1998 Balmain by Oscar de la Renta Haute Couture Striped Silk Evening Coat Dress & Pant Set
In 1993 Oscar de la Renta took over as Creative Director at Balmain where he designed the Haute Couture collections until 2002. The house had been floundering at that point and he had a huge impact on the reviving the sales of the couture pieces, mainly by catering to private clients, much like Balmain had originally. The runway photo that we found shows the dress layered over a printed pant but all of the subsequent references of it match the set to the one we have here with the pants in the same striped silk as the top piece. The twin of this set was a part of the 2016 ‘Oscar de la Renta: The Retrospective’ exhibition at de Young Museum, San Francisco, curated by André Leon Talley where it is referred to as being 'evening pyjamas'. The exhibit was broken into different themed galleries and this dress was a part of the garden themed section. Oscar was an avid gardener and the works in this section took inspiration from that life long passion. And it holds an extra special significance because the one shown in the exhibit was loaned to the museum by Annette de la Renta, Oscar's wife and muse, giving it an extra layer of personal connection to its provenance. The dress also appears in the book 'Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style' by Talley. The Met Museum also holds one in their permanent collections and then this one is the third.
In an interesting twist, one of the other dresses that was a part of the garden section of the exhibit was a striped OLDR dress from 1999 and my client had a that dress as well. It is listing along with this one today. It is incredible coincidence to have both dresses in at the same time with that shared bit of exhibit history behind them and both are exceptionally beautiful.
It is extraordinary to think that Oscar never produced a Haute Couture line under his own label and these few short years at Balmain gives us a chance to see just how talented he really was at all levels. Like most Haute Couture, this is a set that only truly comes to life when it is on an actual body. No matter how good it looks in the photos, the impact it has in real life and how it moves once on is undeniably beautiful. The fabric that both piece are made from is a fine chine silk taffeta that hearkens back to the 18th century with its washed pale blue striping. All of the edges are finished in that same fabric but for the edges it has been tightly knife pleated. These form a wide pleated ruffle all around the collar, down the front and around each cuff. One pale baby pink stripe runs along the edge of the ruffle for a magical bit of colour against the blue. That pink is then picked up on each hand made button that runs down the front and is set on each cuff. The buttons are amazing. They are hand made and they each have a tiny, perfect sprig of hand embroidered pink flower splayed across their tops. Under the evening coat, are a pair of silk taffeta pants in the same fabric. The pants are cut very simply with a flat front and no banding at the waist. They run in a slightly tapered cigarette shape and land just about the ankle depending on your height. Over this is that amazing evening coat that has the lines of a formal court dress worked into its cut. It is created with a nod to the decadence of the eighteenth century with a high pleated collar and softly defined shoulders. The sleeves are long and slim, ending in an elaborate ruffled cuff. It skims over the bodice and tapers in at the waist. The buttons to close it run from the collar to the waist at the front. From that point under the bottom button the front is completely open so that when you walk you see the pants underneath. The back of the coat is a work of art. The skirt trails out behind you, falling from that curved horizontal seam at the waist where the fabric is gathered in soft folds. It is tremendously full and when you walk it causes the skirt to billow out behind you. Haute Couture is always about the details and I love that for the seam that runs across the low back, Oscar used a fine pink silk piping to define the seam and where the gathers of the lower skirting are set. It is the perfect detail to tie in with the pink at the front. This is everything you want to see in a Haute Couture piece; elegance, refinement and a dash of coquetry. It is ornate but sophisticated and feels wonderfully light and perfectly suited to his love of nature and botanical themes. “A garden is probably the most spiritual and pure of joys. It’s a communion with nature and beauty in the most simple and fundamental form.”– Oscar de la Renta. It appears to have never been worn or worn very little. Excellent condition.
Both pieces are unlined and all the interior work is done by hand to Haute Couture standards. The pants close with a hidden set side zipper. There is a built in gusset that is pristine. The evening coat/dress closes with a hand set zipper and then a panel that snaps into place over that with silk, hand covered snaps. Hand made, light shoulder pads. A series of hand embroidered buttons down the front. The inner waist stay hooks to close and you could adjust the hooks if needed or wear it unhooked if you needed the extra room. Each cuff zips to close with a hidden set zipper and has three of the same buttons as decoration. I see one pinhead mar near a front button and a nick out of the fabric near the seam under the arm. One inner seam on either side looks like it was slightly adjusted. There is an extra button sewn to an inner seam. Proper Couture tags on both pieces and the coat one has its couture tape underneath numbered 173 470. It appears to have been worn very little if at all. Sourced from the original couture client
Evening Coat Dress
Bust: to 19" flat across from side seam to side seam
Waist: to 15" flat across from side seam to side seam, inner waist stay hooks at 14"
Length: 56" from neck to shortest point of the front hem, 62" to longest point of the back hem
Waist: 15" flat across from side seam to side seam
Hips: 21" flat across from side seam to side seam
Length: 39.5" from top of bodice to waist
Inseam: 28" from inner seam to hem
Modern Sizing Equivalent: SML-MED
Reference Photos: (1) 1998 Balmain Silk taffeta coat and pants from the book "Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style" by Andre Leon Talley. / (2) 1998 Balmain Ensemble from The MET Collection Online. / (3-4) Spring 1998 Balmain Haute Couture Runway. / (5-6) Photos from the ‘Oscar de la Renta: The Retrospective’ exhibition at de Young Museum, San Francisco. Curated by André Leon Talley. / (7) Photo from the book "Oscar De La Renta: The Retrospective" by Jennifer Park and Molly Sorkin.
This garment has been professionally cleaned, pressed and is odor free. Thoroughly checked over before shipping, it will be ready to wear upon arrival.
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