. Lines of fine elastic are sewn to the inside to make that effect. I LOVED the simple lines and fluidity of the coat. Having recently battled with shoulder stays, I really liked how gentle the structure of this coat is. You can’t see them, but there are many panels at work here. Someone had to work very hard at making a coat as simply beautiful as this. Here it is photographed next to a Chanel jacket:

Sshhh, don’t tell anyone: Chanel jackets leave me cold.

Whilst inspecting the bound button holes on this coat, I bumped into a reader. Hello, Tracy! There were other coat details I was keen to inspect, having recently struggled with the corners on my own:

You might just be able to make out the raw edge of the wool, sewn down. More of this was evident if you eased back the lining. I was really, really pleased to see this. Several people have asked me if I found this exhibition inspiring. It was, but I also found it reassuring. Look! A haute couture item has a raw edge. This was a real lightbulb moment for me. I realised that in my quest for perfection (a sad affliction, I know), I really need to stop comparing my handmade items to things I find in the shops. Factory made and hand sewn (or haute couture) are two entirely different processes and should be respected as such. These outfits taught me that.

A couple of other gratuitous shots before I go:

Halle Berry’s Oscar Dress

A John Galliano

The white gloves we wore.

One last interesting note: I felt honoured to be allowed to handle the dresses. But as we all know, rubbing a fabric between finger tips is such a crucial part of the sensual experience. Wearing white cotton gloves robbed me of this delight. I felt like someone stroking a cat through a plastic bag. It just wasn’t the same. Not that I’m complaining, don’t get me wrong! But it did remind me how much touch is part of what we do.

I’m off to stroke some fabric…

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25 Responses to So, Where Was I?

  1. I also really like the green coat. What an amazing texture! And I’d love to see the Galliano dress on a body.

  2. VickiKate says:

    Brilliant post again! I really like the detail shot of the Chanel (not my cup of tea either!) and that it’s not 300% perfect either. As you say there are two different processes in what we do and couture!
    I’m intrigued how the embellishment of the green velvet works, I can’t quite picture it…

  3. Montana says:

    Oh, wow, this must have been really fun! I’m in love with your metaphor of petting a cat through a plastic bag! Ha! It made me laugh out loud 🙂

  4. Roobeedoo says:

    Lines of elastic? So elastic thread in the bottom spool like when you are stitching a line of shirring? Ooh! Might have to try that! 😉
    And yes – I too feel so much better seeing that little tuft of raw edge peeking out.
    Those suspenders are bothering me… so your stockings are attached to your dress? Where do your knickers fit in? or do couture ladies not wear knickers?!

  5. Marie says:

    What a great post and although I’m sad I didn’t get to go, I thank you for sharing some of this experience to us humble readers! What a treat to get a glimpse into these haute couture items and quite delightful to see that they’re not 100% perfect! I bet you were so tempted to rip those gloves off and run around touching as much fabric as you could before security could stop you ;o)

  6. Kerry says:

    This looks like a brilliant experience, what a great idea to allow people to see the collection up close.

  7. Beautiful clothes and thanks for sharing with us (especially the raw edge on the Chanel jacket).
    You are sooooo right about touch. As I plod through my one year of not buying any clothes I have found that virtual window shopping is inspiring but my willpower is always tested when I touch a beautiful piece of clothing – tactile temptation!

  8. Gaylene says:

    Imagine Homer Simpson drooling glassy eyed over doughnuts; that’s how I feel looking at this post.

  9. Sophia says:

    Oh yes, now I feel much better. That is the exact part of the jacket (and button down shirt) that I’ve been having trouble with… it’s sooooo great to see the same problem in haute couture. Maybe, like you, I’ll give myself a break next time (oh who are we kidding, we won’t, and we’ll gloat when we finally do it better than the dress above! 🙂 )

  10. CGCouture says:

    Sounds like an amazing experience. I’m so jealous! Bummer that you had to wear gloves, even though it’s perfectly understandable for them to require you to. LOL @ stroking a cat through a plastic bag!

    And thank goodness I’m not the only person who isn’t a fan of Chanel! I was beginning to think it was a prerequisite of a seamstress.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Oh I’m so glad you feel the same way about Chanel coats. I think they are very unflattering. I am still jealous of your haute couture inspections. 😉

  12. Salma says:

    Oh thank you so so so much for doing this! I love seeing the inside of luxury garments!

  13. LinB says:

    Ditto on the Chanel jacket/suit love: I’m not a fan. The main reason they became so popular is that they represented a complete departure from the heavily corseted form, which society dictated must be adorned in a different style for every time of day or social circumstance. After Coco Chanel, a woman could throw on a dainty brassiere, a garter belt for her stockings, a slip, a skirt (sometimes with attached blouse) and jacket, and be dressed for appropriately for anything she faced that day. And shoes. And a hat — you still had to have a hat.

  14. Colleen says:

    Oh, I’m sooo jealous that I couldn’t go to this! Unfortunately, that was one museum we didn’t get to while in London. Next time…

    Especially the Balenciaga pieces–one of my favourite designers.

  15. Sherry says:

    What fun to check out all these in person – I love the emerald coat, swoon! The Balenciaga dress looks awesome – but I had to giggle that you didn’t show us the outside, just the inside – typical seamstress, hehe!!
    By the way, that raw turning wouldn’t have made it out of my workroom! It is substandard in my opinion.

  16. Janice says:

    Wow those are gorgeous! So inspiring.

  17. Clare says:

    I don’t think I could have kept the gloves on when that green coat was within touching distance!

  18. rachel says:

    I totally understand about touching fabric — and I’m with Clare – I would have wanted to have a good feel of the green coat!

  19. Carol Webster says:

    Hiya, I have really enjoyed your musings on this exhibition and have found the garments you have highlighted really inspirational! And the frayed edge was wonderful!

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