Cristobal Balenciaga: Bio Balenciaga was born in Span in 1895. His mother was a seamstress who taught Balenciaga sewing and cutting. At 12, he was already working as an apprentice for a local tailor, where he caught the eye of local royalty who paid for his formal training in Madrid. He opened his first boutique in San Sebastián in 1919, where he had immediate success. Other stores soon followed in Barcelona and Madrid. His designs attracted high profile clients, including members of the royal family of Spain. During the Spanish Civil War, Balenciaga moved to Paris and opened his couture house on Avenue George V (1937). The French couturiers like Coco Chanel and Jeanne Lanvin considered his designs revolutionary, within a few years of his arrival in France. In 1968, Balenciaga retired and passed away in 1972, and is still regarded as the greatest couturier ever.
Career Balenciaga’s work was influenced by historical styles: the costumes of the young Spanish princesses from portraits by Diego Velázquez and the "jacket of light" traditionally worn by bullfighters inspired a lot of his evening wear. During World War II, Balenciaga developed his iconic square coat: the sleeve was cut in one piece with the yoke. His designs became streamlined and linear after the war, and this contrasted the curvy hourglass shape from Christian Dior’s New Look. The utilization of fluid lines allowed Balenciaga to alter the way clothing related to a woman's body. Waistlines were dropped or raised, regardless of the natural waistline. He introduced the balloon jacket (1953): an sphere that encased the upper body. Then he created the high-waisted baby doll dress (1957), the gracefully draped cocoon coat, and the balloon skirt. The balloon skirt was shown as a single pouf or two; one on top of the other. Then came the sack dress (1957) and the chemise (1958) had indiscernible waists, but both were considered universally flattering. In these designs, he made a new feminine silhouette. He continued to work into the 1960’s.
Career Cont. In his work, Balenciaga’s use of fabric was innovative. He liked bold materials, heavy cloths, and ornate embroideries. Balenciaga developed his own unique color combinations like black and brown or black lace over bright pink. He frequently used silk, suede, wool, satin rhinestones, beads, and lace. With a Swiss fabric company, he developed silk gazar: a stiffer version of the pliable fabric that he used in suits, day dresses, and evening wear.
Charles James Bio Charles James was born on July 18, 1906, in England. He began his career by sculpting hats right on his clients’ heads in the shop he named, Charles Boucheron. He began to have his hats merchandised through a large department store, in New York, and he began designing dresses there. London became his hew home in 1929 and for the next ten years he spent his time in London and Paris, with brief business trips to Chicago and New York. James married Nancy Lee Gregory in 1954, and they had one son named Charles James, Jr. After a life dedicated to his art, James died in New York in 1978.
"Ribbon" ball gown, 1947 Silk: cream, yellow, and gray satin; blue faille; gray and pale green taffeta
Wedding dress, 1948–49 Pink and ivory silk taffeta
"Butterfly" ball gown, 1955 Silk: smoke gray chiffon; pale gray satin; aubergine, lavender, and oyster; synthetic: white nylon
"Tree" evening dress, 1955 Silk: rose pink taffeta; white satin; synthetic: red, pink, and white tulle
"Diamond" evening dress, 1957 Silk: ivory satin: mushroom gros de londres; black velvet
Career In 1929, James designed his famous taxi dress with zippers on the torso. He also created produced the Corselette (L’Sylphide) evening dress and the two-pattern piece halter gown in 1937. La Sirene: evening dress with a pleated front panel, was created in 1938. Then the Figure-8 wrapped skirt followed in 1939. Charles James, Inc. opened at 64 East Fifty-Seventh Street, New York City, in 1940. He ignored wartime rationing with huge evening gowns and began designing collections for Elizabeth Arden in 1944. After leaving Arden, he established himself on Madison Avenue, most of the existing James couture pieces were created here. James began designing collections of dresses and separates for Seventh Avenue’s Samuel Winston in 1952, he designed and suits and coats for William Popper, James designed furs for Gunther Jaeckel and belts for Bruno Belt (1953), and he added a line of jewelry to be manufactured by Albert Weiss (1954). He is mainly remembered for his spectacular eveningwear, but his daywear was equally iconic.
Career Cont. James’ designs were iconic and detail oriented works of art, but he did not truly garnish his work with trims. He manipulated fabrics to create stunning silhouette. Throughout his career, he used rich fabrics. In the 1940’s, he used classic evening wear fabrics like taffeta and silk: crepe, satin, taffeta. In the 1950’s, James experimented with other rich fabrics for his evening and day wear. He used velvet, chiffon, tulle, nylon mesh, jersey, silk (satin, taffeta and faille), and wool (broadcloth, cashmere and flannel).