Extraordinary Winter 1954 Cristobal Balenciaga Haute Couture Strapless Black Silk Dress w Lace Bodice

This dress is extraordinary. It is from the Winter 1954 Haute Couture collection and is impeccable. A more elaborate black version of the dress is held in The Metropolitan Museum's permanent archives and we found photos of a white version from one of the Balenciaga books. Balenciaga designed 193 looks for the Winter 1954 show and there was a full series of evening pieces that featured the silk lace netting embroidered with the dots that you see on the bodice of this dress. Cristobal Balenciaga was known for his fine tailoring and sculptural approach to design and the restrained and refined lines of this dress showcase that aesthetic. Dior declared Balenciaga "the Master of us all" and Balenciaga's impact on fashion cannot be underestimated. This is an extraordinary rare and wonderful find.

This dress is a beauty. The photos do not do it full justice and it is only when you see it in person that you realize just how beautiful it is and the workmanship that has gone into the dress. The body of the dress is that fine 1950s silk that you seemed to only see in garments from this time period. I think it is some of the best silk that was ever made. It has a slight sheen to the finish and it has a touch of weight to it that allows it to hold the shape that Cristobal intended while still feeling light and beautiful once on the body. The bodice is strapless and it is meant to be fitted. It has its own built-in corset that is lightly boned and shaped to hold the dress in place around you. The inner corset is made out of two layers of silk. The inner corset is made out of a slightly lighter weight silk as the dress for the side that sits between you and the dress and the interior it is lined with a textured silk chiffon. There is an inner waist stay that wraps and hooks around the waist to hold the dress firmly in place. Covering the top five inches of the bodice is a gathered black silk netting that has little dots woven and embroidered into the silk. Onto that are added little dots of chenille that run in vertical rows over the bodice all the way around you. This softens the bodice and adds a little unexpected detail. The dress is seamed vertically to the waist so that it curves in for shaping. A seam sits just below the waist to join the skirt to the upper bodice and the seam runs with a slight curve across the front and then it dips down into a more apparent curve at the back. Where it curves at the back is especially beautiful in the way that he has connected and matched the vertical seams that dart and shape the bodice with the seams below that allow for the volume of the skirt. The skirt is extremely full under that and I did not add an additional crinoline under it for these photos. You definitely could add one if you wanted to and if you wanted a true full skirt feel. The volume that you see was all created by seaming and cut alone. It is cut to be full and curved over the hips and then it widens out even more as it nears the hem. There is only one seam down the front that lines up perfectly with the seam that runs up the bodice and then two darts on either side of that seam. At the back there are four panels of silk with additional darting at the top of the skirt to create the extra fullness there that you see. It is incredible. The inner construction of this dress is as good as the exterior and it is made using perfect Haute Couture techniques and craft. All of the inseams have been finished by hand and everything looks to be original and perfect. This is a truly stunning and rare dress. It appears to have been worn very little if at all. Excellent condition

Unlined through the skirt with an added inner lightly boned bodice as described above. It closes with a side painted fine metal zipper and the inner bodice hooks so close down the side. The inner way stay hooks to close. Perhaps the slightest bit of press marks near the seams on the skirt. Hand finished throughout to Haute Couture standards. Proper numbered tape under the label shot.

Bust: 16" flat across from side seam to side seam
Inner waist: 12" flat across from side seam to side seam
Hips: open
Bodice: 11.5" from top of bodice to waist
Total length: 37" from top of bodice to front hem, 40" to the back hem

Modern Sizing Equivalent: XS-SML

Item# DD4615

Reference Photos: (1) 1954-55 Balenciaga Couture, Model: Elinor.  /  (2) 1954-55 Balenciaga Couture.  /  (3) 1955 Balenciaga Evening Ensemble in the MET Collection

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