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…